8 Ways to Stand Out at a Career Fair

Before the Event

1. Find Out What Companies Will Be There

Review a list of all the companies who will be attending prior to the event, and prioritize the ones you want to approach. And while a career fair is a good time learn about companies, you should know a little about them before showing up. You’ll be able to ask deeper questions and get better information if you already have some background to work with. So before you go, do some research about each company on your priority list and be prepared to tailor your conversations specifically to each recruiter.

2. Pack Your (Small) Bag

What should you bring to a career fair? Not much. Don’t carry a bulky briefcase, backpack, or large bag—you want to be able to easily make your way across the room, have your hands free for handshaking, and not look disheveled. All you need is a plain folder to hold your resumes and any information you pick up at the event. Bring multiple printed copies of your resume, a pen and paper for taking notes, and business cards if you have them. A small water bottle and mints are good too!

3. Dress for Success (and Comfort)

As with any interview, it’s important to dress business professional—but at a career fair, you want to be comfortable, too. Wear a lightweight outfit that won’t get too hot, and leave your coat elsewhere. Make sure your shoes are extra comfortable—you might be on your feet for several hours!

During the Event

4. Don’t Be Shy

As you approach each table, be friendly, be confident, and be prepared with something to say. Introduce yourself with a smile, eye contact, and a brief, firm handshake. Often, the recruiter will take the lead and ask you questions, but you should also have your ‘about me’ speech, or elevator pitch ready—a 30-second soundbite of what you want the company to know about you. Here’s a how to create one. Job seekers have a tendency to speak quickly, which comes across as rushed or nervous. You want to speak slowly and with interest.

5. Get Your Resume in Their Hands

One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is not giving out their resume until the end of the meeting—at this point, the recruiter may have gotten interrupted or moved on to someone else. Instead, as you speak about yourself, hand your resume to the recruiter, and point out the places that substantiate what you’re saying. This will draw attention to your resume and make you stand out from the other faces at the table, too.

6. Give a Memorable Goodbye

You want the person you’re speaking with to know you’re interested in the company. So ask relevant questions—and also be sure to ask about next steps. When the conversation is wrapping up, make sure to thank the person you’re speaking with for their time. Most importantly, request a business card! Believe me, there’s no way you’ll remember everyone’s names at the end of the event. Plus, you’ll want to have email addresses so you can follow up.

After the Event

7. Follow Up

Within 24-48 hours of the career fair, send a thank you email to each person you met with, whether you’re interested in the company or not. Don’t copy and paste—it’s OK for your messages to be short, but you’ll want to personalize them to each company and recruiter.

8. Take Action

For the companies you are interested in, follow the recruiter’s instructions about applying for a position. If you need to submit your application online, do so within a few days of the event so that you’re still fresh in the company’s mind. If there’s not a position available right now that’s a good fit, ask the recruiter if you can come in for an informational interview. Getting even more face time with the company is always a good thing!

It’s not always easy to stand out at a career fair, but if you arrive prepared and organized, approach the tables politely and well-practiced, and follow up the right way—you’ll already be ahead of the pack.

Adapted from an article By Laura Katen

By Milo Orr
Milo Orr