Why should I attend a career fair?
Career fairs offer you an opportunity to meet a wide variety of employers who are offering internship and job opportunities in one location. They're also a great place for you to practice your networking and professional communication skills before you actually have an interview. Also, you'll be able to learn about a variety of job opportunities from many industries. It's always a good idea to check out your competition while at the fair. Just stand back a bit, listen to what other students and prospective employers are asking, and survey the room to see what kind of professional attire attendees are wearing.
While most employers only accept applications online, they often use career fairs as a way to assess candidates with regard to professional appearance, verbal communication skills, sense of purpose or career direction, and seriousness about employment with their company. If you really want to impress a recruiter, use the career fair as a way to follow up, letting them know that you have already submitted your application for a position with their company and are happy to meet personally with a company representative at the event. Be sure to follow through with questions you've prepared.
Can I find internships at a career fair?
Yes! Frequently, many employers attend career fairs to recruit for full-time positions and internships. Some fairs are dedicated solely to internship opportunities. For instance, the Regional Internship Center collaborates with local universities to host internship fairs.
What should I bring to the fair?
- Your student ID
- Research notes and questions you plan to ask each employer
- Pen and paper
- Copies of your resume (reviewed by Career Services, of course!); one copy for each employer with whom you plan to speak, plus several extra copies for those employers you meet unexpectedly. The resume should be printed on high quality, resume-appropriate paper.
- A professional portfolio in which to carry your resumes and any company literature you receive at the event. (If at all possible, try to leave your backpack at the coat-check area, in your car, or with a friend during your time at the fair.)
- Printed map of event facility; highlight booth numbers for the employers you plan to visit. (Hard copy directories won't be available at this year's Penn State Career Days, so if you'd like paper copies of directory information, you'll need to locate the information on the event website and print it out before the fair.)
- A winning smile and positive attitude!
What should I wear?
Ideally, you should wear a conservative, dark business suit to a career fair. If you don't own one, follow these guidelines: Men should wear dress pants, a dress shirt and tie, and a blazer or sport coat with dress shoes. Women should wear a knee-length skirt or dress pants and a collared blouse with a blazer and dress shoes. Your outfit should be cleaned, pressed, and fit well. Avoid excessive cologne, jewelry, or make-up.
How can I find out which employers will be attending?
Visit the career fair website for a list of employers who are registered for the event. Continue to check the site for updated employer registration information. If the fair runs for multiple days, be sure to note which date(s) the employer is registered to attend. Most sites will allow you to search for employers by name, keyword, industry area, or major.
How should I introduce myself to an employer?
It's a good idea to create and practice a "30-second" pitch for employers. Introduce yourself by name, include your major/degree, and briefly let the employer know about your career interests, top skills, and internship, leadership, or other relevant experiences. If you're unsure, try starting with this sample format and tailoring the introduction for yourself:
"Hello, my name is _____________ and I'm a senior communications major at Penn State. My goal is to work in corporate communications where I can combine my skills and interests in writing, editing, and public relations. This past summer, I completed an exciting internship with XYZ Corporation where I assisted the marketing-communications department with a new initiative to ________. I'm also the chief editor of our school's literary magazine while building my corporate experience through my part-time position with _______. Your company particularly interests me because _____________, and I'm interested in learning more about ________."
How long will it take me to go through the career fair?
That depends on how many employers you plan to visit and how long the lines are to see those employers. Career fairs are typically very large events attended by hundreds of people. Don't become overwhelmed; just focus on your list of employers you intend to visit. You may want to prioritize your list by creating a "Top 5" selection just in case you don't have time to visit with every company you planned to see. Very popular companies tend to have very long lines, so you may want to visit other employers on your list and come back to that line later.
What if I'm invited to interview?
Fantastic! Some employers do add students to their interview schedules during a career fair. Typically, this happens in high-need areas such as engineering and/or technical disciplines and high-priority federal jobs. If an employer invites you onto their interview schedule, you'll need to apply officially for the position, and that's typically done through the company's website, but feel free to ask the employer about their application process. Be sure to clarify the location of the interview with the employer.
For Career Days events at Penn State University Park, your interview will most likely take place in the MBNA Career Services Center. If you're unable to return to University Park for an interview, simply indicate to the employer that you're attending the _______ campus near Pittsburgh. Ask if it's possible to complete the interview via phone, at a company office, the Beaver Career Services office, or any other location near Pittsburgh, or find out if they'd be willing to coordinate a remote video interview via Adobe Connect or Polycom through your Career Services Office.
When should I follow up with employers?
Be sure to ask each recruiter for a business card so that you can send a thank-you letter to the recruiter within 24 to 48 hours of the event. Thank the recruiter for his/her time as well as the information provided during the event. Remind the recruiter of your school, major, and career intentions, and try to include a unique discussion point that might help the recruiter to remember your conversation. Typically, candidates who take the time to follow up with a thank-you letter stand out for the recruiter.