Tips for Zips attending career fair

By Brittany Gregg, Opinion Editor

Attending a college career fair may seem like a daunting task as an undergrad. You may be one of hundreds of students vying for a recruiter’s attention, but you can earn an advantage over the competition by following these top tips for career fair success.

Do your homework.

Most companies have to pre-register if they plan to have a booth at a career fair. This information is generally made available to students through the career fair website and on Make note of which companies are within your field, what skill sets they require and take a look at the company website. Once you arrive at the event, make an effort to visit those recruiters first while you are still fresh and have copies of your resume available.

In previous years, the career fair organizers have provided students with a floor plan or map of the company booths. Since career fairs can be overwhelming with students and professionals everywhere, bring a highlighter or pen with you to mark the companies you need to visit first. You should also mark off the companies that you speak to, along with obtaining contact information of the recruiter, so that you can remember to follow-up after the event.

Arrive early.

Recruiters are at their best during the beginning of the career fair too, so plan to arrive when the event begins to attract the most attention. If you arrive ten till it is over, you will find yourself missing out on meeting recruiters and watching them pack their booths to head home. Be prepared to answer some brief interview questions on the spot or fill out applications for some employers. Do not forget how important it is to not only answers questions but to ask many. Some students forget to ask questions that could pertain to their job duties, the company culture, and their mission statement. Be sure to do this research. It will benefit you tremendously. Employers love to see that students are not only proactive in their studies, but proactive in their quest for experience as well.

Bring several copies of your resume.

Even though you have particular companies in mind that you’ll want to visit, bring extra copies of your resume in case you see an employer or position opening that appeals to you the day of the career fair. You don’t need to hand out your resume aimlessly, but bring at least a dozen extra copies for your target companies.

Practice your elevator speech.

During these events where there are several hundred students that walk through the door of the student union, you want to be noticed and remembered – by recruiters. You should have a thirty second or less pitch about who you are and what value you would add to the employer. It takes a while to perfect your pitch, so write it out, revise it and practice several times before the career fair.

Wear comfortable shoes.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but participating in a career fair can be grueling both emotionally and physically. You will not be able to be your best self for the recruiters if you are in excruciating pain because of uncomfortable footwear. Most job seekers dress professionally for job fairs and you should do that, too, but make comfortable business-appropriate shoes a priority. Some of the best places to pick up outfits over the weekend would be TJ Maxx, Target, or even a thrift store. Be sure to have time to try things on. Find a suit for less than twenty bucks!

Bring a bottle of water and hand sanitizer.

You’re going to get thirsty from talking to all of the recruiters, so bring a bottle of water to refresh yourself. The chances of refreshments being provided would be nice, but it’s not a given. Keep in mind there are water fountains outside of the bathrooms in the Student Union to refill. Keep in mind to also refrain from chewing gum, it isn’t appropriate and recruiters are not present to see you chomp. Hand sanitizer is also a great thing to bring to cut down on passing germs back and forth with all of the handshaking that you will be doing. Using hand sanitizer is also a good way to prevent sweaty palms if you’re nervous.

Just say no to giveaways.

It’s perfectly acceptable to take some company literature if you’re interested in a company, but try to stay away from taking giveaways and extra items from all of the employers. These items weigh you down and make you tired. Remember, you’re there to find a job, not to get a new stress ball. If you must take items, consider bringing a messenger bag or briefcase with a shoulder strap to put the items into so your hands are free for sealing a conversation with a firm handshake.

Follow up within 8 hours

Recruiters meet lots of students at career fairs. If you want to set yourself apart from the competition, take business cards and send thank you e-mails after the event. In your e-mail, you should reference when and where you met and the position that interests you. You most likely will not receive a response from the recruiter, but it might help move your resume to the top of the pile.