Career fairs shouldn’t be about getting out of class to wander around with your friends and pick up company giveaways. All that leaves you with is a pen and a stress ball from a company you don’t know, and more importantly, doesn’t know you. If taken seriously, career fairs can be a great way to make real connections with top employers. Think about it. When will you have another opportunity where employers come to you?
It’s important to take advantage of career fairs as your attendance and participation could lead to potential employment opportunities. To get the most out of a career fair you need to do more than just show up, you need to be prepared by researching the companies, anticipating “the approach” and knowing how to follow-up.
Career Fairs are typically held at least twice per year, during the fall and spring semesters. You can obtain your school’s career fair dates from your Career Services office. Some schools have career fairs that cover all majors and/or fairs that are major specific.
After determining the career fair that is right for you, the next step is to get a list of employers who will be in attendance. This list will most likely indicate which students the companies want to speak with, what jobs they are looking to fill, and it may also instruct you on how to apply for these opportunities prior to the fair.
For example, some companies may be looking for sophomores and juniors studying Hospitality for their summer internship opportunities and request you pre-apply prior to their visit. Pay special attention to the companies’ instructions as you may be left out if you don’t. After reviewing this list, determine the top 5 companies you want to seek out at the fair.
Now it’s time to get online and check out their company websites. Read about the company’s history, recent events, where the company is headed, and apply online for opportunities if requested. Google or do an internet search on the company.
What’s happening with the organization? If they are using social media, get out there and become a fan or follow them on Twitter. It’s a great place to learn about the culture of the company and see what is being said about the company prior to your interview. In addition, you may even be able to connect with current or formers employees.
As a final effort, contact any former students you know that may be working for the company and get the skinny! Write down a couple of fun facts that stand out and also some questions you would ask a company representative. This information will come in handy at the fair and during the interviews you obtain for being so resourceful!
On the day of the fair you want to be full of energy and ready to go, so be sure to get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast! The majority of career fairs start in the morning and last on average four hours. Being the first to the fair isn’t always the best idea as some employers may still be setting up. I would suggest arriving at the beginning of the second hour.
Be sure to dress your best by wearing a business suit and more importantly a big smile. After you have located the booths of your top employers it is time for “the approach”. Although it can be intimidating, just breathe, you have questions that need to be answered. Recruiters are friendly people who are there to meet you, provide information about their company and find potential hires. As a reminder, as the recruiters are evaluating you, you should be evaluating them also.
Walk up to the company representatives with confidence. Introduce yourself and shake their hands and off you go with your elevator speech. You do have one don’t you? The first words out of your mouth shouldn’t be “What do you have for me?” or “Are you scheduling interviews?” These questions do not leave a good first impression.
Start off by letting them know your year in school, what you are studying, why you are interested in their company, and what you are looking for regarding employment opportunities. Be sure to have an updated resume handy in case the representatives ask for it.
This is a no fail approach that can lend itself to several outcomes.
If the representatives do not have opportunities you are looking for and/or you are not the right fit, graciously thank them for their time, ask if you may have a business card to stay in touch and move on to the next company.
If you are invited to attend a company information session happily accept! Information sessions are a great way to learn even more about a company you are interested in and may result in a future interview opportunity.
If you are invited to interview even better! Confirm the date/location and let them know how much you are looking forward to it. Please don’t be late to any of these!
Whether you shook hands, attended an information session and/or interviewed it’s always important to follow-up with the people you met at a career fair. The best way to do this is by sending a hand written note or professional email to the contact(s) you spoke with. To keep everyone straight it’s not a bad idea to jot down some notes on the back of a representative’s business card after the fair to jog your memory.
In your communication thank the Recruiter for their time; mention something that stands out about you or your conversation with them to jog their memory and let them know you are looking forward to staying in touch or hearing back from them regarding your interview.
Heidi is one of 3 College Recruiting Managers for Hyatt. She is responsible for recruiting top talent at hospitality universities across the country, primarily for Hyatt’s Corporate Management Training program and Corporate Internship program. Heidi visits up to 14 campuses twice a year to promote the Hyatt brand and college programs. Most recently Heidi has become involved with External Functional Recruitment for Culinary Management positions in North America.