This is the season for job and career fairs — at colleges and universities, at corporations, and elsewhere.  Dr. Randall Hansen offers strategies for improving your odds of standing out amidst all the other candidates.

  1. Pre-register. Some career fairs allow job-seekers to pre-register for the event, which usually includes submitting a resume or summary resume.
  2. Research. Many job-seekers go to fairs to “see the sights” and are not prepared to interview. You can get a jump on the competition by getting a list of the companies attending the fair and doing some research on each of the companies you want to interview with.
  3. Resumes. Bring lots of resumes to the fair — at least two for each company for which you have an interest.
  4. Portfolios. More and more career experts are emphasizing the importance of career portfolios. These portfolios should include copies of your resumes, a list of references, and samples of your best work.
  5. Attire. Conservative business attire is essential, even for those Spring Break beachside career fairs because image and first impressions are critical.
  6. Strategy. You need to devise a strategy or plan of attack for the fair. You’ve already done the first step by researching the companies you are interested in. The second step is seeing if any new companies have registered when you arrive at the fair.
  7. Interviewing. You may only have two to five minutes to market yourself and protect yourself from being screened out, thus you need to make the most of your time. Many experts suggest that you develop a one-minute “commercial” that highlights the key benefits you can offer the organization — and then use it at the beginning of the interview. Also remember the three keys to all interviews: make eye contact, offer a firm handshake, and show enthusiasm.
  8. Intangibles. There are several other things you can do to help make your career fair experience a success. First, don’t waste your time interviewing with companies you have no desire to work for. Second, if you did not prepare for a company you want to interview for, try to get some company literature from the booth before getting in line so you can read about the company while waiting.
  9. Networking. Career fairs are all about networking. Of course, you are building a network with the recruiters — this task is your most vital. However, you can also network with your fellow job-seekers.
  10. Follow-up. There are two main methods of follow-up. Some experts suggest calling the recruiter the evening of the fair and leaving a voicemail message thanking the recruiter again for his/her time that day. A more traditional method is to write a thank you note and mail it the next day to the address on the recruiter’s business card.