How to: Tackle Your First Career Fair

By: Kaitlyn Landram, Communications/Digital Strategy Member

“Ladies, do not wear open-toe shoes to the career fair. The last thing you want is to be remembered by the recruiter as ‘the girl with the creepy toes.'”

I heard my marketing professor preach as I prepared for my first ever career fair. I glanced down and sneering back up at me were my very own ‘creepy toes’. I ripped through my closet, threw strappy sandals and winter boots to the side only to find a pair of black, sequence ballerina flats. Mortified, I slid them on to hide my ‘creepy toes’ and made my way to the Bryce Jordan Center to attend my first career fair in my unprofessional sparkling shoes.

My first career fair was far from perfect but with what I know now, my next venture to the BJC will run much smoother.

Dress for success.
My marketing professor was absolutely right: it is the little, quirky things that a recruiter will remember about you and you do not want it to be that you were dressed inappropriately. If you, like me, didn’t pack the perfect business casual look, don’t fret! Just talk to your friends and see if they have any items you can borrow!

Be ready to wait in lines.

When I entered the Bryce Jordan Center, I didn’t know what to expect. I was not prepared for lines of twenty people in front of each company table. There are around 500 companies in attendance to each career fair, and the larger companies like General Electric and Procter & Gamble attract the most students. You won’t be able to speak to everyone so pick some of your favorites from the online listing and know who you would like to speak with the most.

Research the company before the fair.

After you decide which companies you want to talk to, Google them. Very little will impress a recruiter more than your knowledge of their company. It shows that you care about the company, not only about getting a job.

Go to a few practice booths to calm your nerves.

There are around 470 companies at the career fair that you have no interest in working for. TALK TO THEM FIRST. It is intimidating, especially the first time, you present yourself to a company. Get your initial jitters out of the way and talk with a company or two you are not interested in before you go to impress your top choices.

Master your “elevator pitch.”

Give or take, you have about 3 minutes to speak with the recruiter and you want to blow them out of the park from the beginning. Therefore, you should decide exactly what you want them to know about you and prepare it in your elevator pitch. This is your 45 second schpeel to tell the recruiter who you are, what your strengths are, and what you want to bring to their company.

If all else fails, fake it until you make it.

Everything is not going to work out exactly how you planned. If your nerves overcome you and you can’t seem to find the words, just fake it. Plaster a smile on your face and speak confidently. Honestly, you might have no idea what you are saying but if you present it the right way, the recruiter may be impressed by your composure.

Don’t forget that recruiters are people too.

When I spoke to one of my top companies, the recruiter became tongue tied as she spoke about Hershey internships and laughed about the long day she was having. She ended up complimenting my unprofessional, sparkly ballerina shoes. “They’re so fun…so smart of you to wear those instead of feet are killing me,” she shared.

I left the BJC grinning ear to ear because I had survived my first career fair and knew that I had wasted a lot of my time being anxious about it. So if you too are headed to your first career fair, take a deep breath and relax because, you can do it!

(Image credit: John C. Whitehead, The Patriot News; R. Frisco, PennLive)

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