9 Steps to Nail the College Career Fair

9 Steps to Nail the College Career Fair was originally published on Vault.

The big day has come. You have made it to the job fair, you are dressed professionally and focused. So, now what?

It is important to understand that campus recruiters travel a lot, do multiple careers fairs, and are under great pressure to find great candidates. They are also about to be bombarded by hundreds of students, most of whom are not qualified. They are really looking for a small amount of impressive students who have great qualifications, good energy, and a passion for their future who they hope will be a fit for what they are looking for.

To stand out as one of the top candidates, follow these 9 tips on how to approach and engage with these companies and organizations.

Showing Up:


1. Show up early

First things first: you need to show up early. Being punctual as a student only enforces the idea that you will be a great employee that shows up on time. This also gives you time to review your notes and the companies you are interested in. Also the recruiters are fresh and the crowds smaller at the opening hour.

2. Show up by yourself

This is just as important as showing up early. Just think—you don’t need someone who could be less prepared than you as a distraction during this great opportunity. You don't want someone ‘following you’ or trying to fight for airtime when you engage with the recruiters. Going solo will help you to be focused and at your best.

Be prepared to approach your targeted companies:


3. Have your collaterals and other resources ready

Bring business cards(for networking), resumes, something to write with, paper for any notes you need to jot down along the way, and a professional-looking bag or folio to keep all of these materials organized. 

4.Review your summary statements

You may get asked any or all of these things by a recruiter, so make sure you don’t get blindsided—have the answers prepared to be able to respond quickly and firmly. If done well, they will want to ask you more.

  • About their company
  • What they do
  • Why you are interested
  • A couple of great questions
  • What you want
  • Internship or job?
  • Paid or unpaid? 
  • Willing to relocate?
  • Your elevator pitch
  • Who you are (aka your personal brand
  • Why you have great potential for them

5. Bring your best attitude

This goes beyond smiling. Have a great energy in the room, give firm handshakes and maintain eye contact when talking to a recruiter personally. Be sure to also speak clearly and in a professional manner. Remember with great preparation, your confidence and your attitude will elevate. If you did not prepare as much as you wanted to, it is OK to walk out, do a bit of quick research and engage with that recruiter in a more prepared way.

6If you’re nervous, start small 

Don’t feel ready to hit up your top targeted companies at moment one? If you are nervous and trying to find your footing, practice your elevator pitch and conversation with the recruiters at a company prioritized lower on your list. This gives you the practice you may need to create a good flow when speaking to other recruiters. You can move up to the companies that interest you the most. By then, practice will have made you stronger. 

When you approach a company:


7. Be confident and ask questions 

When you’re ready to introduce yourself, you should briefly cover each of the following points:

  • Your elevator pitch
  • Quickly move on to why you are interested in their company. Very few candidates are this prepared; this alone will make you stand out.
  • A statement of your needs (internship, job, your availability, etc.)

8. Don’t hesitate to state your interest and intention. 

If you develop a deep interest in a company, simply ask for an interview. Sympathize and say something along the lines of this: ”I know you’re very busy today with the fair, but could you find some time to talk further about the company and any opportunities?” If they don’t have time, request a phone meeting in the next week or so. You win by staying present. Keep the ‘follow up’ or ‘next action’ ball in your court.

9. Stay organized 

Keep notes together and organized after you speak with each company. By keeping each company’s notes in its own section with proper headings will make the follow up easier and less confusing as you go back through your notes. 

This is critical. You will talk to so many people onthe day of the fair that if you want to follow up well, you must take good notes. I suggest as you exit the booth, step outside and detail comments that you will use in your follow up. It will pay off big time when you tie-down with them.

In Conclusion: When the Career Fair Day Has Ended

If you are an underclassman and you feel as though you will not get an offer or interview because of your age and status, don’t worry! Now you will have an advantage for the next career fair if you follow up and build a relationship with the company. Many of the same recruiters return, and if you follow up correctly, they will be sure to remember you.


A version of this post previously appeared at LearnEarnRetire.com