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Career Fair Tips for Students

Recorded workshops available on ANGEL: Select workshops provided via Career Services at University Park are made available to students. Students should log in to ANGEL, click on "Find A Group," and search for the "Career Services Recorded Workshops" group. To enroll and view the content, students will need to click "Enroll (no pin required)."

How to Work a Career Fair

The company representatives who are attending may be technical staff members, not from the personnel office. They may not be in a position to hire you. However, they can provide you with very valuable information about their organization and refer you to someone who might be able to hire you.

Preparation is the key to making a successful presentation at any job or career fair. At a minimum, you should do the following:

Seniors: It is suggested that you approach the company representatives from a networking standpoint. Don't start your conversation with "Are you hiring?" Ask them about their jobs, products and companies. Let the conversation take a relaxed, natural pace. Prepare a thirty-second "sales pitch" so you can talk about your academic discipline, senior projects, Penn State Behrend and yourself. If they are hiring and are interested in hiring you, they'll tell you. Company representatives are going to have questions for you as well. Be prepared to converse.

Juniors, Sophomores, and Freshmen: Your goal is to learn more about the many different job titles and fields within engineering. First, you should explain your interests, background and career goals. Seek advice from the representatives. Remember, they were in your shoes not so long ago. The potential always exists for internship opportunities. However, don't walk up to a company representative and ask for a summer job/internship. Let the conversation flow naturally. When the time is right, ask if there is any potential for summer employment or internships with their organization. Remember, you are an ambassador of your academic program and Penn State Behrend. The way you conduct yourself reflects on you and the university. Some suggested questions to ask employers:

  • Ask about the manufacturing processes, production methods, products or services provided by the company. Impress them with your knowledge of their company/products/services.
  • What is a typical work day like at your company?
  • What are your job responsibilities?
  • What do you like most about your job? What do you find most challenging?
  • What other career areas are related to your area of expertise?

Note: Do Not Approach An Employer In Pairs Or In Groups! Go up to a recruiter by yourself. Employers want to talk with one person at a time. Your diminish your chances if you are "part of a herd." You could also discuss the projects that you have been associated with (e.g. Senior Design Projects, etc.) and the skills that you have gained. If you've had a internship, talk about the experiences that you had. Everyone attending the fair should be prepared to talk about themselves, their abilities and their skills. Also you should have a carefully prepared resume that has been checked over by faculty or staff. If you have any questions or concerns (e.g. preparing your resume) make an appointment in the ACPC.

Interviewing Information

You should be well-prepared for any career fair by improving your interviewing skills. Even if you have had some interviews recently, it never hurts to brush up on those skills. You should make an effort to review the interviewing information available in the ACPC Resource Room. You can schedule mock interviews with ACPC counselors who will help you to evaluate your interviewing skills. At the very least, you should review the Interviewing information and practice what you read.

Clothing

Business attire is required of all participants. If you are not sure what that means check with the CDC staff. There are videotapes that can be viewed in the CDC that present information on proper interviewing attire. You will not be allowed into the Fair without proper attire.

For men: dress shirt, tie and dark slacks.

For women: gray or blue dress suits or appropriate business attire.

Suits are highly recommended for seniors.

Prior to the Fair: Prepare!

  • Think about your strong points, your goals, the company and where you want to go within the company. Prepare a "one-minute commercial."
  • Be prepared to discuss where you want to work geographically (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York), what you like doing, what you're looking for in a first job, what your most relevant skills are.
  • Prepare your resume! If you need assistance, attend the resume workshops or use the examples found in the ACPC. Once you've started, meet with a counselor to "fine tune" your resume.
  • Understand how your skills (or the ones that you want to develop) relate to the employment opportunities available at your chosen organizations.
  • Watch the "Connecting with Employers: Making the Most of a Job Fair" video in the ACPC.
  • Thoroughly research your top companies and gain background information upon which you can base your conversations with the company representatives. Check the ACPC and company web pages for the information that you'll need to prepare for the fair.
  • Prepare your own job fair kit complete with resumes (enough for all employers that you want to talk with). Other items that support your interests and abilities such as references, written work or a portfolio can also be helpful.

Day of the Fair

  • Dress as you would for a job interview. You want to present the best image possible. Jeans, sweatshirts, and backpacks won't cut it. Avoid excessive jewelry and perfume. You will only have a few minutes to make an impression as a job candidate. Positive first impressions are critical.
  • Arrive early and map out your strategy. Who will you talk with first? Lines will be long for some companies. Plan accordingly and don't waste valuable time by standing in line.
  • Keep an open mind and don't reduce your opportunities due to lack of information or effort. You may want to tour the arena and make contact with all the organizations to learn more about them and what they have to offer, but visit your top companies first.
  • Introduce yourself to the representative in a positive and confident manner; offer a firm handshake. Include your name, your school, major, and the year you are graduating.
  • Tell the recruiter what your interests are. For example: Discussing a particular career or job with that organization; learning more about the organization and available opportunities; learning more about what someone does in a particular career; discussing internship or summer job opportunities.
  • Give the representative a resume and be ready to discuss your background, qualifications, and career goals. Ask what you should do to apply for a position with them.
  • Think of questions that you have regarding your area(s) of interest. Take notes on what you hear. Some questions might be:
    What are common career paths with your organization?
    What is the training program for new hires?
    What do you look for in a candidate?
  • Make sure you obtain the representative's name, title, address, e-mail, and phone number so you can follow up with them. Collect literature and business cards whenever possible, and ask the representative when you can expect to hear back from them.
  • Be sure to take notes after visiting each table. Write down your thoughts about the company, the recruiter, your chances, follow-up strategies, to-do list, etc.

After the Fair

  • You should make it a point to follow up with a letter expressing your interest in the company and in what it has to offer. You may want to include an updated résumé or provide better answers to specific questions asked during the fair. Thank-you and follow-up letters should be received by the employer within two to five days after a fair.
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