How To Prepare Before the Career Fair

The first and most important step in preparing for a job fair is to answer the question: What do I want to achieve at this fair? This includes your goals for the career fair as they relate to your professional aspirations. But in order for you to fully know what it is that you want to achieve, there are a four preparations you should make before making you arrive.

Determine Your Objectives
To know your career objectives, you have to know yourself. If you’re just starting out, it’s important to determine what you’re looking for in your first job and what kind of career path you envision.

The first part of standing out from the crowd is to be clear about your passions and how they match up with the mission of each company you approach. The conversations you have with recruiters should vary according to your objectives.

For example, it’s perfectly fine to let a recruiter know that you’re not currently pursuing a position, but rather, interested in hearing about long-term opportunities and staying in touch.

In contrast, if you’re serious about landing a job interview at a particular company, you absolutely need to know what the company does and what skills it seeks in candidates before you hand the recruiter your resume.

Research The Companies
Even if you aren’t sure about the specific company or industry in which you want to work, a little research can help you get more out of your trip around the tables. Find out which companies will be attending the event and decide where and how to spend your time. As you read the different company descriptions, flag eight to ten companies that interest you. Don’t be afraid to include wild-card companies either. A career fair is an excellent place to explore new options in a low-risk environment.

Once you’ve selected your target companies, do some reconnaissance work by looking at the company website or researching the company through sites like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times business section, Yahoo! Finance, Fortune.com, and Forbes.com. Recruiters generally agree that the students who know and understand the company well will stand out from the less-prepared masses.

Set Priorities
Unless you’re at a very small, highly specialized event, there’s no way you can talk to every company that attends. For the larger job fairs—ones with 200 or more companies represented—try to branch out from the original eight to ten companies you flagged.

As you’re conducting research, it’s helpful to make an A-list and a B-list of companies. Your A-list should be composed of companies with products, services, or missions you’re very interested in, companies that are in an industry you’re excited about, or companies that are offering positions you feel you’re a good match for. Your B-list should include companies you know something about, but not necessarily what kinds of positions they’re hiring.

Rules For Resumes
It might come as a surprise, but some companies do not accept resumes at career fairs. If this happens to you, don’t be discouraged—it’s nothing personal. A company’s decision to not accept resumes typically stems from a need to comply with federal regulations, a high volume of applicants, or both.

An organization’s careers page will usually spell out whether it can accept resumes at a career fair. If you know in advance not to hand a resume to a recruiter who won’t accept it, you’ll avoid an awkward moment and show you did some homework.


This is an excerpt from WetFeet's Conquering the Career Fair. For more tips and information on recruiters and the appropriate follow up after the career fair, pick up the Insider Guide!

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