How to Thrive (Not Just Survive) At A Career Fair

The Tri-College and STEM Recruitment Day will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 25, in the Alumni Field House at Haverford College.

By Mike Hertel
The Spring recruitment season for both jobs and summer internships begins in earnest this coming Friday, January 25, with the Tri-College and STEM Recruitment Day here at Haverford College. Now, attending a job fair might not be your idea of a great time, but a little preparation can go a long way in making this a less stressful experience. Job fairs are a great way to meet employers, learn more about organizations, and identify jobs or internships for which you might want to apply. The Tri-College and STEM event is no exception! With over 50 companies and organizations registered, there are opportunities for students from practically every major.

When in doubt, ask one of us for help! Career services staff members from Haverford, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr will be available to assist and guide you throughout the day.

So what do you need to do to prepare? Well, the first thing is to do your research. Know what organizations are coming, and identify the ones that you want to speak with most. The list of employers is available through Handshake on the Center for Career and Professional Advising website. Visit the employer’s website to learn more about their organization and the opportunities that they have available.  Prioritize the organizations and develop a plan to target them during the event.
Once you’ve identified the organizations you want to talk to, you will want to make sure you prepare your materials. Make sure your resume is top-notch and ready to go. Print several copies and have a padfolio or binder available in which to keep them. This will allow you to navigate the job fair and hand out resumes where you can. Check your wardrobe and make decisions on your professional attire for the next day (maybe stop by the CCPA’s Lending Closet in Stokes 300). Know what you’re going to wear, have it ready, and make sure to look your best to impress.
Finally, practice a 30-second introduction of yourself beforehand. The time you have to spend with each employer is limited, so you want to introduce yourself quickly and effectively.  If you can quickly lay out your name, academic year and major, highlight your background and clarify what it is you are looking for – you will do quite well! Practicing this beforehand will help you become more comfortable and confident with this process.
Make sure you arrive at the fair early enough to give yourself an adequate amount of time. Despite of our best efforts keep them at the event, many employers will start to pack up and leave 15 to 20 minutes before the scheduled end of the fair.
Next, let’s talk about what to do once you are actually at the job fair. When you arrived at the job fair, you will work your way through registration and then you might experience some shock over how many employers and students there are at this event! It can be a bit unnerving. To give you the right frame of mind, remember that hundreds of companies and organizations were invited to this event and the ones in the Alumni Field House are the ones that decided to come and recruit. So they do want to talk to you! None of them are here to make you look bad or feel unqualified. In fact most of them want to see you succeed, and see that you’re the right person for their organization.
As you start out, it is recommended that the first organization you speak with be one that is NOT particularly high on your list of organizations. This will allow you to practice your introduction and gain some confidence in how you approach employers. Once you have polished your introduction and feel that you can handle yourself pretty effectively, now you’re ready to approach those organizations that you specifically want to target.
There’s comfort in navigating the fair with students that you know. However, it is recommended that you work independently and not travel in pairs – and certainly not in packs! This will show that you have confidence and you can work independently.
Your conversations with employers should be brief and on target. Be considerate of the employer’s time and the time of your fellow students. Do not monopolize an employer with lengthy conversations and discussions about their organization.
Ask an employer if they would like a copy of your resume, rather than trying to give it to them directly.  Do not be offended if an employer refuses to take your resume. Today, most organizations would prefer that you apply online so they may simply direct you to their website. This is common practice and it is not a means of avoiding or dismissing your interest. They are simply using the best protocols for their organization. What you DO want to do is try to get a business card from a person that might serve as a key contact at that organization. To get a business card, it’s best to ask if you can contact them with any additional questions after the fair, and then ask for their business card.
After the fair, you’ll want to take some time to organize all the recruitment materials and business cards (and giveaways!) that you received at the event. Identify the organizations that you want to follow up with and outline the steps you need to take with each one. Sometimes this may be a matter of simply submitting an application as requested at the fair. Other times you may need to reach out to someone to have some questions answer before you submit your application. The best way to follow-up is typically through email. Occasionally phone calls are recommended but for the most part emails will keep you in good contact with the recruitment individuals. When following up by email, make sure to identify yourself as a student they met with at Tri-College and STEM Recruitment Day, indicate the position you are interested in, and thank them for their time for attending the fair and meeting with you.
So, mark your calendar . . .   The Tri-College and STEM Recruitment Day Career Fair will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. on Friday, January 25, in the Alumni Field House at Haverford College. Note interview will take place from 1:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can check out the employers currently registered in Handshake:
Tri-College Recruiting Day:
STEM Recruiting Day:
If you have any questions about this event, how to prepare for it, or how to follow up with an organization feel free to reach out to the Center for Career and Professional Advising.
Good luck and have a great experience at the fair!