The Other Side Of The Table :: 7 tips if you’re going to a career fair

I did a lot of recruiting when I worked for Aerotek, a national, private staffing firm with an office here in Dublin, Ohio.

But that recruiting was for seasoned engineers, finance professionals and high-level customer service agents for Fortune 500 companies here in Columbus and around the nation.  So when I started my internship with OCLC, we decided not to put any focus on recruiting and to instead put it on areas where I needed more development.

Recruiting season has really kicked up at OCLC recently, however, so I have been lending my services and doing career fairs for the organization to fill our summer internship and fellowship positions, focusing on candidates that are just emerging from their programs.

I’ve been to career fairs as an undergrad student and again as an MLHR candidate to find my summer internship last year.  I have to tell you, it was strange being on the other side of the table/booth and being able to walk right in without filling out forms, registration or name tags because I was an employer.

I know that some first years out there are still looking for summer internships and there are quite a few of us second years looking for full-time positions, post-program.  Here are some of my tips for career fairs, having been an insider and outsider now.

  1. Be prepared –  Come with lots of resumes and a cover letter if you are targeting a specific company or industry.  The candidates that came up to me without a resume did not get the full benefits of the experience.  Without a resume, I can’t look for hidden talents that might make you fit for a position you never knew existed.  And have questions ready.
  2. Know what you want – I had a lot of International Studies, Communications, English and Marketing majors come up to our booth.  My first question after introducing myself was, “What are you looking for?”  The answer, “Uh…” or, “I haven’t really thought about it…” immediately turned me off.  Many of these candidates were seniors and should have a solid idea about what they want to do with their four years of hard work and effort.
  3. Be open to options – On the other side of the coin, I’m ok with candidates saying they’re open to options and haven’t nailed down exactly what they want.  In that case, it’s better to say, “This is what I have done before and this is what I might be good at it.”  That answer actually excites me much more than “UH…”.
  4. Be comfortable with yourself – I had some pretty twitchy candidates come up to me.  Their nervousness was understandable, but remember this: Recruiters are busy, under pressure and desperately trying to fill their positions.  They are sometimes just as nervous as you are!  And if you feel like you are truly a great candidate for a position, act like it and own it.  Confidence makes a world of difference
  5. Work on your hand shake –  It is the second thing I notice about candidates.  It is your introduction to the recruiter while you make your verbal introduction to the recruiter.  Clammy hands, not as big of a deal.  People get nervous, palms sweat.  Discreetly wipe your palm inside your pocket before extending it.  A flimsy, weak handshake on the other hand?  That’s an impression killer.  When making a handshake, aim to line up your palms, not your fingers to their palm, and give a solid squeeze to the area behind the fingers so you don’t crush them, and give a gentle pump and a smile.
  6. Look the part – This is the FIRST thing I notice about candidates.  This should be obvious, but people tend to wander in when they see a career fair if it’s at the Student Union.  But nothing hurts your impression on the recruiter more than showing up in sweatpants, flip flops and a hoodie.  If you see a company you like on the brochure, run home, put on a shirt/blouse and pants/skirt at least, and come back.  If you do dress up, make sure your clothes fit, you have a belt if your shirt is tucked in and for ladies, don’t dress like you’re going to the local bar or club.  And if you wear a suit, make sure it is a solid color and fits well.
  7. Finally – don’t insult the recruiter.  I had people say, “I’m sure I can handle the HR internship.  I mean, how hard can it be?”  These people had no experience and assumed they could do an HR professional’s job with no training or prior knowledge and education.  This was extremely insulting and earned them a lot of negative points in my book.

Hope these tips help and good luck on your internship/job hunt(s)!


OSU Arts & Sciences Internship Roundtable