Job fairs are common ways to introduce you to your first internship or job usually hosted on university and college campuses. In my experience, a job fair is when companies come to the school and set up booths worked by representatives of the companies. These representatives want to encourage students to apply to internships and job opportunities with their companies. However, this is also an important way to put a face to a resume for students interested in applying to those companies. If you’ve never been before, it’s important to know how to make the best first impression for your potential employers.
First, usually your school will publish a list of companies that are scheduled to attend the event a few days before the event. In preparing for the event, you should look this university issued-list and create your own list of companies that you want to speak to and be sure to seek out those companies at the job fair.
Your next step is researching each of these companies thoroughly. This means you should know their mission, goals, current projects, and histories. In an event like a job fair where hundreds of students are passing through looking for similar opportunities, it is important to stand out. The hope is that when you turn in your application for the company they not only remember you but enjoy your enthusiasm and knowledge about their company. Through gaining knowledge of the company, you can highlight your skill set that best relates to what the company needs as well as answer questions like “What attracted you to this company?” and “What do you think you can bring to this company?”
Next, for each of these companies, you need to prepare what is often termed an “elevator” speech. Imagine getting into an elevator with your potential boss. The doors close and you have two flights up before she gets out to go to her office. This leaves your roughly three to five minutes to say concisely why you are interested in the company, why you are qualified for a position there, and what you specifically bring to the company. When you approach the job fair, you need to prepare elevator speeches for each of the companies that you are interested in. You will probably have to make adjustments to these speeches as you visit each companies booth at the job fair. For example, if they ask you “Tell me a little about yourself,” you should not immediately jump into why you are interested in the company. These speeches are an exercise that may help you to pair down why you are interested in the companies and should be incorporated into more natural conversation.
Finally, your attire is crucial. According to an article by Daily Mail, employers make their decision to hire or not hire job applicant in under seven minutes. A job fair might be your employers first impression of you so make it count. This means taking the time to plan your outfit the night before and getting enough sleep to ensure that you appear energetic and enthusiastic in your interactions with the companies. In 2016, I can not suggest what a boy or girl should wear, but universally, heavy makeup, six-inch heels, and sneakers will not go over well. Keep it classy and make sure to give each representative a firm handshake and of course, a smile.