An A to Z Guide to having the most fruitful Career Fair experience
Let’s talk about the career fair. In the world of COVID, career fairs are a completely different beast, but in this blog, we will talk about how conventional career fairs look like and how you can tackle them online.
A job fair, also commonly referred to as a job expo, career fair, or career expo, is an event in which employers, recruiters, and schools give information to potential employees. 🏫
As the author of this blog, I will let you in on a secret of career fairs. Every company has a different way of hiring new people. They have other techniques and different structures. I will try to keep it as general as I can.
I have been on the recruiter and the student side, both. So let’s begin.
If you are from other countries like Singapore, Europe, or somewhere from the Middle East reading this blog, you might be familiar with the concept of a career fair. In India, too, people are increasingly becoming familiar with it.
As a country with more than a billion people and 1000+ colleges, Indian colleges need to market themselves in the heavily eaten market by showing that they get 100% placements. In India, college placements occur wherein companies come in, pick students and pay them a salary. There are interviews, but students can select several companies they’d like to talk to on priority. If they click with the company, they get hired.
In some ways, it’s the college’s responsibility to get students a job. It makes sense since they have invested heavily in college education. They should at least be able to recoup their money if not make more.
This is a bit different in the US. In US universities, we have career fairs.
It’s a big event 📅 which happens once a semester, or once in two semesters, in some cases, 100’s of companies come in and talk to students. It’s the first connection students build with the companies. Some students get an offer right then and there, while others are led to the next interview rounds.
There is a lot of preparation that goes into a career fair, a lot of it! What we are trying to do here is to help you with the pre and post-prep of the career fair. After attending 10+ career fairs myself, including industrial, construction, management, and even an Ivy league, I have optimized what to do and how to navigate different people around.
I made a list of questions that are most commonly asked when it comes to a career fair.
- How do I prepare for a career fair? 👩🏻💻
There are numerous ways to prepare. First of all, update your resume. I can bet you $100 that more than 60% of the people who come here do not have their resumes in the US format for the first time.
It’s nothing major. I am linking the three resources below to help you get started. If you do not know the difference between CV and resume, please check it out here.
- Templates 🖊️
- List of power verbs which you should use in your resume 🔡 – https://bit.ly/3qkCAWK
Once you have this document ready, get it proofread by a friend of yours. Make sure that there are no grammar mistakes.
Pre Career Fair
- Elevator pitch 💬
- For every career fair, you have to prepare an elevator pitch. This elevator pitch defines you briefly in 45 seconds. The rise doesn’t have to explain your CV words by word, but more like an overview. For example, my go-to pitch is – “Hi, my name is Parth; I am a graduate student at the construction management department at Purdue University. I have done my undergrad in Civil engineering in Thailand and have worked on tunneling, healthcare, and commercial projects. My most recent experience was with a tech company out of Brown University Rhode Island. I am pretty passionate about tech in construction. I am looking for full-time positions starting in May 2019”.
- Now, these 30-45 seconds define who I am. Also, this speech varies with different people and different companies. I have 3-4 alternative pitches if I meet an academic person or a company recruiter, or someone from the Youtube community. So your first task should be to prepare this pitch. Throw this pitch at your friends, practice, and iterate.
- You wouldn’t get it right the first time. You’ll have to work through it. The more people you talk to, the better you get at it. I remember stammering the first time I went to a recruiter and pitched myself. I lacked confidence.
- Moreover, just having a pitch ready wouldn’t work. You have to nail the research on the company. If I meet a company, I have to know what kind of projects they did before, what they are doing right now, and where the job openings are.
2. Checking companies, if they sponsor or not. 💸
- For most of you guys who are international students, you have to study if the company hires international students or not. Most of the companies hiring you as an intern would also want to hire you full-time because they have invested time in you, and since you already know the work culture there, you don’t have to go through the onboarding process.
- You can see if the company sponsors or not. The website to do that is myvisajobs.com. I have witnessed cases wherein they agree to sponsor your visa if a candidate is worthy enough.
3. Researching about the companies 🔎
- Divisions – this is similar to applying for universities. Divide the companies on a priority basis
- a. First – these should be the companies you want to work for. Your dream companies.
