Director, B.Comm Career Services, Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre, University of British Columbia
1 Research the companies participating beforehand and prepare good questions so you can differentiate yourself from the rest of the students during your conversations.
2 Prepare your 15–30 second intro using the “past, present, future” formula (e.g., “Hi, my name is… Last year I… Now I am…Someday I’d like to…”).
3 Show genuine interest in the companies you approach. Ask a question that you are truly interested in knowing the answer to, based on your research. Make sure you are listening and, if time permits, ask a follow-up question.
4 Watch your body language. Shake hands firmly and make eye contact. Ensure you’re dressed appropriately.
5 observe and listen to the questions others are asking when you’re waiting in line to speak to a company representative, so you don’t repeat the same ones.
Melissa Higson, CHRP
Campus Program Specialist, Corporate Human Resources, Manulife Financial
1 Researches the companies that you are interested in speaking with so you can ask questions of employers at their booths.
2 Learn all you can about any job opportunities you might be interested in so you can ask questions that relate specifically to those opportunities.
3 Practice your “elevator pitch” so you are comfortable using it in a networking setting.
4 Don’t be nervous about approaching employers—remember, that’s why we’re at the career fair!
5 Dress professionally and have your smile and your handshake ready!
Your U of A Career Centre, University of Alberta,
1 Distribute your business card. If you are a student, you probably don’t have a business card. However, giving employers a business card (or your résumé, if they are accepting résumés) is a great way to make a connection and ensure they have your contact information. With today’s technology it is easy enough to make your own business cards. Just get some card stock (office supply stores even sell “ready to cut” business card stock) and print it with your basic contact information, faculty, year of study and a sentence or two about your skills and work interests. It doesn’t take a lot of time and it’s a memorable and professional way to leave your information.
2 Do your research. Career fairs provide you with a wonderful opportunity to speak one-on-one with employers from fields related to your degree or interests. You want to make sure you impress them. One thing that always impresses employers at career fairs is students who are knowledgeable about their organization. Take a look at your campus career centre’s website before the fair, as they will often have a list of the employers attending. Pick out employers of interest and visit their websites to find out a little more about them (e.g., types of goods or services they provide, career opportunities available). This way, on career fair day you won’t be approaching them “cold.” Use the information you gather to develop a short list of questions to ask each employer you plan to meet at the career fair.
3 Be strategic. Once you have your list of organizations to speak with, arrange them in order of priority, from highest to lowest. On the day of the fair, pick a couple of the organizations on the low end of your list and speak with them first. This gives you the opportunity to practice introducing yourself and asking questions, which will help build your confidence. As well, if there are a lot of students at the booth of an employer you want to speak with, move on to the next one on your list and go back to that employer when there are fewer students vying for attention.
4 Follow up. Every employer is different in their hiring process and will have different instructions on how to apply for jobs in their organization. Some employers take résumés at career fairs; some employers ask you to apply online (this is becoming common practice—don’t let it discourage you); some employers may even interview you on the spot. Whatever the case, after your initial meeting at the career fair, it is a good idea to follow up with the employer via e-mail or phone call to thank them for meeting with you, to ask any questions you may still have, and/or to forward your résumé if they don’t yet have it. The follow-up is an opportunity to show those busy recruiters that you are very interested in working for their organization.
5 Missed the career fair? Don’t fret. You still have opportunities to connect with employers who attended the fair. Most employers don’t hire on the spot at career fairs, so don’t hesitate to contact them after the event. Make use of the list of employers who attended the career fair, do some research about their organization and contact them by telephone or e-mail. You don’t need to include a lengthy excuse as to why you weren’t at the career fair; you just need to let them know you are interested in working with their organization, explain what you have to offer, and find out the next steps you need to take to be considered for any available positions. CO