How to Stand Out at a Career Fair

By Sara Pollock

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Career fairs, as incredible as they can be for candidates, make it tough for a single person to stand out in the crowd. Dozens of companies gather in a large place to present to candidates, as candidates gather to do the same. Employers are offering the chance to explore more jobs and internships in one day than a job-seeker might get in a month of submitting resumes online.

Many employers even conduct on-the-spot interviews, which means candidates don’t have to wait weeks or months after submitting an application to actually speak to the employer. Additionally, career fairs are great networking opportunities. Even if a candidate isn’t interested in a position with a certain company at the time of the fair, the connection is there in case of later job searches. 
However, because career fairs offer so much, they’re often swamped with candidates. It may seem impossible to stand out when there’s such a large crowd, but if you follow a few simple guidelines, it becomes simple.

Plan Ahead 
In a recent study, interviewers revealed 47% of the time candidates were eliminated from the running because they had little or no knowledge of the company. As a professional and qualified candidate, you should never go into a career fair blind.

Find out in advance what companies are going to be at the fair, have an idea beforehand of which ones to talk to and know exactly which positions you’re interested in. Wandering around looking for something that seems interesting is a waste of both your time and the recruiters’ time.

Instead, after you’ve researched the companies you’re interested in, create a game plan to tackle them all. Decide in advance which booths to visit first and where you should head if the lines are getting long. Remember that time is limited at a career fair, so standing in lines should be avoided whenever possible. You can always move on to the next booth on the list and come back later.

Look the Part 
A career fair is basically just a series of short, personal interviews. When asked, 65% of interviewers indicated that clothes could be a deciding factor between two almost-identical candidates. A career fair is no different; dress like you would for any other formal interview, but make sure you’re still wearing fairly comfortable clothing. Heels or a stiff suit might be okay for a sit-down interview, but career fairs involve a lot of walking and standing.

Should you wear the same outfit you’d wear to a sit-down interview to a #career fair? No, here’s why: 
In addition, don’t bring much more than your resume with you. A small bag for essentials works fine, but you don’t want to be encumbered by a coat, briefcase or anything else that might get in the way of handshakes and business cards.

Sell Yourself 
While career fairs give you the chance to have a brief interview right away, it isn’t going to be the same as a formal, sit-down interview. The recruiter probably won’t ask a series of questions to find out more about you. Rather, you’re going to have to use the interview to sell yourself to them. Before you head in for the big day, practice talking about yourself to friends, colleagues or even just practice in front of the mirror. You should discuss your interests, your qualifications and anything else that’s relevant to the position.

In addition to what you say, make sure you’re taking note of how you say it. Body language and tone can make or break an interview, so make an effort to sound friendly and confident. Recruiters want to hire people they would get along with, so showcasing your personality as well as your qualifications is a must.

Tip: Perfect the art of the quick pitch. When you introduce yourself to recruiters, this pitch will cover all the relevant information you want them to know. Before the fair, take out a piece of paper and write it all down. Then, edit the pitch down to only the most vital information and rehearse.

The good news is career fairs are full of recruiters looking for great candidates. Unfortunately, there may be dozens of candidates who are just as qualified as you are. This sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate yourself from the crowd but not impossible. Plan ahead, dress for the part and know how to sell yourself, and you’ll be sure to stand out.

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