Whether searching for your first role as a developer or considering making a move later in your career, attending a job or career fair is a great way to learn more about potential employers, showcase your project portfolio and, perhaps most important, expand your professional network.
Career fairs come in all shapes and sizes. Generally, a career fair is an event in which employers, recruiters, and schools exchange information with potential employees. Colleges hold events specifically for students while single companies use career fairs to fill a range of open positions. Larger jobs events feature a multitude of companies, with some targeting specific industries like technology. And there are online or virtual career fairs through which recruiters use video, live chats and downloadable materials to share information about the company and open roles and communicate with job seekers.
Based on the years of experience our recruiting team has gleaned from participating in career fairs, we have put together some helpful tips to make the most of your experience at one of these events.
1. Dress Professionally
First impressions are made in a few short seconds. Just as with interviews, when attending a career fair, dress in professional attire. For men, that’s a suit and tie, or if that’s manageable, a nice dress shirt, tie and clean pants do the job. Suits are also preferred for women, with dress pants or a skirt and professional-looking top working just as well. Here, the casual look is out, so no jeans, sweatshirts, T-shirts or anything too tight or revealing.
2. Bring Plenty of Copies of Your Resume
Most employers will ask about your about your background. Your resume is a crucial part of that conversation! Make sure it is accurate and professional. If you do not have work experience or internships, make sure you add school projects or coding competitions and hackathons to your resume. Be ready to discuss these projects—employers want to see your creativity. And communicate your passion!
3. Have a Strategy
Almost every school will put out a list of employers that will attend and the positions the companies are recruiting for prior to the career fair. Same with the larger fairs; they publish lists of companies attending, and often, roles most in demand. Take time to research these companies, so you can be on point when you meet with recruiters. Come with questions and examples of why you would be a good fit.
Often at a fair, you will also receive a booklet with brief descriptions of the participating companies. Read the company descriptions before you speak with a potential employer. As recruiters, we know you will likely not know the ins and outs of each company’s industry, but there is nothing worse than a person coming up and asking, “So, what do you guys do?”
4. Do Your Homework
Be thoughtful in your preparation for a career fair. If there are specific companies that interest you, take the time to research and learn more about the company and have questions prepared. Be certain that your questions are not the “generic ones” and cannot be answered if you went to the website. This is would be an example of an impression that you don’t want to leave!
5. Sign Up for On-Campus Interviews
Many organizations will host next-day interviews or even same-day interviews. If you are really interested in the company, ask the recruiter if they are hosting either. It shows your immediate interest and puts you to the front of the line.
Succeeding at a Virtual Fair
Most of these points (researching the companies, dressing professionally) hold true for getting the most out of a virtual career fair. In addition, be sure to:
1. Check Your Tech
There’s nothing worse than signing in to a virtual job fair and your Wi-Fi gets wonky. Make sure to test your settings prior to attending a virtual job fair so that you can let your skills and experience shine—and not your lack of a solid Internet connection.
2. Participate From Your Home Office
Although you can, in theory, attend a virtual job fair from anywhere, that doesn’t mean you should. Ideally, log on to a virtual job fair from your home office, where you’ll be able to stage your background so it looks professional. And don’t be tempted to participate from your cellphone, it doesn’t always have the same quality (and connection) as your home computer.
3. Look Into the Camera
Be sure to look at the camera rather than the person interviewing you, and exhibit confidence by keeping your legs aligned with your shoulders and your feet approximately four to six inches apart.
The University of California—Berkeley put together a comprehensive list of tips for its students. We love this one that offers a quick reminder to be respective of the employers participating in the career fair and your fellow job seekers: “Demonstrate sensitivity to others waiting to speak with employers by keeping your questions brief and offering to continue your conversation at a later time." It also suggests: "Enjoy the fair and your interaction with the employers. Let your positive attitude show!” We couldn't agree more.
Read Jennifer's blog, Best Practices for Working with a Recruiter. Have you considered working with a recruiter in your job search? Selecting a recruiter and developing a relationship with one can enhance your job search and bring you one step closer... read more
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