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The Art of First Impressions: How to Stand Out at a Career Fair and Land the Job

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By: Olivia

March 6, 2017

suitFor many students, the approaching of spring means one thing: A rush to attend every career fair and hiring event possible to land that job or internship post-graduation. For professionals, the attendance of career fairs may come on more of an ‘as needed’ basis. Still, it is important to remember the following tips to make your best first impression and land your ideal job.These events typically serve as the first glimpse of companies, giving you a chance to interact with companies and learn about the opportunities available. Recruiters and employers are often meeting many potential hires in a short span of time, so if you want to stand out, preparation should begin much before the fair.This post will be specially tailored to tech folks. As a former telecommunications recruiter, I have experienced plenty of excellent and awkward interactions at hiring events and hope to pass along some of the most helpful tips I’ve found from working the employer side of the booth.What to Do Before the Fair
  1. Update your resume. Prior to the fair, be sure to utilize your school's Career Services which can provide resume reviews. In the case of professionals, have someone trusted provide feedback on your resume. Look over all of the information to ensure it is up-to-date and accurate. Ask yourself if it is organized in a cohesive manner and students, be sure to include your GPA. Lastly, do not forget to make plenty of copies to hand out. For more resume help, check out this post, “Here’s How to Get Hired: 7 Resume Must Do’s for the IT Professional.”
  2. Practice your elevator pitch. Have a few things to say about your background and interests because often, the first thing an employer will say is, "So tell me about yourself." You can use this as an opportunity to stand out among the rest. This can also be a great time to express why you are interested in a particular job or industry. Discussing any specific certifications you have obtained are a nice tie-in. It shows that you have a plan for the future and are thinking ahead. Just make sure the certification is relevant to the job or company.
  3. Have a plan. Be sure to do your research. Know which companies you want to speak to before the fair and take a few notes on each. Avoid asking questions with answers that are easily found online, but instead ask more probing things like, "Can you tell me about a day in the life of a Business Analyst?" or "What has your experience with Company X been like?" These answers may be extremely valuable when it comes to determining if a company will be a fit for you. Social media can also provide insight into a company's culture, so it is best to check those sources as well.
As you Enter the Career Fair
  1. Complete the following minor checklist:
    • Silence and stow away phone
    • Write your nametag neatly and be sure it is visible
    • Throw away any chewing gum
    • Check that you have all resumes copies and a pen or two
    • Don't be nervous!
At the Employer’s Booth
  1. Engage with the company representatives. Your best chance at doing this is by not only showing that you have done your research but by showing genuine interest as well. Maintain eye contact and try avoiding words such as, "um or uh." Ask for a business card as well as more information about the hiring process because you will want to know how you can go about getting an interview.
  2. Maintain your professionalism. Chances are, a company may have sent some of their recent graduates to the Career Fair, but just because they are your peer does not mean you should completely disregard your sense of professionalism. Use a handshake as a greeting and avoid speaking too casually and veering off topic.
  3. Ensure you are dressed your best. This tends to go along with professionalism; dressing in your best suit is a key to success. You will want to exude confidence and maturity with your outfit, so avoid anything too revealing or too sloppy.
Note: Do not assume that if you will be working ‘behind the scenes’ as a coder, for example, that you should neglect a polished appearance for your first meeting with a potential employer. Many fall into this pitfall. Especially if you’re interested in working for a consulting firm or in a federal role, the recruiter must feel comfortable presenting you to ‘higher ups’ and can gage that if a client interaction was needed, you would represent the company well.Following Up After the Career Fair
  1. Send a thank you. Hopefully, in your conversation with the company representative, you were able to attain their business card so you have the best method of reaching them. Write a brief thank you and include an attachment of your resume, even if you had given them a paper copy previously.
  2. Don't be afraid to connect on LinkedIn. Clicking the 'connect' button is one extra step that can show your genuine interest in a position and you should not hesitate in doing so. Not only can recruiters potentially find out more information about you than what is listed on your resume, but you might see relevant company news or blogs that can be useful in future conversations.
  3. Ask about other events the company is attending on your campus, or in general. It is normal to be overwhelmed at a Career Fair and may be hard to show your true personality when a line of other students is forming behind you, so look for other opportunities to engage with a company. Most likely, they'll be hosting info sessions or attending smaller campus events. This type of setting can take your initial impression one-step further.
Career Fairs are just one way to get an introduction to companies. If you are conducting a search and going for a first interview, many of these tips are applicable in that situation too.You don't need a reminder that the job market is a competitive environment, which is why at Cybrary, we have tools in place to make your career search easier. Visit the ‘Jobs’ portal to browse open positions or read up on specific roles.We want to see you hired! Share you Career Fair success stories below.olivia2Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia) is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.
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