Hands sweating, I felt like I was going to pass out standing in the four-person line.  The line inched up for twenty minutes until there I was, meeting face-to-face with a Senior Petroleum Engineer Advisor for a national Exploration and Production company that would ultimately become my future employer.  Ah, career fairs.

Since I never want anyone to pass out at a career fair like I almost did, below are three fun tips for making the most of your fair!  Here are some back-to-the basics tips.  Happy job hunting!

Tip One:  Prepare Appropriately
Beyond dressing for the position you hope to obtain, come prepared with a legal paper or notebook, a couple of pens, dozens of resumes, a binder/case, and most importantly: a cheat sheet!

Before attending the career fair, call the organizers and get a list of companies that will be attending.  Research those companies and make a note about each one on your cheat sheet.  At the career fair, refer to this list and quickly refresh yourself about each firm just before you approach their representatives.

Put the cheat sheet in your binder, have a resume on top of your binder, and wait in line to speak with the firm’s rep.  When your turn comes, you will be able to cite fun facts about the company that will impress the representative!  Being prepared will set you apart from the hundreds of other candidates pushing paper (you know, resumes).

Tip Two:  Have a Smart Introduction
When you speaking with representatives of firms, just make eye contact, shake that person’s hand firmly, and say confidently “My name is (name), and a I am a (current position) seeking a (ideal position) at (firm’s name).”  Yup, that simple introduction is effective.

In return, they will introduce themselves and will ask a simple question.  At this point, you should answer, referring to your resume in some way – gets it into their hands!  From here, just talk as you normally would with a potential co-worker.  Go with your gut, and gauge your answers off their reactions.

Tip Three:  Talk to Multiple Representatives of the Same Firm if Possible
At each company’s booth, there are typically at least two employees.  At more technical career fairs (an Engineering expo), a human resources rep and one or more technical persons will be present.  The HR rep can address selling points of the firm, while the technical person can screen applicants for ability.

Understand this, and speak with all of the representatives that you can.  My rule of thumb is usually to talk with at least one rep at every firm I really want to meet, and then making a second pass, meeting with a second representative.  A great introduction is, “Earlier I spoke with your co-worker about your firm, and was so interested, I wanted to clarify your…” and pick something that was mentioned.

And remember to bring twice as many resumes as you expect to need.  Each rep will want their own, since they make notes on your resume when you leave if they are seriously interested in you.

Overall, a little research before the event and some basic interview skills can land you a dream job if you handle a career fair correctly.  Good luck!

This guest post was written by Ambi.  She is the younger sister of Crystal over at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff and just started her first career out of college.

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