Step-by-Step Prep Guide to Crushing Your Next Career Fair

Whether you’re actively looking for your next job or internship, or you just want to see what opportunities are out there, it would be a great idea for you to check out one (or more!) of UGA’s 13+ career and internship fairs, with up to 1,300+ employers annually. Take a look at this list – there’s something for everyone! At the Fall 2019 Career and Internship Fair, nearly half of employers said they were open to all majors, and more than ¼ of employers said they were interested in speaking to first year students.

Now that you’re sold on attending an upcoming fair, let’s make sure you are ready to put your best foot (with comfortable, professional close-toed shoes) forward with these career fair preparation steps:

Step 1: Take advantage of career fair prep opportunities through the UGA Career Center

Each semester, the Career Center offers a full slate of programming designed to help prepare you for the career fair and other recruiting opportunities. Don’t miss out on the Resumes and Cover Letters Arch Ready workshop, Mock Interview Day, Resume Critique Days, and the Career Fair Prep Arch Ready workshop. See the Career Center calendar for the full lineup. These will all set you up for maximum success at the career fair and beyond. At a minimum, have someone provide feedback on your resume. Career Center drop-in hours are offered daily from 11 AM – 2 PM.

Step 2: Be sure you know what to wear and what to bring

Most UGA career fairs require business professional dress. Dressing appropriately tells an employer that, should they hire you, you would represent their organization in a professional manner. The key when it comes to professional attire is to be polished and non-distracting – you want your conversations to be more memorable than your clothing. Page 44 in the Career Guide will give you the basic info you need, and the Career Center’s Business Professional Pinterest board has lots of ideas to inspire you when choosing your career fair attire. Comfortable shoes are recommended for a career fair, since you will be on your feet walking from booth to booth and speaking with several employers. Need to purchase professional attire? Check out this blog post for ideas and information about shopping for business clothing on a budget. I also recommend thrifting at Goodwill and Clothes Mentor – both stores usually have great professional pieces.

You’ll want to bring plenty of copies of your resume printed on resume paper. I recommend bringing a padfolio, notebook, or folder to hold your resumes and materials you may receive from employers. You’ll also want a notepad and pen for jotting down notes from your conversations with employers. I recommend completely silencing or turning off your cell phone to minimize distractions.

Step 3: Look at the list of companies attending and choose your targets

You can look at the Handshake event to find the full list of employers attending each fair. This list allows you to search for specific employers or keywords, and filter by industry or major (I recommend the industry filter). You can then read a bit about each company and see the specific job titles for which they are recruiting.

From the main list, choose your “target” companies to whom you know you definitely want to speak (we typically recommend choosing about 5), do your research on those companies, and view their listed job and internship openings. Watch this video for tips on doing your employer research. This will allow you to ask knowledgeable questions when you approach those employers at the fair. Bring your list of target companies with you to the fair.

Keep in mind that on the day of the career fair you may have companies catch your eye that were not on your target list. The Career Center staff can assist you with doing day-of research using either your phone or the iPads provided at the check-in area.

Step 4: Know what to expect the day-of and plan your day

If you’ve never attended a career fair, it’s worth taking some time to think through how the day will go so you know what to expect. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to visit all the employers to whom you might want to speak, including time in between employers to make notes from your conversations. These notes will help with post-fair thank you emails, and future interviews. When planning your timing, expect that the room will be crowded and some employers will have a line of students waiting to speak to them.

If the fair is at the Classic Center, there will be shuttles running from campus throughout the event. This is much easier than trying to find parking downtown, as the Classic Center parking deck usually fills up prior to the event beginning. Check the career fair event on the Career Center website for details. Many fairs are in Tate Student Center, either in the Grand Hall (5th Floor), or Reception Hall (1st Floor).

When you arrive at the fair, be prepared with your UGA student ID card. You will scan your card to check in for the fair. Upon checking in, you will receive a printed nametag. Nametags are printed based on your preferred name, and current major in your Handshake profile. Please log in ahead of time and be sure all information is accurate. Place your printed nametag on your right side.

Along with your nametag, you will receive a map with the table numbers for each employer (in alphabetical order). You can then take a few moments to map out your route to your target employers list based on table placement.

Watch this video for a visual of what to expect the day-of.

Step 5: Prepare your “pitch” for approaching employers

When approaching employers, you want to be prepared since you’ll only have a short time to make a connection. For a detailed breakdown, see page 19 in the Career Guide and/or watch this video. This is your time to introduce yourself, share your interest and a couple things that make you qualified. You’ll want to open the door to conversation by asking a thoughtful question about the organization or opportunity. Use the research you did in step 3 to come up with questions. Keep in mind that in practice this will be conversational and include a back-and-forth with the recruiter – you do not want to walk up and deliver a speech.

Bonus Step: Solidify your impact with a strong follow-up

So you’ve successfully approached your target employers and had some great conversations – that’s great! You’re not done just yet. Be sure to talk to each recruiter about next steps. Don’t be surprised if they tell you to apply online, and even if they won’t accept your resume in person. Many recruiting systems require the application to be made completely online in order to get you into their applicant tracking system as a candidate. Get their contact information if they’re willing to share, as well. Follow up with a personalized but brief thank you email mentioning specific points of interest from your conversation. And don’t be surprised if the process moves quickly from here. You may have an interview as soon as the next day, so prepare for this ahead of time!

And that’s it! You’re officially prepared for your next career fair. Best of luck, and don’t forget to use your resources – the UGA Career Center is here to help in this process.

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