In life, it’s easy to stand out negatively but often quite difficult to stand out positively. And when it comes to job fairs, you want to make a good and memorable impression. But you’re often packed into a small space where you are in competition with hundreds of other people just like you, all vying for a few minutes of time from each recruiter. Showing up prepared is essential, so we’ve provided a handy guide to be your best at any career fair from start to finish.
Find Out Who’s Attending
It’s a good idea to start prepping for a career fair before the event even starts, and you can do this by finding a list of the various companies that will be in attendance. That way, you will have a long-term plan and decide ahead of time which recruiters you want to approach. If you find that the event is drawing to a close and you don’t have time to meet everyone, you’ll at least meet your top picks this way.
Don’t Forget Your Resume
This tip may seem obvious, but we list it here precisely because we’ve seen too many job-seekers make this mistake. It isn’t that people often forget to bring copies of their resume to a job fair of all places. It’s that they don’t choose the proper time to hand that resume to the recruiters. Most of the time, candidates wait until the end of each meeting to hand their resume over. Doing so at this time is risky because the recruiters have limited time and have already moved on to their next meeting. Instead, you should hand out your resume as you are talking about yourself—it’s a natural time to do it, and you can use your resume to show them your long-term goals and where you would be a good fit.
Emphasize What Makes You Different
In order to stand out, you need to give recruiters something to remember. Do you have special skills or qualifications? Are you currently working on a master’s degree? Have you worked on any major projects? All of these things can set you apart from other people and help the recruiter remember you, especially if it applies to the job you are interested in. When talking about the things that make you different, make sure to point them out on your resume so the recruiter knows where to look for more information.
Be Confident, Prepared, and Engaging
When you approach each recruiter’s table, be friendly, assertive, and most of all, have something to say. It doesn’t need to be clever, just a simple introduction complete with good eye contact and a firm handshake will do fine. Prepare what the industry calls an “elevator pitch.” That means you have a thirty-second blurb ready, full of the essential facts about you that you think the company should know. Let each recruiter know why you’re interested in working for them and how you can be of benefit to the company. If a company is your first pick, it isn’t desperate to tell them that. This can help you stand out.
For candidates looking for jobs, the career fair isn’t over even when it’s over. One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to follow up with various recruiters, especially your top choices, shortly after the fair. We recommend that you send a thank you note to each recruiter that you managed to meet at the fair, even those that represent companies in which you have no interest. You never know where a company is going to go in the future and it pays to make a memorable impression on each one. Send out emails to everyone and don’t make them generic. You can keep the messages short, but make them personal to each company for best results.
It isn’t easy to be that one standout at a job fair but preparing beforehand and remaining professional and organized throughout can put you in the lead.