By: Kelli Greene, University Recruiter, Yahoo!
Putting yourself in our shoes may be a great way to understand the importance of preparing for a career fair. You have only a few minutes to make a great impression, so you’ll want to practice and polish your personal brand before stepping into the recruiting arena!
When a company makes the decision to attend a career fair, there is much effort made to make sure our presence is top notch and the results meet our expectations. That means we want to shine and be well prepared. Companies put a lot of resources into attending career fair events including the cost of attending the event, presentation materials, administrative costs, travel costs and most of all, the time recruiters and hiring managers spend representing their company.
When you make a decision to attend a career fair, that same level of preparation is equally as important as this may be your only opportunity to really make a solid impression on recruiters and hiring managers. Take the time to be fully prepared so your presence is impressive, and you achieve your desired result — the chance to interview.
So, let’s make sure you’ve got everything on your professionalism checklist!
- Format: Hard copy format should be simple and easy to read. Your on-line formatted resume (for applying to jobs on-line) should be in plain text format as some applicant tracking systems are unable to read bullets and solid lines.
- Length: It is best to keep your resume from one to two pages in length. As a student you may want to list your education and skills first on your resume.
- Content: Employers are interested in learning as much about you from your resume, so don’t be shy about including some of the things you enjoy outside of work. Include community service organizations, academic organizations, student groups, music, sports, or any other organizations that show you’re a team player, organized, and concerned about the world around you.
- Visual Appearance: Keep your resume clean, simple and easy to read. Font size should be not too small that it is difficult to read, but not too large as compensation for lack of information. Standard white paper is adequate and there is no need to have your resume professional printed on fancy paper. It’s all about the content and what you have to offer.
- Map it Out: Check with your career center for a list of attending companies and a career fair diagram. Take the time to mark the companies you’re most interested in visiting, and the route you plan to take during the event. Booths that are closest to the entrance generally receive the most traffic, so plan to visit those first.
- Background: Learn as much as you can about the companies you are most interested in, and do a little research on them. The more you find out about a company, the easier it will be for you to understand where you may fit into their world. Understanding their marketplace, technology, business practices, and competition will give you a great platform for speaking to how you could immediately provide an impact, if hired. Review recently released press releases so you’re up-to-date on current business trends and news.
- Your first impression: Is very important, so be sure that you are in appropriate attire (generally business casual) that is crisp & clean. Because you will be speaking to potential employers in what can sometimes be a crowded environment, it’s always wise to make sure your message comes across with fresh breath. Keep a roll of breath mints in your pocket and use when needed. Career fairs are not the time to wear your favorite cologne or perfume as it may be offensive in crowded environments and you should be sensitive to people who may have allergies.
- Tone: Your voice should be steady and confident. Be sure to listen before responding and have patience when communicating with potential employers.
- Body Language: Be sure to leave yourself open and confident and remember to smile! Career fairs are noisy and crowded, so be mindful of your environment, respect personal space and adjust your communication accordingly.
- Handshake: Your handshake can set the tone for your first communication, so be sure it is firm, but not crushing. Shake palm to palm and if you’ve got sweaty palms, dry them off prior to extending your hand. When extending your hand, remember to make eye contact during your introduction.
- Attention to detail: Pay attention to any instructions the company representative may provide and ask questions if you are unsure of the procedure. And, be sure to follow up on your candidacy.
- Recruiting process: Every company has a unique recruiting process, but all companies will expect you to follow their process as this is one factor in determining if you follow directions well!
- Crowds: Remember, the companies at a career fair will meet hundreds of students at the event. Be patient when waiting to speak to a representative and take advantage of that time to rehearse your introduction.
- Expectations: It takes time to sort and review all of the resumes, so you may not hear from a company representative immediately.
- Building a brand: Companies attend career fairs to build company brand and plant the seed for acquiring top talent. The goal is to begin the relationship with students that may fit a hiring profile, and to provide overall company information for those who may not be familiar with the company and/or opportunities.
- Future Manager: Career fair personnel can be from the recruiting department, but may also include the folks that are doing the hiring. Always present yourself in a professional manner as the first person you extend your handshake to may wind up being the hiring manager!
- Email/Note: It’s always best to follow-up, when possible, with the contacts you make at the career fair. An email, or personal note, will show you mean business and care about the impression you’ve made.
Be sure to use this check list as you prepare for the next SJSU Career/Internship Fair: Thursday, 10/15 noon-5pm (Event Center).
Kelli Greene has worked in the HR/Recruiting field for 10+ years and has experience creating recruitment programs for various Fortune 500 internet companies such as Google, Yahoo!, as well as the biotech industry.