February 2, 2015

How to win at career fairs

Oksana Pelts is a student in the part-time MBA program at Weatherhead.

Whether you are graduating and trying to make long-lasting connections with potential employers or are in the process of switching jobs, career fairs are certainly a valuable tool.

In my experience, employers are looking for candidates who are passionate and able to think creatively. Keeping this in mind, I am always thinking about how I can set myself apart from everyone else. Here are some of the tips I have collected that can be helpful as you prepare to attend career fairs:

Know which companies are represented and map out your route
Most career fairs have a list of companies that have booths at the fair. I like to plan out my route to maximize my time so that I can talk to as many people as I can. Knowing the background of the company and a specific position you are interested in will set you apart from the other candidates.

Prepare an elevator speech
It's really important to show your potential employer that you are well spoken. I don't know about you, but I get nervous being put on the spot at career fairs. I offset this by preparing and practicing my elevator speech, a short introduction that lets the company representative know who I am and what I'm passionate about. Don't just recite your resume. More than anything, this is a networking event; tell your interviewer what sets you apart from the other candidates they are meeting.

Focus on your wardrobe
It is important to look professional when attending career fairs. I'm a strong believer in the fact that business clothes do not have to be boring! I typically forgo the black suit and instead go for a subtly printed pencil skirt and a nice blouse. It's important to keep your outfit understated, while letting your personality shine through.

Resumes, resumes, resumes
Recruiters see resumes upon resumes on a daily basis. It is important to make your resume stand out. I have tailored mine specifically to a career in marketing and communications, even using #hashtags for my skills section. This attention to detail will just add an extra component to make the recruiter take notice of you.

Above all, have confidence; it will make your passion shine through!

In February, Weatherhead's Career Management Office (CMO) will hold Meet Our MBAs Networking Event, which has a format similar to a career fair. View CMO's website to learn more and access career fair preparation materials.

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