- Multiple copies of your resumé printed on good quality paper
- A portfolio or professional-looking binder that has easily accessible storage areas to keep your pen, notepad, resumés, business cards, questions to ask and key facts that you may need to remember about the organizations of interest to you
- A notebook or planner to write down upcoming interviews, networking sessions and other notes
- A good pen. Many employers will have pens, if yours runs out.
What do I bring?
Dress for success
Image is crucial at an employment event, perhaps even more important than at a normal interview, since decisions are made much more quickly. The first impression really matters. Students wearing T-shirts and shorts are not taken as seriously as those dressed professionally.
Your appearance will often be considered a physical reflection of your self-image, skills and job expectations. Your attire, personal grooming and hygiene, and care (or lack of care) devoted to your overall presentation can say a lot about who you are, what is important to you, how seriously you take your job search and how well you would fit in with an organization or line of work.
Any time you are meeting a prospective employer, you should be dressed professionally. Treat career fairs or other employer events that you plan on attending like job interviews.
Most importantly: Choose an outfit that helps you feel confident.
What to do when you first arrive?
- Arrive early. Be there when recruiters are fresh, alert and attentive. Getting there before the majority of students will definitely give you a head start!
- Pick up a map of the booths.
- Walk around the room to become comfortable.
- Don’t rush in for the freebies.
- Target organizations that interest you. But also keep an open mind and consider organizations you are not familiar with — there are great opportunities everywhere.
- Be patient and anticipate crowds and lineups. If a table is less crowded, you may have the opportunity to speak longer with the recruiter.
- When possible, scan employer handouts before talking to the recruiter.
- Step back, listen and observe recruiters speaking to other students. Determine if your 20 Second Intro needs to be adjusted.
- When you are up, introduce yourself with a smile and a good handshake.
- Launch into your 20 Second Intro and offer to give your resumé to the recruiter.
- Ask questions from the list you’ve prepared.
- Ask about the application procedure.
- Get a business card or a contact name from every person you meet.
- Write down interesting facts, important details, observations, insights, notes or additional contact names on the back of the card or in your notepad.
- Use this information to follow up after the fair.
The following are characteristics of an effective handshake that gives a favourable impression:
- Moderately firm;
- Direct contact between your palm and the other person's palm
- When you hold out your right hand, turn your palm to the left, not up or down
- Gender neutral; women and men exchange the same type of handshake
- Hold the contact for two or three seconds;
- This is a good time to make eye contact;
- This is the time to exchange greetings;
- Accompany the handshake with a smile.
- Fairs are sometimes noisy, so speak clearly and confidently.
- Stay on topic.
- Be friendly and conversational.
- Have a positive attitude.
- Be conscious of your posture and your body language.
- Maintain the eye contact as much as you feel comfortable doing.
- Draw on your self-assessment.
- After your introduction try to establish links between the organization and your experience, skills and interests.
- Ask for the recruiter’s business card “for future/further correspondence.” Phrasing it this way will suggest to the recruiter that you intend to follow up on your current exchange.
- In closing, shake hands and thank recruiters for their time. Don’t hesitate to tell them that you have a strong interest (if genuine) in their company and hope to be part of their team.
- Before you leave a recruiter’s booth, say that you would like to continue the conversation by following up with them at a later date. Ask how they would prefer that you contact them, and whether there is anything they would like you to send them.
- Engage EVERYONE — recruiter or job seeker — in conversation at the career fair. You never know who may have valuable information, insights or contacts that could help you in your job search.
- Enjoy the event! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, as it will show in your body language without you knowing. Keep realistic expectations.
- Don’t forget to smile — a lot!
Manners and professional etiquette
In addition to representing yourself during an employment event, you’re also representing your department, your faculty and your university. Paying careful attention to your manners and professional etiquette can help you leave a positive impression on the recruiter, as someone who is professional, socially savvy, respectful and a potential representative of their organization as well.
Here are a few tips
Don’t overstay your welcome. Don’t monopolize the recruiter’s time:
- Be sensitive to other job seekers as well as to the recruiters, who will be meeting with hundreds of students that day, by keeping your questions brief and offering to continue your conversation at a later date.
- Be mindful of social cues. For example, if the recruiter starts looking over your shoulder, it may be a sign that it’s time to move on.
Refrain from using slang terminology, or any other wording that may seem unprofessional to employers. This includes technical jargon, contractions, and filler words such as “um” and “like”.
Many company tables have “freebies,” such as pens, candy and toys:
- Always check with the recruiters BEFORE taking materials from their tables.
- Don’t take more than one item per table. Also, keep in mind that you will be “stuck” with the item for the rest of the day and you don’t want to show a recruiter goodies from a competitor that you’ve met before him or her. You may therefore want to avoid encumbering yourself with larger or too many items.
- If you take any candy, chocolate or gum, save it for after the fair.
- Avoid taking every free item you see. Recruiters and staff notice when a student seems to be attending the fair just for the free items.
About your cell phone :
- There’s no other way to put this: Shut it down. Hide it. Don’t look at it. And if possible: completely forget its existence for the duration of the event! Not looking at your phone will help you avoid tactless behaviour and significantly raise your awareness of your surroundings.
Food and drink:
- Even if you stop by an employment event during your lunch hour, make sure not to be carrying any food or drink with you. Nothing can put an end to your career fair plans like a ketchup incident.
- Also, avoid chewing gum or candy.
- It’s true that bad breath can ruin a first impression! When in doubt, very small mints are preferable to chewing gum, should you need to choose.
Be courteous and respectful to EVERYONE at the fair. You never know who you might run into, who may witness your behaviour and interactions at the fair, or who may pass on what they saw or heard to a hiring manager.
Don’t forget to thank each person — recruiter or job seeker — you speak with for taking the time to talk and share information with you.