With the Fisher Career and Internship Fair behind me, I’ve finally taken the time to reflect on the experience. While the dust still settles, I figured I’d take a few minutes to give out Alex’s Top 3 Tips for Succeeding at the Career Fair/Interviewing Process:
A lot of times, folks will tell you to “dress professionally” which means “wear a suit” or whatever your gender equivalent of a suit is. While obviously suits are a great way to go, I say dress CONFIDENTLY for two reasons:
- Not everybody can afford a suit.
- You will literally be in a sea of suits and standing out isn’t always a bad thing.
So wear something nice that works for your price range and comfort level. Personally, I was very lucky to be able to afford a new suit and pair of dress shoes for the career fair, but that may not be your story. If you end up not being able to rock a suit-like option, maybe even make a little light-hearted joke during the opening like I used to before I could afford a suit.
After you explain your genuine interest in the company (we’ll talk more about this later) finish with “and I’m REALLY excited to get this internship/job so I can afford my first suit!” Say it with a smile and they’ll probably love it.
Don’t be a robot
Now, joking during an interview isn’t for everybody, so you have to do what feels comfortable when talking with employers and recruiters (are you sensing a theme yet?). That being said, these folks are going to meet and interview dozens of people over the next few days, and that doesn’t even stack up to how many people they may interact with all together.
Obviously, be professional and respectful of their time, but if you sit there and just regurgitate answers that you’ve obsessed over the past week or two, they’re going to get bored or at the very least they’re not going to remember you.
When they ask about who you are, talk about something more than just your professional passions. Do you have a pet you love? Maybe a fun hobby? I always mention at the end of my “about me” section that my main three passions in life are education, diversity and inclusion, and my dog, Bernie. This usually shows that I’m not just some mindless worker drone, but I’m an actual person who they can connect with on a personal level.
Don’t be afraid to show a little bit of who you are and you’ll be great.
You have about five minutes at most, so be memorable
This is something nobody really told me about when I was prepping for the career fair, and is was probably the most shocking. You walk up to the booth, get noticed by a recruiter, they take your resume and maybe take a picture (you sometimes fill out a quick questionnaire on an tablet), and then you get to do an elevator pitch. Maybe they’ll ask you a follow up, maybe they just tell you about the next steps in their process…and then that’s it.
It’s quick, it feels slightly awkward, and I can only imagine the amount of hand shaking that goes down. It’s not the recruiter’s fault, I remember some lines being wrapped around the ball room, with undergraduates and graduates patiently waiting for their few precious minutes. I’m not knocking the system at all, but what I am saying is that you have a short amount of time to make a good impression, so you have to make it. To borrow the iconic words of a meme, you have to shoot your shot.
Introduce yourself confidentially, talk about a few key things about your experiences that you think stand out or that you’re most proud of, be upfront that you’re interested (if you are, don’t lie) and would like to know the next steps of their process. This will, hopefully, signal to them you’re the real deal and are worth their time to interview. Add in tip one and two and you’re on your way to getting a job/internship!
So there you have it, Alex’s Top 3 Tips for Succeeding at the Career Fair/Interviewing Process. I can’t guarantee your success, but I’ve found past success with these few tips. As long as you’re honest about who you are and what you what from/in an employer, you’ll be fine!
Good luck with the internship/job search and may the odds be ever in your favor!