5 Tips for Overcoming Career Fair Obstacles

It’s Career Fair time, and collegiate job seekers are preparing resumes, 30 second pitches, proper business dress, and interviewing strategies to WOW potential employers. What many eager job seekers fail to prepare is a proactive response to employers who not interested in collecting resumes or recruiting for positions and majors applicable to the job seeker. The most important thing for any job seeker to remember is that every conversation or facetime opportunity with a potential employer is extremely valuable and must be maximized. 

Here are five less than desirable immediate responses a job seeker might receive at a Career Fair and the responses I recommend:

1:  Please Apply Online:   This is probably the most popular response job seekers receive at Career Fairs and also the most frustrating.  Collecting resumes by hand at Career Fairs is becoming a thing of the past.   A proactive job seeker has already created his or her profile and uploaded a resume into the employer’s site before attending the Career Fair.  Don’t be discouraged when an employer asks you to apply online.  That is a step in the job search process.  Accept that.  Use your face-to-face time with the employer asking questions about the position or possible positions.  Career Fair is a time for you and the employer to discuss each of your competitive advantages.  Establish an opportunity for your next conversation with the employer.

2.  Please Come Back in the Spring, We Will Post Internships at that Time:  For many employers internship budgets won’t be set until at least January.  Therefore, it is possible that employers will defer marketing internship opportunities until the spring.  Especially in our current economy, employers are hestitant to guess what budgets might look like this far ahead.  It’s fair to ask internship seekers to look for posted positions in the spring because that it the time most will become available.  HOWEVER, this fact does not mean you should wait until the spring to start your job search or  start establishing your relationship with potential employers.  Start now.  Ask employers about the projects interns have completed in the past or competencies and skills interns must possess.  Start preparing so that you are on the employer’s radar and ready to start applying and interviewing the second those opportunities do become available.

3.  We Aren’t Hiring Your Major:  Sometimes employers only send repreresentatives from specific areas of the business for recruiting on campus.   That doesn’t mean that the employer doesn’t have needs in all areas of business.  An employer might send representatives for open positions in accounting, but a proactive job seeker looks to the future.  Ask for the name of the recruiter or hiring manager for your business area of interest, and be sure to continue your conversation with that representative at the booth and learn about the company in general. Ask questions not addressed on the company website. 

4. I Don’t Know the Name of the Recruiter or Hiring Manager for Your Area of Interest:  The number one rule at Career Fair is to never just walk away if the employer’s immediate response is not what you desire.  Continue your conversation.  Write down the name of the person at the booth or take a business card if available.  Go to your other networking resources whether that be LinkedIn, CareerShift, your University’s alumni network, etc. and seek the correct hiring managers and recruiters and note your conversation with the company’s representative at the Career Fair you attended.  This approach shows the new contact that you have already taken steps to learn about the company and opportunites.  It shows initiative.

5. Our Company Does Not Sponsor H1B:  The hard and fast rule is to never immediately walk away from the booth.  If nothing else, thank the employer for attending the Career Fair and pick up some literature for future reference.  Once again, write down the name of the person you met.  This inforamtion alone might become extremely valuable to you in the future.  My recommendation to all international students seeking employment in the US is to purchase Dan Beaudry’s amazing book, Power Ties:  The International Student’s Guide to Finding a Job in the United States. Mr. Beaudry outlines clear steps that will save time and headache for this group of job seekers. 

The bottom line is that every face-to-face conversation you have at Career Fair has immense value.  The more people you meet and the more information you gather will lead you to your job search goal.  Attend Career Fairs and take charge in the success of your job search. 



6 thoughts on “5 Tips for Overcoming Career Fair Obstacles

  1. Kirk Baumann

    Hi Cindy,

    Great post! I love that you listed “Please apply online” as #1. It’s an important part of the process. And the process starts with research, right? One thing to add: PLEASE BRING YOUR RESUME! Just because you need to apply online doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring a resume. Even if they can’t keep it, you have something to give them as a snapshot while you speak with them.

    One other thing: On your bullet about internships. It’s really going to vary, but a LOT of companies actually have all their Summer intern postings, interviews, and hiring done prior to Thanksgiving for the next summer. Waiting until the Spring is going to be too late to get that spot you’re looking for. Sure, they’ll still be recruiting, but the good positions will be taken. They’re now just filling in the blanks. When recruiters are on campus in the Fall, take advantage of this and talk about Summer internships! October is typically the timeframe for interviews.

    Every company is different – keep that in mind. I would encourage every student to utilize their Career Services offices on campus to stay informed of opportunities and to help polish their professional profile!

    Great article. Keep it up!

    Kirk Baumann

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