Don’t Waste Your Time at Career Fairs Without Using These 8 Hacks

Last week I posted about what NOT to do at a career fair. At the end of the post, I recommended keeping the following objectives on your mind:

  1. Positive 1st Impression
  2. Stand out (in a good way)
  3. Find out the next step(s) and FOLLOW UP!

 

I thought I should expand on these objectives to list some career fair “hacks”. Follow the below steps to up your odds of leveraging your career fair to land your first job out of college!

 

 

  1. Get a list of companies that will be there (IMPORTANT: #2 through #5 all depend on this). Contact whoever is hosting the career fair, be it the college of agriculture or the internship and career center. Ask them for a printed list of all exhibitors.
  2. Research the employers and identify those that are most interesting to you. Check out the company website, their social media presence, and you can also look at websites such as GlassDoor.com.
  3. Find out who the company’s college recruiter is on Linkedin and connect w/ a personal message. A simple search of the company + recruiter will get you to the right person if they have a designated recruiter. If you can’t find someone with the title of “Recruiter” then try “human resources”. If you’re striking out, find anyone in the company that appears to have a strong presence on Linkedin (a lot of connections) and reach out to them. They will get you connected to the right person. Remember to connect WITH A PERSONAL MESSAGE.
  4. Tweet the company and/or recruiter that you’re looking forward to meeting them. If you’ve done all of steps #1 through #3 you should have the info to do this. Search for both the company and their recruiting representative. Start following them and send them a tweet that you’re looking forward to meeting them. This will put you on their radar and create a “warm introduction” so you’re not walking up to them “cold”.
  5. Write a personalized cover letter to each potential employer. This means that you find out the name of the company representative that will be at the career fair. Address the cover letter to that person and tell your story. Ideally, you want the story to detail a series of experiences and challenges you have overcome to lead you to their doorstep as the employee they are looking for. Don’t lie, embellish, or be overly dramatic, but make sure the story is interesting and makes sense. Bring one of these personalized to each of your target employers as well as plenty of copies of your resume.
  6. Show up early and dress professionally. This should be obvious. In case it’s not: no tee shirts, no blue jeans, tie optional (but recommended), nothing suggestive, no ball caps. Show up early because they employers are less likely to be overwhelmed by others and they haven’t seen thousands of people yet so it will be easier for you to stick in their memory.
  7. Plan out some GOOD questions to ask. These employers are going to hear over and over “tell me about your company” and “what types of employees are you looking for?”. You will definitely stand out if you show up with a very thoughtful question that shows you’ve done your research on the company. Perhaps you could ask about a new asset or company that the employer has acquired. A nearby facility the company owns? Legislation that might affect them? Commodity prices? Be creative and show you are serious and there specifically to get a job with their company.
  8. Follow up in a unique way! Contacting the employer after the career fair is absolutely critical. Remember there is one of them and hundreds of candidates like you. So, it’s not likely they are going to follow up with everyone they met at the career fair. You have to take the initiative to follow up. Sure, an email is a great start. But an email doesn’t help you achieve the objective of standing out from the crowd. In addition to an email, you may try a phone call, a tweet, a Linkedin Message, or even a personalized video. I’m not saying to use ALL of these methods. I’m just saying to do more than just an email. Follow up in a creative way!

 

The overall message with these hacks is to go the extra mile to show the employer you are very serious about working for them. Chances are they are going to be talking to several candidates who went to good schools, studied hard, had good internships, and participated in extracurricular activities. Your competitive advantage here is showing the employer that you are hungrier than the other candidates. Go get it!

Tim Hammerich
tim@aggrad.com

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.