Career Fair Etiquette

Three years ago I never thought I would be on this end giving suggestions on how to act at a career fair.  In fact, I absolutely dreaded going and speaking to potential employers about their opportunities.  I was one of those people that would do a “drive by” first before actually stopping at a booth to ease my nerves.   On top of that, most employers would direct you to their website (as we often do) to apply for their job openings anyway.  So what’s the point in going?  Now that I’m on the other side of the fence I realize the importance of career fairs and how a “good” candidate should present his/herself.

The point of a career fair isn’t necessarily to apply for a job opening.  It’s really about developing and engaging in relationships.  The employers who attend might not have an opening perfect for you now, but they might in a couple months or a year from now.  It’s important to make a great first impression and then continue to build and maintain that contact.  If I could go back to a career fair as a student, I would approach the interaction with an employer just as I would during introductions at an interview.  First impressions are critical – look sharp, greet them warmly, engage in small talk, and let them know why you’re interested.  I would can the “two minute elevator speech” and communicate more informally yet maintain a professional presence.  Make sure to grab a business card from them and keep in touch.

Feel free to drop any comments on what works for you!

Mike

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