Making the Most of Career Fairs

2018 marks the 12th year of BioOhio’s Ohio Bioscience Career Fairs. BioOhio is currently organizing fairs for February 2018.

Attending a career fair is an effective way to build your professional network and possibly secure your next job.

We understand that the experience of job hunting can be stressful, and in many cases overwhelming. BioOhio worked with employment specialists to create a primer on how best to approach a Career Fair.

The following advice will help you get the most out of your experience.


Prepare and Plan

  • Pre-register. Many events accept resumes before events and distribute them to employers. Visit the event website or contact the organizers to obtain information on the employers that will be in attendance. Research employers and arrive prepared.
  • Write, practice, and master your 30 second intro. Use friends, family, or even a mirror as your sounding board.
  • Prepare your resume. There are endless formats and styles to choose from, but the most important thing you can do is make sure the page represents you, your skills, and your value to the employer. Be sure to check spelling, grammar, and layout. Do not rely on spell checkers – read it over carefully and have someone proof it for you.
  • Create or update your LinkedIn profile with content that mirrors and/or expands on your resume. It has become common practice for employers to find and read candidates’ profiles. Make sure it is ready to represent you to the world. Use a good picture. Consider setting any other social media profiles to private.
  • Print and bring business cards. Even if they are as simple as your name, email, and phone, a business card is a critical way to make connections at networking events, career fairs, or any time you make a new connection. Any print shop in your area can make a batch of simple but attractive cards for a nominal price.
  • Prepare answers to common questions asked by recruiters at job fairs including: Tell me about yourself.  Why do you want to work for our company?  What positions interest you most? How will you benefit our company?
  • Write down questions you plan to ask each recruiter. Avoid obvious questions you should know the answer to already, such as: “What does your company do?” Avoid questions about benefits, salary, or time off – those answers will come in a later interview. Employers will be responsive to informed questions that illustrate you have interest and have done some research about their business.
  • Be prepared to discuss your accomplishments and the impact they had on past employers. If you are seeking your first job, stress accomplishments and skills that could be transferred to your employer. For recent graduates, discuss your course work, extracurricular activities, and skills that apply to the employer’s company.
  • Dress appropriately and practice your approach to reduce your stress. First impressions are extremely important because this recruiter is going to meet many prospective candidates. Dress conservatively, making sure the focus is on what you’re saying instead of what you’re wearing. Always wear comfortable shoes because you will be on your feet all day!
  • Bring your resumes to the job fair in folders which will be noticed by recruiters. Include samples of your work, performance reviews, and transcripts if you are a recent grad and a list of references. You may not need to give these out, but having them could be useful and may help you stand out from other job seekers.

At the Event

  • Smile. It may sound cliché, and knowing that job searches can be long and difficult, this is one of the biggest factors in creating a solid, memorable first impression.
  • Take a deep breath. Be sure to make sure you’re collected and composed. Be at your best when you meet recruiters to project a positive, confident demeanor. Avoid negative comments about previous employers/jobs.
  • Respect the time restraints of the recruiters. They conduct short conversations, ask one or two pertinent questions, decide to screen you in or screen out and move on to the next job seeker. You have probably 5-10 minutes to stand out. Don’t be remembered as the conversation that would not end.
  • Shake the recruiter’s hand, smile, and make sure to have solid eye contact. If the recruiter is speaking to someone else, do not interrupt their conversation. Wait patiently for the conversation to end and then introduce yourself.
  • It’s ok to take notes, but keep them short, since your focus should be conversation and eye contact. If an employer has handouts or other materials, be sure to take them for reference as well as to show interest.
  • Talk about your experience, skills, and accomplishments. If this is your first job, or you haven’t worked for a while, stress the skills you possess that are the most transferrable to the job and company you are targeting.
  • Even if a company is recruiting for positions you do not qualify for, take time to speak to the recruiter. They may see qualities that are a good fit for their organization, and you will be remembered for future openings.
  • Avoid using slang during your conversation. A job fair can be a ticket to the next step in an interview process or a screening out process. Your conversation must be appropriate for a job interview.
  • Obtain a business card from each recruiter. If none are available write down the recruiter’s name, title, phone number and email address. Remember that recruiters at job fairs are there to talk, interview, screen and identify individuals for the employer they represent. You need appropriate contact information to follow up with this person after the job fair. Use their name during your conversation with them.
  • Do not just drop off your resume at a booth. Always have a conversation with the recruiter or representative of the company.
  • Never underestimate the importance of connecting with other job seekers attending the job fair. Often, they are actively interviewing and can provide you with job leads or names of contacts. You want to include these individuals in your network so it’s important to also get their business cards or contact information.
  • Follow up! After the event, be sure to contact the company representative you met. Email is the easiest way to follow up, but also send an actual thank-you card to increase your visibility and be more memorable.