What is a career fair?

A common question that I asked myself as a freshman in college, and one that is asked among many college students.

A career fair is a great place to meet potential employers to start building relationships. At our career fair, all of our employers are looking to fill positions for internships and jobs.

It is NEVER too early to attend a career fair! There is a common misconception that you have to be a junior or senior, but that couldn’t be further from the truth; building relationships with employers and learning about open roles is for EVERYONE.  I recommend all Chapman students attend a career fair, if you can.

Personally, I went to my first career fair as a freshman. Although some of the employers were looking for students to fill positions post-graduation, it was a great experience for me getting to reach out to potential employers and practice building connections. The Fall Career Fair usually has many employers looking to hire for internships as well!

With Covid-19, our career fair this year is going to be in a virtual format. Although we cannot meet in person, this will be a great way to find potential work and practice meeting recruiters.

Today, I am going to share with you what you should do to prepare for a career fair, both virtually and in-person, and some questions to ask employers to better your chances of securing that job

What should I do to prepare?

  1. Register

The easiest and most important step is to register beforehand. Since we will be using Handshake’s virtual Career Fair platform, you also are REQUIRED to pre-register for specific group and 1:1 sessions with your employers of choice.

If you haven’t registered for our Fall career fair on Wednesday, September 23rd, you can register here!

  1. Research

Just like an interview, the most important thing to do to prepare for a career fair is to research. After deciding which employers you want to talk to, and registering for their group sessions and/or 1:1 sessions, conduct some research about them.

Look into their cultures and values and, if your main goal is to secure a job, see what open positions they have online and on Handshake. Some recruiters will tell you to look online when asked about current positions. When you look ahead of time, you can show that you’ve done your research.

In a sense, meeting employers at Career fairs can act as informational interviews. These quick conversations give you the opportunity to show that you went out of your way to do research on the company. Doing so can help you stand out of the crowd.

  1. Resume Review

Equally as important as researching the company is having your resume prepared and ready to be handed (or virtually uploaded as a public document on your Handshake profile) to employers. When I got my first job ever at 16, I walked in to every potential job and handed my resume to the person in charge of hiring new additions. It is without a doubt that having my resume ready and properly formatted got me my first job.

At career fairs, whether virtual or in-person, you will be giving your resume to potential employers. To assure your resume is employer-ready, schedule an appointment with us on Handshake here or join us for our Career Fair Prep Workshop on 9/16 from 4-6 and book a 1:1 session.

  1. Review your elevator pitch

Because of the abundance of students that attend our career fairs, it can put a time crunch on the amount of time you have with each employer. It is important to have your elevator pitch ready-to-go for when you talk to employers.

Your elevator pitch should be about 30-seconds long that includes your field of study, relevant skills and experiences, and your professional goals. Always finish your elevator pitch with access to your current resume and/or Handshake profile (this can include a link for the virtual format).

Sometimes, you may only have enough time to get introduce yourself, so do so confidently. Your pitch could be the very thing that blows them away. We will be covering Elevator Pitches in our Career Fair Prep Workshop on 9/16—join us for a group session or a 1:1 by registering here!

  1. Update your Handshake profile

Your Handshake profile is what employers, both at the career fair and in general, look at to consider potential candidates for a position. Make sure that your Handshake profile is complete so that the employers have all the necessary information about you and your previous experience. This includes adding an approved resume, an appropriate profile picture/ headshot, your preferred interests, and all necessary professional, volunteer, and academic experiences.

Don’t forget to make sure your graduation date, school year, major and work authorization are correct!

  1. Ready-to-go Professional Attire

Yes, even virtually, you should wear professional attire when talking to employers. This goes for anything where a potential employer is present, which includes career fairs.

Even though we will not be in-person this career fair, you will still need an entire professional outfit from head to toe, in case there are any reasons for standing up.

What do I do once at the career fair?

 Alongside these preparations, arrive on time and assure that you have proper Wi-Fi connection in a distraction-free environment. The last thing you would want is to lose connection in the middle of asking employers these great questions!

  • Who’s the direct report for the [blank] position?
  • What are the different stages of the hiring process?
  • What has been your experience with the company?
  • How can we stay in touch?
  • How do the company’s cultures and values tie into your work?
  • What surprised you the most about the company?
  • What characteristics and involvement do you look for?
  • What makes you different than other companies in the industry?
  • Are there potential growth opportunities? If so, what are they?
  • What are some challenges you’ve faced in your role?
  • Can you share your contact information with me so that I can follow up with you after the Career Fair?

It is important to ask questions. Questions express curiosity and curiosity expresses investment in the company. Show them that you are invested!

Another great way of showing them you are invested is by maintaining eye contact and nodding your head. Being that we will be in a virtual environment, it is very important to maintain proper eye contact and nod your head every few sentences to show you are listening- as if you would in an in-person conversation.

What do I do once the career fair has ended?

  1. Follow-up

Earlier when we mentioned that career fairs offer the opportunity to network, this is when you would do it. When in person, we typically provide a note and card to write a thank-you note to any employers that you spoke to during the event. Being that this event will be virtual, some alternatives are an email or private message via LinkedIn. (Pro tip: Don’t forget to ask their contact information when you speak with them at the Career Fair!)

Following-up with employers can help distinguish you from the crowd. It is a great way to remind them of your qualities and send them other examples of your work that could further enhance your chances of securing the job.

  1. LinkedIn

Whether or not you decide to email them, connecting with them via LinkedIn is a great way to build connections. If you’ve never connected with a recruiter on LinkedIn, now’s your chance!

  1. Apply to open jobs and internships

Because we are using the Handshake platform for our virtual career fair, it makes it very easy to apply directly to the employers current jobs and internships. Don’t forget to check out their pages after your sessions.

If you are not ready to apply right now, you can always save the job and get notifications to apply later!

Whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, it is never too early nor too late to attend a career fair. They can provide amazing opportunities beyond the jobs that employers are trying to fill.

If you have yet to register for the Fall career fair, head over to Handshake or click here to register and get the first step of preparing for the career fair completed!