Posted by: Dan | June 18, 2012

Make Your Next Career Fair Your Last

Career fairs are a chance to market yourself to potential employers.  Thousands of people attend career fairs.  You need to prepare in order to stand out from the crowd.  But, even if you don’t secure a job at the fair, you can make connections that may lead to jobs in the near future.

Switch has five tips to help you rock the career fair:

1.  Resume.  If you haven’t reviewed our post with resume-writing tips, go there now!   How many companies do you want to visit at the career fair?  Bring twice as many resumes.  You won’t have time to meet each company, but you don’t want to run out.  Prioritize them, and make sure you visit your top five choices.

2.  Recon.  The career fair may not immediately result in a job. But, it’s an opportunity to conduct a recon.  Learn about the companies that will attend the event.  Which ones interest you?  Visit their website to learn more about the different departments within the firm.  Know what industry they’re in.  Google the firms to see if they’ve recently been in the news.  Do any of your contacts on LinkedIn work for these companies?  You’ll look like an all-star if you can discuss key and current aspects of the firm.

3.  Elevator pitch.  Imagine that you are in an elevator with your Commanding Officer.  He/she is going to brief their commander about an operation, and needs your input.  You only have 30-60 seconds to summarize the facts you know.  You need to emphasize only the essential information.  Get rid of the fluff.  What are the key points that you’d get across in such a brief meeting?

At the career fair, you need to do the same thing with someone who may not know the military.  They don’t want to hear you share every detail about your career.  There is a long line of people waiting to see each company’s recruiter.  Confidently speak about 2-3 accomplishments that help describe your strengths and ensure that you’ve practiced beforehand.  Plan to only speak for a couple of minutes and then answer any questions from the recruiter.

4.  Not all questions are created equal.  You thought the event was a chance for recruiters to learn about you and take your resume?  You’re half correct.  It’s also your chance to learn about the firm and see if your impression from the recon is valid.

Come prepared with questions.  Good questions.  Don’t ask a question you could have found on the website.  After you’ve researched the company, you’ll have ideas about what to ask.  Prepare a couple of questions.  Gauge the recruiter’s interest.  If they are losing interest, stop after the first question and politely thank them.

5.   Swag.  Each booth with have some amount of swag – pens, mugs, keychains, etc.  Don’t pick these up.  Picture this – you visited Microsoft’s booth and picked up a cool mug.  Now, you’re meeting with Google, and you explain why Google is your top choice.  You have a polished resume, you did your recon, and you practiced the elevator pitch.  But, you’re standing with a Microsoft mug in your hand.  You can take business cards and pamphlets, but those should go in your pocket or a leather portfolio case.  Clearly you didn’t come to the career fair to speak with one company.  But, you should be discrete about advertising for one company while visiting with another.

Even if you don’t get a job offer or interview from the career fair, you’ll gain more confidence with this process, and you’ll expand your network.

If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, set one up, and check back with Switch. We’ll post about it soon.

Please send any questions and comments to

© 2012 SwitchStarter, LLC



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