This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.
Career fairs are all about being remembered. You bring a unique set of skills and knowledge to a company and you deserve to be remembered. A little bit of preparation can go a long way in sticking out among a sea of candidates.
Create An Elevator Pitch: Maybe you’re sick of people telling you to make an elevator pitch (or maybe you’re sick of other, more detestable things like slow walkers and paying back student loans). An elevator pitch is crucial at career fairs, where time is limited and attention spans are short. An elevator pitch allows you to communicate your best self in the shortest amount of time (about the amount of time you spend in an elevator awkwardly clearing your throat and avoiding eye contact with strangers, hence the name). Make sure to include the following:
1. Your name
2. What you are studying/where your skills lie
3. What your background is in, especially if it’s different from your major
4. What you are interested in
5. A tidbit about the company. This shows that you know the company and you did your research. Employers don’t want to waste their time, and this lets them know that you came prepared because that’s just how great you are.
Resumes: Speaking of coming prepared, let’s talk resumes. Don’t bring one. Don’t bring five. Bring at least fifteen, depending on the size of the fair and the number of companies you are interested in (you should look at the list of participating companies beforehand).
Make Yourself Memorable: Once you have an employer’s attention, make your conversation memorable, but don’t draw it out. A short but interesting conversation is more likely to stick out in an employer’s head than a long but fruitless conversation. You don’t have to mention every interesting thing you’ve ever done, but mention at least one thing they can remember about you — where your last co-op was, an interesting class you took last semester. Maybe start with “last summer I completed an internship in customer relations and communications and I taught myself basic HTML.” This can be part of your elevator pitch. You are different and super interesting, so give employers a glimpse into how awesome you are.
Get A Business Card: It’s like getting a rose on The Bachelor — it’s the whole point. Getting a business card from a potential employer is your ticket forward in the hiring process for this company. Be sure to send a quick email after the fair (preferably that same evening or the morning after) to follow up and restate your enthusiasm for the company. Avoid sending a vague, fill-in-the-blank email — zero people will remember who you are if they get an email saying, “I loved meeting you last night.” Employers will only remember you if you make them remember you. Mention something you talked about during the fair (this will be helpful if you followed Tip #3 — just saying).
Provide Value: Another quick tip about follow-up emails. It’s important to provide value so employers don’t feel they’re doing you such a favor. Send along an article you read this morning: “It was great talking to you yesterday about how your new company blog. I read this article today about the growing importance of content marketing in your industry and thought you might find it interesting.”
Remember: Employers aren’t at career fairs to judge you. They are there to recognize talent and attract great candidates. So don’t worry if your first conversation isn’t perfect — start by talking to your “B list” to get warmed up then by the end of the night you will be talking to your dream company like a pro.