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

Author: Elizabeth Kolb, Class of '20

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A Career Fair a great time to build meaningful relationships with those who have traveled to Notre Dame to recruit students for internships, full-time jobs, and post-grad opportunities. It’s an opportunity no one should miss - but how should you prepare? To many students, 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 a Career Fair, for both newcomers and seasoned veterans.

Tip #1: Build an Awesome Resume

Recruiters typically glance over a resume for no more than 20 seconds, so make sure your resume showcases your skills and experiences in the best, clearest way possible. Include your education, contact information, experience, skills and keep it all on 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

With so many employers in one space it's impossible to talk to them all. Look at the list of employer attendees on Handshake ahead of time and take note of the ones you want to approach. Then, split them up into an A list and a B list - the A list as a priority to talk to, and the B list for if there is still time left to talk to them. Time permitting, start with a couple on your B list to ease into networking. That way you’ll have your 30-second pitch down, have hopefully worked through initial nerves, and will be able to showcase yourself to the best of your ability to employers on your A list.

Tip #4: Do Your Research!

Every career counselor will tell you the same thing: Research your companies beforehand! It's important to have some general knowledge of the company, know what they do, what's important to them, as well as some current events and news about the company. Companies want to hire people who are just as passionate about their line of work so, ensure that you can demonstrate your interest in the company you’re talking to. 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 be prepared in case you land one. Dress nicely according to the standard of your industry, do your research beforehand, think through answers to potential questions you might be asked, and have several 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

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

The basic format is: 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? 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, interview prep, and your 30-second intro. Print out enough copies of your resume and bring a padfolio and a pen. Take notes on what you talk about with the recruiter, either discreetly during your conversation or immediately after. Most importantly, remember their name! Ask for a business card or write it down so you can send a follow-up later.

Don’t forget your student ID, check in at the door, and grab a map before diving into networking. Also, make sure you dress in business casual clothing (or to your industry's preference) with comfortable (but nice!) shoes. You’ll be walking around and 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. Recruiters have traveled to get to know Notre Dame students, so make the most of the time allotted. Keep any negative comments to yourself - recruiters can hear and take note of comments made about companies or other recruiters at the fair.

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 a career counselor or come to a Learning Lab. 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.