Career fair season comes around each semester, and so does career fair anxiety. Whether this your first time attending or you’re an experienced participant in need of a refresher, we’re sharing some helpful career fair tips for every Broad Spartan to showcase themselves both authentically and professionally.
Before the career fair: Preparation is key
Start with a goal in mind. Perhaps you want to use this career fair to learn about different job opportunities in the area. Maybe you’re motivated to focus on networking, or perhaps you’re hoping to land a job. Consider what you want to gain from the experience, and this will help you properly prepare.
Conducting research on your prospective employers is crucial to ensuring a successful conversation on the day of the fair. Begin your research in a few good places:
- Specific job postings and position descriptions
- Each company’s main website
- The latest news stories that mention the company
- LinkedIn accounts of company representatives you will be meeting with
- The William C. Gast Business Library’s business career research, to learn about a company, industry or career
Not only will completing detailed research give you a better overall understanding of the firm, it’s also a valuable way for you to gauge your compatibility with the company.
Next, compile a list of at least five questions that focus on the company, the role you’re interested in, the recruiter and their experience and any topics of interest that are relevant. The questions should be tailored to each company or role. The questions you ask can help you stand out among other applicants, so it’s important to be thoughtful and specific.
If you’re looking for inspiration, Kristen Hintz, undergraduate career coach lead and associate director of the Russell Palmer Career Management Center, recommends exploring the Center’s D2L resources community, available to all students admitted into the Broad College of Business. Business preference students can also access the virtual community by reaching out to the Palmer Center directly at email@example.com.
Other important tasks include reflecting on what you plan to discuss during your brief interaction with the recruiter, practicing your elevator pitch and updating your resume and professional social media profiles such as LinkedIn and Handshake. Recruiters are very interested in learning about your background, interests, goals and skillsets.
Take 15 minutes to reflect on your skillsets:
- How would you add value to the respective company?
- How do your skills and experiences relate to the role and responsibilities of the job?
- What transferable soft skills or leadership skills do you have?
- What student organizations are you involved in?
- What is something you enjoy doing in your free time?
Along with the technical skills required, many entry-level roles in business seek candidates who have proven communication, leadership, project management, problem-solving and collaboration or teamwork skills. An advanced skillset employers commonly look for across all business roles is proficient data analytics.
To make sure you’ve got everything in order, you’ll want to tap into these resources offered by the Palmer Center:
- Resume tools such as Vmock, powered by artificial intelligence to give you instant feedback on your resume content and format
- The Broad Job Search Guide, which includes templates, checklists and tools related to anything professional, from employer conversations to cover letters and thank-you emails
- Online career resources for international students, such as career sites that identify employers who sponsor work visas and a guideline of cultural differences to be mindful of
- Appointments with career peer coaches or advisors to ask for guidance on anything from resume critiques to updating your LinkedIn profile
Lastly, as Jacob Winston-Galant, graduate career coach and associate director of the Palmer Center, pointed out, you’ll want to create an organized agenda of employers you plan to meet with on the day of the career fair. If the career fair is held in person — like the large events hosted at the Breslin Center — be sure to review the map to help you locate employers prior to arriving.
Prioritize the companies you would like to approach, and consider starting with an employer who is not at the top of your priority list. For undergraduate and graduate students alike, Hintz and Winston-Galant shared how this provides an opportunity to use your prepared introduction with a real recruiter and alleviate any nerves before you visit the employers you are most interested in.
During the career fair: Market yourself
By coming to your meetings prepared, you not only make yourself an impressive potential candidate, but you’re also able to boost your confidence and maximize your time with employers. Often, these meetings only last about 10 minutes, so use your time wisely.
Be mindful of your body language and practice active listening. A meaningful conversation involves being engaged and using concise storytelling, and it can include unscripted follow-up questions. The Palmer Center offers a conversational tool to help students practice this skill on page 24 of their job search guide. Do your best to find a balance between being personable and being professional; don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm.
Reference this checklist to make sure you accomplish everything before concluding the meeting:
- Lead with your elevator pitch.
- Ask the recruiter at least three questions from your prepared list.
- Ask for the recruiter’s contact information.
It’s highly important to request contact information to give yourself an outlet for any further questions you may have, future networking and to send a thank-you email afterward. Putting your best foot forward will allow you to be memorable and stand out among a sea of other potential candidates.
After the career fair: Maintain and grow your network
After attending a career fair, you’ve had the opportunity to foster connections with recruiters and are eager to learn more. So, what are the next steps?
First, sending thank-you letters to show your appreciation for the recruiters’ time goes a long way and is a path to establishing a line of communication moving forward. Ideally, you should send the email within 24 hours of your session. If you’re unsure how to approach a thank-you letter, check out page 32 of the Broad Job Search Guide.
Following that, make sure to apply to the positions you’re interested in, if you haven’t done so already. In your thank-you letter, you could also notify the recruiter that you’ve applied to a position to emphasize your enthusiasm; sometimes the recruiter will review your application promptly and expedite the process.
Consider connecting with the recruiters on LinkedIn to stay up to date with their recruitment process and foster a long-lasting network. LinkedIn is also a great way for students to easily discover MSU and Broad alumni or individuals pursuing similar career paths who work at the same companies of interest to forge new connections. You never know who may know of an opportunity you’d be a great fit for or what unique mentorship bond could be formed. Take initiative, and don’t be afraid of creating opportunities for yourself.
Whether you land a job or not, a career fair is a great event to practice your business communication skills, network with employers, explore opportunities and set yourself up for more professional success.
Outside of career fairs, there are plenty of other routes to explore professional opportunities that are the best fit for you, such as professional events hosted by student organizations, company information sessions and tables on campus, connecting with MSU alumni and attending workshop events hosted by employers. We wish you the best of luck in your career journey!
Visit or contact the Russell Palmer Career Management Center, located in the Edward J. Minskoff Pavilion, to learn more about the services they offer and to take advantage of the resources outlined in the guide. For more information on upcoming career fairs and sign-ups, visit Handshake or the Broad events page.