Checklist for Internship and Job Fair Success
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Preparing for the Fair
- Update your resume and have it reviewed by Career and Internship Services staff well before the fair.
- Plan exactly what professional attire you will wear. You should look as good as you would for an interview. See What to Wear for ideas.
- Review standard interview questions and formulate your responses. See Frequently Asked Interview Questions and Questions for Teacher Candidates.
- Participate in mock interviews or practice your interview responses using InterviewStream.
- Prepare a 30-second to one-minute description of who you are and what you want. Your objective is to say one memorable thing to the recruiters as you hand them your resume. This is often referred to as an "elevator speech."
- Obtain the list of companies attending the fair through the website or fair app.
- Once you identify the companies you want to target, research them. Read their websites and enter the company or organization names in a couple of search engines to see what others are saying about them.
- Gather essential items to take to the fair:
- a letter-sized padfolio, with notepad and pen
- your research notes on employers participating in the fair with the questions you plan to ask
- more than enough copies of your resume and no cover letters
- a compact professional portfolio of your work samples (optional)
Arriving at the Fair
- Arrive as close to the start of the fair as you can. It is to your advantage to talk to recruiters earlier in the day rather than later. Also, near the end of the event, recruiters may leave early and you may miss an opportunity. You may come and go throughout the length of the fair.
- Check in at the registration table to pick up a nametag and a copy of the fair layout showing the location of each employer.
- A student lounge area is usually available where you may relax, review your notes and collect your thoughts before and between visiting recruiters. Career counselors are often available if you have questions.
- Develop a plan, which includes taking a break between talking with each recruiter, to ensure you look and feel your best and that you don't confuse one employer for another.
- Walk around the fair to determine where the employers you have selected are located and to observe the process of interactions as others talk to recruiters.
- Watch the traffic flow in the room and if a line seems too long, it may be more efficient to talk with another employer.
- Select an employer for your first contact. To start with, choose one who is further down on your priority list, not your first or second choices.
- Review the information about the employer you plan to approach.
- Check your appearance.
- Have your resume ready.
- Relax, take a deep breath and approach the first employer.
Approaching the Employer
- Conduct yourself professionally at all times. You may be observed even as you stand in line or move about the fair area.
- As you approach an employer, respect other people's privacy as they complete their interaction.
- When it is your turn, or as you approach, establish eye contact, present a firm handshake and introduce yourself, deliver your "elevator speech" and explain why you have chosen to speak to the employer.
- If the employer invites you to sit down, put your materials in your lap or on the floor, not on the table.
Talking With the Employer
- Have a three-point agenda: know what you are looking for, what you have to offer and what questions you will ask.
- Listen carefully and take conversational cues from the employer (i.e., when to end a response, when the contact/interview is over).
- Try to generate and maintain interest. Smile, respond to questions with specific and concise examples, keep your voice lively, maintain a pleasant vocal tone, use a slightly forward body posture and use humor appropriately.
- Use transition statements to share information about yourself that the recruiter may not have addressed (e.g., "That's interesting, I had an experience which relates..." or "May I tell you about...").
- Respond truthfully, while always painting a positive picture of yourself (e.g., "I have not yet had an opportunity to..., but in a similar situation, I...").
- Ask for information about the application, hiring process and time lines. Determine actual and potential openings.
- At the end of the contact, offer a firm handshake, ask for the recruiter's business card and express your appreciation, using the recruiter's name.
- Walk away with confidence.
- Immediately following the contact, make notes on topics of conversation, contact names and follow-up procedures. Then prepare for your next contact.
Which Employers are Conducting More Formal Interviews?
- Check the list of employers attending to see which ones may be conducting actual interviews the day of or the day after the fair.
- Talk to the employers who have indicated they are interviewing as early in the day as possible, to ask about getting on their interview schedules.
- Some employers may pre-select candidates for interviews. If this is the case, follow the instructions on the job fair website to get on their interview schedules.
Why do They Tell Me to Apply Online?
Some employers may suggest you visit their website or apply online and you may wonder, "Why did I even bother to come?" Don't be discouraged; if you've done your research and have been to the website, say so and use the opening to begin a discussion. Many employers use this suggestion as a screening tool, to judge who is seriously interested in them. In addition, some recruiters may not accept resumes onsite for various reasons.
Help! I'm not Outgoing!
- The job fair is a perfect place to practice your people skills. You do not need to be outgoing to be successful at the fair.
- Approach an employer lower on your priority list and practice talking with the representative before you meet with one in which you are really interested. The recruiters will ask you a few questions; relax and answer them.
- Talk about an experience or a project you particularly enjoyed and why.
- Take breaks between interacting with employers. Step out for a few minutes, collect your thoughts, take a deep breath and go back to meet with the next employer.
Following up After the Fair
- Connect with individual recruiters on LinkedIn and follow the employers' LinkedIn pages.
- Many employers have special Twitter accounts just for their career divisions so be sure to follow them. Also follow recruiters who may have their own professional Twitter accounts.
- Within three days, send professional thank-you letters with copies of your resume (electronic and hard copy as appropriate) addressed to the specific recruiters with whom you spoke.
- Within ten days, make telephone calls to determine if the employers have received your application materials, to check on the status of vacant positions and to express your continued interest.
- Keep accurate records of your contacts, including dates of your letters and telephone calls and copies of all materials you send.
- Use the names of the recruiters you met at the fair when reaching out to other representatives of the organization. Use the stories of your interactions at the fair when writing cover letters and conducting interviews or other conversations to show your continued effort in connecting with them.
The primary benefit of participation in a fair is to collect information and make contacts. Extend your connections beyond the few minutes of conversation at the fair. Use your interactions as foundations for future relationships with potential employers and colleagues. Internship and job fairs are more about future opportunities than they are about current openings. Focus on learning as much as you can about what employers look for in the people they hire. Take notes, follow up, and use the information to enhance your job search strategies. Employers do remember candidates who make the extra effort!