More than 2,500 young job seekers handed out résumés, honed their net­working skills, and exchanged busi­ness cards with roughly 150 employers at Northeastern’s regional career fair on Thursday.

The fair, held at Northeastern’s Cabot Cage, is one of two annual events spon­sored by the university’s career ser­vices office. It’s pop­ular among stu­dents seeking co-​​ops, intern­ships or that first full-​​time job after grad­u­a­tion, as well as for employers who view North­eastern stu­dents as top-​​of-​​the-​​line job candidates.

Dressed to impress, stu­dents packed the Cabot Cage in search of their per­fect pro­fes­sional match.

Fresh off a con­ver­sa­tion with a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the clin­ical infor­ma­tion sys­tems com­pany iMD­soft, civil engi­neering grad­uate stu­dent Yiwen Gao said she’d like to catch on with a com­pany inter­ested in hiring inter­na­tional students.

Her co-​​op at the Cambridge-​​based travel and air­line soft­ware com­pany ITA Soft­ware pre­pared her well for her first full-​​time job search, she said, helping her grow and develop stronger com­mu­ni­ca­tion and inter­per­sonal skills.

Mechan­ical engi­neering grad­uate stu­dent Tom Dutremble planned to hand out résumés to rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Ter­ra­dyne and the web sup­port firm DesCorp Solu­tions. “The career fair intro­duces you to com­pa­nies,” he said. “I want to talk to people, I want to get my name out there.”

No matter the career path, Northeastern’s co-​​op pro­gram pre­pares stu­dents for the working world, and gives them an advan­tage over their peers when it comes to snag­ging top job choices, said Bob Condon, a quality assur­ance man­ager at the soft­ware solu­tions com­pany SeaChange Inter­na­tional, based in Acton, Massachusetts.

North­eastern stu­dents are more mature and more driven” as a result of their co-​​op expe­ri­ences, he said. Condon, who before the fair said he hoped to talk with up to 100 stu­dents inter­ested in filling quality assur­ance roles, has hired 18 North­eastern co-​​op stu­dents over the past year and a half.

When North­eastern stu­dents grad­uate,” he added, “they’re one step ahead of their peers.”

Condon’s endorse­ment of Northeastern’s expe­ri­en­tial approach to learning is backed-​​up by an Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­ican Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties’ survey of employers on the char­ac­ter­is­tics they most like to see in the grad­u­ates they hire.

Seventy-​​nine per­cent of employers sur­veyed said the ability to apply knowl­edge and skills to real-​​world set­tings through intern­ships or other pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ence should get an increased emphasis from higher education.

Those num­bers don’t sur­prise Maria Stein, Northeastern’s director of career ser­vices. She said that North­eastern stu­dents who are hired by a co-​​op employer gen­er­ally remain with the com­pany longer than a typ­ical col­lege hire.

It’s a win-​​win,” she said, “because our young pro­fes­sionals know what they’re doing and under­stand the work cul­ture, and their super­vi­sors knows what they’re capable of.”

North­eastern stu­dents are hungry to learn, added Danielle Smith, the Con­struc­tion Man­age­ment Skill Training Pro­gram man­ager for Boston-​​based Shawmut Design and Construction.

North­eastern stu­dents tend to work well in our fast-​​paced envi­ron­ment,” she said, noting that sev­eral civil engi­neering stu­dents already work as co-​​ops for Shawmut’s infor­ma­tion tech­nology and con­struc­tion oper­a­tions divisions.

As an employer-​​in-​​residence at North­eastern, Smith helps stu­dents per­fect résumés and improve inter­viewing skills and keeps them up-​​to-​​date on job oppor­tu­ni­ties. The career fair afforded her the chance to keep stu­dents con­nected to the com­pany, she said.

To learn more about Northeastern’s career ser­vices office, please visit http://​careerser​vices​.neu​.edu/​h​o​m​e​.​php