7 Tips to Help You Shine at Your Next Career Fair
Be Sure to Preregister
Most on-campus career fairs today allow students to preregister for the event, which is often also an opportunity for you to submit a resume and create a basic profile. This allows companies that are attending the event to get a read on candidates ahead of time, and identify those they particularly want to meet. Preregistering doesn't guarantee anything, of course, but it's an easy first step that can help you prepare for the event.
Know Who's Coming—and Prepare Ahead of Time
Career fairs typically run from three to five hours in length, and to make the best use of the time, you'll need to plan ahead. The good news is that your campus will likely be able to provide you with a list of participating companies ahead of time. Once you have a list of companies that interest you, do as much research as you can into their cultures and missions—that will help you find an employer that shares your values.
Get Ready for the Meet and Greet
A good first impression starts with eye contact, a firm handshake and enthusiasm to learn more about the company—but keep in mind that you'll only have three to five minutes, tops, to spend with each recruiter at a career fair. This is your chance to lay out your value proposition and link your experience and background to the goals of the organization. Try to find out as much as you can about the company by asking questions like:
Depending on what you're looking for, you may also want to ask about training programs and career advancement opportunities. Ultimately, of course, the questions that you ask should be a reflection of your unique professional goals.
Things to Bring to a Career Fair
Even if you've already preregistered and submitted your resume ahead of time, it's still a good idea to have 10 to 20 copies of your resume printed out. You should also bring a notebook and pen with you to jot down notes and information you learn during the career fair. Taking notes on your phone just looks slightly less professional.
For more experienced students, like MBAs and Ph.D. candidates, having business cards printed up ahead of time is a strong move. Business cards are simple but useful keepsakes you can carry with you, and leaving them behind with recruiters might increase the likelihood that you get a callback.
Dress to Impress
Career fairs are like first-round interviews in that it's a good idea to show up dressed slightly more formally than would be necessary for the roles you're interested in. If you're concerned about heat cramping your style—after all, many of these fairs take place in the early fall, when the mercury levels remain elevated—check out Johnson & Johnson's useful wardrobe tips for beating the summertime heat.
Network, Network, Network (and Not Just With Recruiters)
While meeting with recruiters from your targeted companies should be your top priority at job fairs, this is also an opportunity to network more broadly by building relationships and sharing notes with other students. Doing so might give you insights into what jobs are open at certain companies, and what their recruiting strategies are. At the end of the day, the larger the network you have, the greater your odds are of finding the perfect job for you.
Always Follow Up
Johnson & Johnson's recruiters tell us that it's surprisingly common for young job seekers to make solid connections at career fairs—and then, for one reason or another, fail to follow up. That's too bad, because a timely, carefully crafted follow-up email will help you stand out even more. With "Thank you" as your subject line, try to craft an email modeled on the following:
Thank you so much for making time during the recent career fair at ___ to discuss some of the opportunities available at ___. During our conversation, I was especially excited to hear more about ___, which made me even more interested in pursuing a role with your company. Could we set up a time to talk about next steps?
Please let me know. Thank you again for your time and consideration.
Alternately, in the event that you swapped business cards with recruiters, feel free to mail them letters at the addresses on their cards, or even call them directly. Either way, the more you can personalize your outreach, the greater its likelihood of having an impact.
On-campus career fairs are exciting opportunities for you to learn more about companies, build connections, hone your networking skills and narrow down the pool of prospective employers. By keeping these tips in mind, you'll be well-positioned to stand out from the crowd.
If you're looking to launch a career where you'll make a real-world impact, spearhead cutting-edge innovation and have access to ongoing opportunities for mentorship and professional development, check out all of the ways students can join Johnson & Johnson right now.