Tips On How To Work a Job Fair

What a Career Fair Looks Like

Today I had the opportunity to visit a job fair with dozens of companies in attendance. As a soon to be collegiate graduate, I was eager to brush off my networking skills and get some leads on a few jobs. As I entered the University of Central Florida arena, I checked in and was instructed to create a name tag listing my name, graduation date, and major. As I was applying it I noticed an engineering major next to me putting his name tag on his left lapel. I decided to be nice and gave him a hint to put it on his right side.

As I walked around, I noticed dozens of students wearing their name tags on the wrong side. I even saw a Psychology major write “Psych” as their major. It got me wondering how many little tips people didn’t quite know about that could make all the difference. 

Place Your Name Tag On The Right Side

Seems kind of trivial doesn’t it? What does it matter what side of your jacket your name tag is on? Actually, it matters a good deal. Unfortunately for lefties like myself, we have to go against our natural instincts to shake with our left hands. Since most people are right handed, we shake with our right hands as well. As we lean in to shake, our right shoulder comes forward. If our name tag is on the left side, it slants away from them and can’t be seen properly. On the right side, it comes full force to them and they see who you are.

Does that really matter? It’s all a matter of opinion, but experienced recruiters might think it correlates with attention to detail. Better be safe, put it on the right side.

On the topic of name tags, don’t shorten your major to “Psych.” Spell it out like you would on a resume. At this point you don’t want to come off too informal. A small detail, but details matter.

Approach Them, Don’t Wait To Be Noticed

As I was walking around observing other students, I noticed most of them would walk up to a booth and start looking at the papers, waiting for a recruiter to notice them and start talking to them. This is an understandable instinct. Being direct is hard to do, especially if you’re not the social butterfly.

But you should be direct. Walk straight up to an open recruiter and introduce yourself. If they’re busy with others, make yourself busy by looking over their promotional material. But once they’re available, waste no time and introduce yourself. Standing around waiting shows indecisiveness and nervousness. These are not qualities employers seek. They want someone who’s going to be confident and direct.

The Proper Handshake & Maintaining Eye Contact

When you introduce yourself, make sure to make eye contact, and maintain it. Be careful not to stare, however. There is a balance that must be maintained during your talk. You want to make eye contact, but at the same time not stare and seem off putting. Glance away at times, look over materials they’ve handed to you, hand them your resume. Maybe point and draw their attention to questions you may have, or highlights from your resume you want to address. But do not stare.

The Proper Handshake

A proper handshake is firm, but not overbearing, and certainly not weak. The worst you can probably do is give the “dead fish” grip, which is basically a very weak grip. Also don’t try and get cute if you’re a girl, go for a standard handshake. Don’t hold out your hand like you’re from the 50s and you want the man to take it and bow or kiss your hand. A simple handshake with both hands verticle will suffice.

Also two little things most people don’t consider. Shaking someone’s hand with your palm more downward is a sign of dominance and aggression. Be careful with this. While you might be think you’re getting the upper hand, the employer might feel you’re being too aggressive. At the same time, don’t let them do this to you. If your palm is facing upward, it’s a sign of weakness.

Research

One of the best ways to get the attention of recruiters is to know about their companies before you talk to them. When you walk up to them at the fair, almost all of them will invariably say, “So tell me what you know about us.” If your response is “nothing, really” it’s not a huge deal. But it certainly doesn’t help. On the other hand, if you start citing statistics and referencing news stories or upper management, or profits and revenues, or anything else beyond what you can find on the front page of the website, you’ll come off as a much better candidate.

These are just some of the minor things you can do to really stand out at a career fair. At the end of the day, you’ll also need a good resume, good networking skills, and the ability to sell yourself. But if you follow these tips, you’ll improve your odds quite a bit.

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About Jason Willis
Jason graduated from the University of Central Florida in the fall of 2011 with a B.S.B.A. in Finance. He currently works at The Newport Group as an Investment Analyst on the Asset & Liability Management Team working with Non Qualified Deferred Compensation Plans. In his spare time he continues to give back to AKPsi by assisting with the CFAC and NX Chapter at UCF. He also currently operates his own blog entitled Professional Hedging, and is also preparing to acquire his Series 7 and 66 Certifications.

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