A View from the Top: So what’s the deal about a Career Fair?

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Career Fairs are well tested methods to allow organizations to conduct quick and effective first screens of potential candidates (Insert link to blog #2 here on creating a personal story for more information about what first screens are designed to do at “first screens” highlighted above in red).

Career Fairs are also effective ways for students to learn about different companies and how they operate. So, what should you expect when you go into a career fair?

Don’t judge by location. Many organizations who are looking to fill multiple jobs will pay a fee to be in the front of the room. But, the company with the role that is the right fit for you may be located somewhere else. Make sure to wander through the room. Make a point to stop by many booths and inquire about the kinds of jobs they have open.

Be courteous to everyone. The people working at the Career Fair are the ones who make the decision if you will be passed along for an interview or not. Wandering up to “collect some swag” and then suddenly turning on the charm when you realize that the company is of interest to you is not a good strategy. Well prepared interviewers keep a log of everyone that they speak with, and cross reference the information from the career fair with future interviewers.

Dress for a job. Business casual is very common in organizations these days, and interviewers know that students have limited funds. But, wandering by in jeans and a Bentley t-shirt will be noted, especially when everyone else is dressed to make an impression. Dress in business professional for Career Fairs.

Seek to understand the process. The typical Career Fair introduction lasts less than 15 minutes. That’s right – 15 minutes or less. The goal for the company is to place candidates into a Yes/No/Maybe pile in relationship to a wide variety of potential selection factors. Have your personal story ready, along with three to five key facts about yourself that you think should be shared with someone else. Unless the company is large and well known they will not expect you to come prepared with specific questions, but you should have at least one or two prepared follow-up questions you are prepared to ask if there is time. “Can you tell me more about your hiring process?” is always a good question, as is “Can you tell me about your organizations plans to globalize? I’ve been learning a lot about that process in my classes and I’m really interested in working for a company with an international footprint” is another fairly safe follow up question to ask most organizations. At the end of the interview, it is completely appropriate for you to ask the interviewer if they think that you might be a candidate for a phone screen interview.

Leave enough time. You cannot successfully work a Career Fair by swinging by between classes. If need be speak with your Professor’s about the need to attend the fair. If you end up pressed for time, look over the room and settle upon a limited number of companies that you wish to visit. A good strategy is to buddy up with a friend and to compare notes. If you are able to interview with five companies you should congratulate yourself on your good format, and go celebrate.

Think of this as practice. It is unlikely that you will be directly hired as the result of a Career Fair. All organizations have extensive hiring processes, and the typical large organization visits at least three to five College Campuses for a handful of entry level or internship positions. However, Career Fairs are terrific opportunities for you to hone your interviewing skills as well as your skills in explaining your personal story to others.

You are encouraged to send questions directly to me at e.walker@bentley.edu or to visit me at 310 Adamian. Or simply bookmark this blog which will occur on a regular basis. In the next blog we’ll discuss if you should attempt to bypass the HR department in the hiring process.

By Elaine Walker
Elaine Walker Lecturer Elaine Walker