5 strategies for making the most of job fairs

Students wait in line to speak with a recruiter.

Career Showcase was last week with hundreds of recruiters and thousands of college students filling UF’s O’Connell Center for two days of handshaking, resume distributing, and dark suit wearing.

I joined the crowd of students, but instead of being interviewed, I was taking photos and interviewing staff from UF’s Career Resource Center and recruiters for tips to share.

Tip #1 – Dress for being interviewed.
Although most of the recruiters were wearing logo polo shirts, the attire for the students was dark business suits and dress shoes. I didn’t see a pair of flip flops until I was leaving the O’Connell Center and spotted a gal changing out of her high heels into her flip flops for walking on campus. In that sea of black and dark blue suits, a modest touch of color (blouse or shirt or tie) can help you have a little more personality.

Students had to have their Gator One IDs to enter Career Showcase.

Tip #2 – Plan ahead to know which businesses you want to talk with.
Well before Career Showcase was held, the CRC website had a list of all the participating employers and included what kinds of positions each business or organization was interviewing for. Students who did their homework on the employers arrived with a list of which ones they wanted to talk with. As students entered the building, they checked in and were given a Career Showcase booklet that contained a layout of the floor plan with the employers’ locations listed. Especially for students with limited time to interview, knowing the location of the employers saved time versus wandering through the crowds until finding the right employer display.

More than a half dozen recruiters from P&G met individually with students for quick interviews.

Tip #3 – Maintain your energy level for every interview.
Some recruiters had a line of more than 20 students waiting. I could see some students wilting as they waited. Some of them revived when they stepped to the front of the line to shake hands with the recruiter, but others had faded. These quick interviews — many being only two to three minutes — and the resumes provided are what led to the selection of students who were called back for more in-depth interviews on a separate day. So it’s vital to make it past this first round of screening. A good handshake, a smile, and a display of energy are important.

Tip #4 – Know something about the company.
The recruiters at the PepsiCo display said that those who appear to be just applying for every possible opportunity without know the company don’t fare well. To make the cut to the next level of interviewing, students need to demonstrate that they know something about the company. With the advance information from the CRC, students could do their homework and come prepared with specific information about themselves and questions to ask recruiters. Once at the interviewing site, if you identify an employer that you’d like to interview with but hadn’t prepared for, you use your smartphone to go online to find out about the business. (The O’Connell Center, as is UF’s entire campus, is wireless.)

Student volunteers staffed a bag-check area, where students could leave their backpacks during the interviewing.

Tip #5 – Volunteer to help with a job recruiting fair.
Consider volunteering to help with a job recruiting fair — on your campus, if you’re a college student, or in your community. Helping with the fair will help you see how the process works (even if you spend much of your time checking bags or helping recruiters set up their tables). You’ll pick up ideas about what to wear (and what not to wear) and how to present yourself. You may have some time to talk with the students who are interviewing and get their perspective and to the staff that is hosting the job fair.

I’d be interested in your advice about making the most of participating in job fairs.

One comment

  1. Hi Dr. Dodd,

    I was actually a former student of yours years ago and now I am the Asst. Director for Career Events and I am in charge of coordinating Career Showcase. I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed reading your posts regarding the event. I appreciate your perspective– glad you could attend and share your experience!


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