Prepare for the Fair! (9 Tips for a Successful Career Fair)

Author: Elizabeth Kolb, Class of '20

The Fall Career Fair is coming up! Come join us at the Joyce Center this Tuesday, September 17 from 4pm - 8pm to network with over 200 employers. This is a great time to build meaningful relationships with the recruiters who have come to Notre Dame to recruit students like YOU for internships, full-time jobs, and post-grad opportunities. It’s an opportunity no one should miss - but how should you prepare? 

To many of us, the prospect of stepping into a room full of employers to convince them that you’re the right fit for their company is pretty frightening, especially if it’s your first time. Here are some tips on how to prepare for the Fall Career Fair, for both newcomers and seasoned veterans.

Tip #1: Build a Kickin’ Resume

Recruiters typically glance over a resume for no more than 20 seconds, so you’d better make sure your resume showcases your skills and experiences in the best, clearest way possible. Make sure it includes your education, contact information, experience, and skills, is typed in 10-11 pt font, and is only ONE page. For more guidelines, see pg. 19-20 of the Career Development Guide, and be sure to look at the sample resumes.

The Meruelo Family Center for Career Development offers 15-minute resume reviews every day. Stop by from 2pm - 7pm on Mondays through Thursdays, and from 4pm - 7pm on Fridays, to meet with a Career Counselor or Career Assistant and get your resume ready for the Career Fair.

Tip #2: Get to Know Handshake

We’ve transitioned from GoIRISH to Handshake this year as a platform for job applications, recruitment, and networking. Make sure you fill out your profile and turn your settings to “Public to Employers” so recruiters can search for you. Before you come to the Career Fair, spend some time looking up the employers who are coming to the event on Handshake and seeing what jobs they are recruiting for this fall. Handshake is an incredibly powerful tool, so explore it and see how it can facilitate your career development.

Tip #3: Make a Game Plan

There will be over 200 employers at the Joyce Center on Tuesday, and you can’t talk to them all. Look at the list of employer attendees on Handshake, and take note of the ones you want to talk to. Then, split them up into an A list and a B list - the A list for those you really want to impress, and the B list for those you want to talk to but don’t care as much about. When you get to the Fair, start with your B list and work your way up. By the time you get to your A list, you’ll have your 30-second pitch down, and you’ll know how to showcase yourself to the best of your ability.

A word of advice, though: don’t make either list super long, and keep it around a handful of employers. The lines can get long, and you might not have as much time as you thought to talk to everybody on that list.

Tip #4: Do Your Research!

Every career counselor will tell you the same thing: Be prepared! Research your companies beforehand. Know what they do, what is important to them, where they are going in the future. Make sure you can demonstrate that you care about the company you’re talking to - they want to hire people who are just as passionate about their line of work. 

DeeDee Dolan, career counselor on the exploration team, says, “Students should demonstrate why they’re interested in a company, and how they’ll fit in there - and make sure to ask a thoughtful question!”

Tip #5: Prepare for an Interview

Many employers hold interviews the day after the fair, so you definitely want to be prepared in case you land one. Dress nicely according to the standard of your industry, do your research beforehand, practice your answers, and have one or two thoughtful questions prepared that show you know what you’re talking about. Don’t forget the STAR framework for interview answers: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Many interviews include behavioral questions, which ask for examples of a time when you faced X problem or led a team in X, and the STAR method is a great technique for structuring your answers to these types of questions.

Check out p. 46-54 in the Career Development Guide for more tips on interview prep, types of interviews, common questions, and more. The Center for Career Development also offers Mock Interviews and Interview Prep Learning Labs, so check out the “Appointments” tab on Handshake (under “Career Center”) to sign up. 

Tip #6: Become Your 30-Second Pitch

Okay, not really, but you should craft it well enough that it gives a recruiter enough information to begin a meaningful discussion. This is your time to introduce yourself and why you’re a good candidate for their company - it’s the most important thirty seconds in your entire conversation with that recruiter. Make a good first impression!

The basic format is this: 1. Introduce yourself - your name, your major, your year, and your interest in this industry or field. 2. Say why the company interests you - this is when you demonstrate your knowledge of the company and say why you want to work there. 3. Show that you’re a good candidate - connect your skills with their needs. Why are you the best student at this fair to fill their particular gaps? Finally, 4. Ask the recruiter a question. Usually, this is something like “Can you tell me a little more about what you are looking for in a candidate?” but prepare other, thoughtful questions as well. 

Tip #7: Don’t Forget the Little Things

Logistics are just as important as your resume, your interview prep, and even your 30-second intro. Make sure you print out enough copies of your resume, and bring a padfolio and a pen. You should be taking notes on what you talk about with the recruiter, either discreetly during your conversation or just after - and make sure you write down their name! Ask for a business card or jot it down so that you can send a follow-up later.

Don’t forget your student ID. You’ll need to check in and grab a map before you can get networking. Also, make sure you dress in business casual clothing, with comfortable (but nice!) shoes. You’ll be standing for a while!

Tip #8: Don’t Stand Out for the Wrong Reasons

This is your time to shine, stand out, and be remembered - but not for the wrong reasons. Be polite, dress nice, and don’t monopolize a recruiter’s time. Don’t just drop off your resume and leave - these recruiters have come here to stand for four hours and talk to students, and they want to get to know you. And don’t make negative comments. Recruiters are people too, and they can hear you when you say bad things about companies or other recruiters at the fair. If you must complain, wait until you’re back in your dorm.

Tip #9: Don’t Worry!

If you don’t find a job or an internship at the fair, don’t worry! There are plenty of other resources online and at the Center for Career Development. Make an appointment with one of our career counselors or come to one of our Learning Labs. Explore Handshake for other opportunities and events, or look on CareerShift, BradTraverse, Vault, or any of the other job databases on the Center for Career Development website.