By Jasmin Escher
Career fairs are intimidating with the challenge of standing out amongst hundreds of other candidates. Although difficult, there are a number of ways to be successful at the end of they day. Here are eight tips to swing the odds in your favor:
1. Have a game plan
Check the list of attending companies a few days in advance to make a “cheat sheet” of your top choices, including what they do, the representative’s name and area of expertise and what positions are being offered.
2. Do your research
Look through the company’s website to gather background information, such as what clients the agency or firm has, successful campaigns that were implemented or a recent news article about the firm. In addition, knowing what questions are already answered on the company’s website are not worthwhile asking.
3. Tailor your resume
For your top choices, prepare individual resumes highlighting the skills and using the wording included in the job or internship description. For example, if one of your top choice companies has an opening in public relations, highlight any skills involving managing social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, event coordinating experience and writing for a publication or blog.
4. Personal appearance matters
Business attire is a must! However, if you don’t have a suit, no problem! Business casual is perfect for the event.
5. Prepare an elevator pitch
Prepare a 30 second to one minute elevator pitch to respond to the routine “Tell me about yourself” question. Respond with information that highlights your best qualities, including general background information such as your academic discipline and grade, any on-campus involvement and leadership positions you’ve held, prior internship or job experience and why you are interested in the company. Remember, you have to sell yourself within a short amount of time!
For example: “I grew up in Dallas but moved to Austin to attend college. I am a junior this year with a major in public relations and a minor in business. I’m a member of PRSSA, serving on the special events committee, and in that role I’ve organized a regional conference with representatives from industry leaders such as AT&T and Pierpont Communications. I also write for an online publication in my free time, which has gotten me in contact with valuable firms such as Wall Street Journal and Austin Magazine. I’ve researched your company and I know that you offer the means of a large agency with the intimacy of a smaller firm, and I believe that this combination will be the most beneficial in fostering my career in PR.”
6. Pay attention
Long lines are typical at the big name company tables. To capitalize on the short amount of time you have with a recruiter, listen to the questions they are asking the people in front of you so you are prepared to answer them when it is your turn. This both impresses the recruiter and gives you more time to interact and ask personalized questions.
7. Be confident
Everyone knows you’re nervous – the trick is to act like you’re not. Start with a firm handshake, look people in the eye as you speak to them and end asking for an interview! The initiative you’ll show is impressive and memorable.
8. Follow up within 48 hours
At the end of the day, recruiters have dozens of resumes to sift through. The chances of your resume being thoroughly assessed are slim. Something as simple as a thank you note or email can spark a recollection of your meeting at the career fair and be enough to get an interview!
If all else fails, remember you’re a longhorn. And longhorns can do anything they set their minds to! Good luck!