How to get the Most out of a Career Fair

The Secrets behind the Career Fair

As the career fair of my alma mater is coming up, I would like to share my knowledge of career fair with my fellow friends who are still in school. Before I go on elaborating my experience, though, I would like to share a quote by my microeconomics professor (non-verbatim):

Go to the career fair as a freshman, then you will know what to expect as a sophomore.

I completely agree — I think the earlier we start going to career fairs the better, even if we thought we didn’t need to. You never know what kind of life-turning opportunities you will find at a career fair!

1) Before career fair.

A. Prepare your resume and get it reviewed. Print it out AHEAD OF TIME!

Make sure you have the first draft of your resume at least a week ahead of time. Then in the week before the career fair, bring your resume to the career services and/or other authorities (friends, upperclassmen, ACM, SWE, etc.) and ask for their feedback. In the reviewing process, I would focus on whether my strength is stressed, whether I put in more information than necessary, whether this resume is targeted at my dream companies / industry, whether there are any typos, etc. The recruiter will probably only have enough time to scan through your resume before they extends you a phone screen, so you want to make your strengths stand out.

Additionally, definitely print your resumes at least a day ahead of time to avoid crowd (if you print in the library), printer break down, paper running out and any other possible disastrous scenario. In the case that there is a typo, you will have enough time to fix it.

B. Go over the list of companies and know the companies you want to talk to.

Make a list and do some research. I would look into what positions they have, what academic degrees they seek and what their products are. You will give the recruiter a much better impression if you don’t start your conversation by “So what does your company do?”

C. (International students only) Check whether a company sponsors work visa.

Sponsoring an international student with work visa costs extra money and legal work, so not every company does it for entry level jobs. If they don’t sponsor, they are very unlikely to make you an exception. If they don’t say it on their website, this is also a crucial question to ask at the career fair.

D. Check out employer events.

Since companies are already sending employees over to campus, it makes sense for them to host additional employer events around the time of the career fair. It saves them trip money! Thus, be on the look out for such events, and you will get extra time to ask more in-depth questions and connect with the employer.

E. Clear your calendar for the two days after career fair.

Same as the last point, to make full use of their time, some companies conduct interviews on campus as part of the trip. Right after they receive resumes at the career fair, some companies might call students back for interviews on the next day or the day after. This is a great opportunity because it saves the students traveling time too. Clear your calendar so you will be available when you receive the phone call.

F. Prepare your suits.

Tech companies mostly do not require you to wear business formal clothing, but a lot of traditional companies do. You wear business formal clothing to career fairs to show your passion and respect.

2 Right before career fair.

A. Check the map.

Because I prepared ahead of time, I have a list of companies I want to hit up. Now right before the career fair, I would look at the map to figure out the best route to walk around. Career fairs are super crowded and hard to move around in, so I would make sure I always know where to go.

3 During Career Fair

A. Leave a good impression.

Recruiters talk to a ton of students at career fair, so the chance that they will remember you is minimal. However, if they do remember you, you have a higher chance of getting a callback. Thus, in the 20 seconds you have with the recruiters, leave them a good impression. I would go over their website ahead of time, and only ask questions that are not on their website. I would ask very specific questions and show them my interest. In general, I want to leave the recruiters with a good strong impression.

B. Collect business cards & emails.

So you can send thank you notes and ask more questions. You can also add them on LinkedIn.

C. Target the alums!

Career fair is a great way to build connections with alums. If they didn’t want to help you, they would not have come to career fair in the first place. Ask for their emails so you can ask more in-depth questions later. You can probably get more honest answers, too. Ask for their names and later connect with them on LinkedIn. I have met a few alums at career fair and have benefited a lot from our friendship. They offered me great advice when I was debating between two very good job offers. They gave me very honest opinions and I never regretted making that choice.

4 After career fair

A. Apply online.

Apply online so companies have all your information when they want to look you up in their system! They could easily lose a copy or two of paper resumes, so it is your responsibility to make sure that the companies have your record.

B. Send follow up questions & thank you notes.

Thank the recruiters for their time. I think that is just a good thing to do. You can also ask follow-up questions if you have any.

C. Don’t miss a phone call!

When companies call you for an interview after the career fair, they are basically just going through a list of people. If you miss their phone call, they might no longer have a spot available for you. They will probably still do the interview on phone / video chat later, but I prefer to interview in person: you receive a lot more feedback talking in person.

5 Day after career fair.

A. Go to your call backs!

Congrats on getting callbacks! Dress accordingly. Tech companies, T-shirt and jeans; traditional industry, business formal. It would be nice to bring thank you cards. You can write a few sentences very quickly right after the interview and ask the career service staff to pass them on for you. Is this going to make a difference? Who knows. But it is just a nice thing to do.

To sum up, I think the key to career fair is to know what you want, be passionate about the job and respect the time of the recruiters. Good luck!

Thank you for reading! I tried to incorporate experience of my own and still keep it concise. If you enjoyed reading, please Like this post, Follow me, or Recommend it to a friend who might find it helpful (or a good pastime in the bathroom).

If you have specific questions about applying for a tech position, or have experience to share, or have feedback for me, feel free to comment! I’ll try to address them in upcoming posts. Any feedback is much appreciated!

Again, hope you enjoyed reading!