- b. Second – Something you want to go for but choose the first one over these any day.
- c. Third – these should be the companies you would go for if you have some time remaining in the career fair.
- Jobs available – Check LinkedIn for more internship opportunities.
- Research –
a. Moreover, just having a pitch ready won’t work. You have to nail the research on the company. If I meet a company, I need to be aware of what they did in the past, what they are doing right now, and where the job opening is.
b. This knowledge about the company is essential because you can’t go there and say I am looking to work in Chicago, but we don’t have openings in Chicago. There you go, you just lost it with that company.
c. Remember one thing, Everyone loves talking about themselves. The projects they have done, their achievement, so ask that more often. It will show your curiosity and that you are interested.
4. Modifying CV 📝 – Modifying CVs according to the type of companies that come to visit. If the company is looking for an embedded system engineer, you need to focus on career and shift items. If a company is looking for a product manager position, you may want to push and show different aspects of your work.
5. Printing CVS 🖨️ – Print them two days before so that you don’t panic on the career fair day. This is what I do, and you have the freedom to adapt it too. Everybody gets it printed in A4 size. To stand out, print your CV on a high GSM paper. It’s a little brighter and thicker. Just stand out when you hold that sheet among the standard A4’s. It just one of those small things!
6. Marking down the companies on the chart ✔️- Every University will release a placement chart for companies coming to the career fair. So mark down the companies you want to go for and where they are located in the area. For example, please do not go to a company saying that you want to work with them and go to the other beside them claiming the same thing. It’s just not ethical.
7. Pre-career fair networking events 🗓️ – If there is a pre-career appropriate networking event, go for it. This will be the first point of contact with the recruiter or the professionals you will meet tomorrow. Most of the time, I usually talk about the industry and don’t tell them if I’m looking for a full-time job. It’s a networking event, not a career fair itself. So talk about the project you did, the problems you faced, etc. The issues they have faced in any project. If you have a real problem that you would like to ask a professional, do ask them. It’ll show that you’re curious and that you’re learning about the industry. The next day, they will remember you for this unique talk. At my first event, I met a person and told him I was doing Youtube on the side. It’s been 1,5 years, and we’re still talking about the same thing when he came here this time. So pick something unique to ask or know about.
Career Fair Day
- Running through the companies, you don’t want to go for 🙅🏻- My first take, when I usually attend a career fair, is to go to companies that I don’t want to work for or hire internationals. Since you’re all dressed up, and it’s D-Day, you can be a little scared and nervous. You want to try the elevator pitch you’ve been working on. So go ahead and try it with two companies. They will listen to you, which in turn will give you confidence, and you can finally go to the companies you want to work for.
- Leading companies 🙆🏻 – These are the companies you want to apply and get into. First of all, try visiting them during the first half of the career fair. Once the lunchtime kicks in, the recruiters are a bit less interested and have already listened to so many people that they may not feel fresh. So try going to the companies you want to work for in the first half and go the extra mile if you think you did not nail it for the first time. If you remember the video with Priyanka, who worked in Apple, she went to the recruiters at the end of the career fair because she wasn’t happy with the interaction which she had with the guy initially.
- Jotting down after every company 💁🏻 – Make a note of every interaction you had with a professional at the pre-career fair event and the career fair. You can write things like: – What was the name of the person you talked to, so you can approach the same person the other day as well? – What did you guys talk about – so that you can pick up on the same topic and include that in the messaging. So I met this guy at University yesterday, and we discussed that he is doing an MBA, I am bad at names, so I would remember that, but as soon as he will mention MBA, it would click my mind instantly. – What was the part where you hesitated – The reason why it is essential to note this is so you can improve on it with the next person.
- Send a LinkedIn Request – Pretty important. Since you wrote the person’s name on the career fair day, it’s easy to find him.
- Thank you email/LinkedIn message to people 📧 Send them an email or a thank you message on Linkedin. This way, you get a new connection, and it’s easy to follow up with them.
- Make a sheet of all the companies you talk to in Excel 📎 Reason being, you may lose a paper, but sheets in drive or excel won’t go anywhere. It is imperative because you need this information again in the following career fair.