I’ve represented EduSource at four university job fairs in the past two weeks. I’m like the girl who’s been in 27 weddings—I consider myself something of an expert. So, having become an expert, I have some words of advice (suggestions, really). For schools—how to make their job fairs better, and for students—how to make a great impression on potential employers.
For Schools: Be Conscious
Be Space Conscious
Imagine an 18-inch-wide table that’s three feet from the table across the aisle. Then imagine 17 students passing through that three-foot gap, trying to stop and talk to multiple business representatives also standing in the three-foot gap next to their tables.
Sound claustrophobic? You’re not wrong.
It’s a tempting thing to try and cram as many businesses as you possibly can into your venue. But that’s actually not beneficial to your students or to the businesses you invite. Your students will inevitably end up missing out on a lot of opportunities for conversation because of the sheer crowding, and businesses will be frustrated that they’re missing students in the crowd, or that the business next to them with five really happy, really young representatives is completely crowding their space.
The solution? Find a bigger space. Or cap the number of businesses at something you can reasonably fit in the space.
Bonus: Don’t host your job fair in hallways. It seems like a great idea to catch students on their way to or from class. It’s not. The students are distracted and the businesses can’t tell who they should be talking to and who’s hurrying to class. Open space is the best. Plus, that way no business gets stuck in the back of the hallway next to the restrooms and the emergency exit (not that I’m speaking from personal experience…).
Be Time Conscious
One job fair I went to was an hour and a half long during the evening. That was pure gold.
Another job fair I went to was 6 hours long during the day. That was, uh, not pure gold.
I understand the desire to cast the net far and wide and catch as many students as possible. But the problem relates back to the catch-students-in-the-hallway mentality. It encourages a lack of intentionality and it confuses everyone. Plus, six hours is just a LONG time.
A couple of hours in the evening or the morning helps businesses because they spend less time standing around waiting for a student to walk by, and students aren’t trying to rush to get to class. Win-win.
Bonus: Especially if you’re asking businesses to stick around for 6 hours (but even if you’re not), feed them. At least give them water. It’s so much easier to have great student interactions when you’re not hangry…
Be Name Conscious
This one is short and sweet. Make sure the students have name tags that also have their area of study on them. This is so helpful for businesses.
I’m recruiting for computer science internships—imagine the stereotypically shy computer science student who walks by and isn’t sure if he (or she) wants to stop and talk. A little hint like the major on a name tag is enough to get me out in the aisle to strike up a conversation.
For Students: Don’t Forget to Remember
Remember We’re Humans
It is totally nerve wracking to walk up to business reps standing by their big signs and fancy table cloths and fidget spinners at a job fair. I get it.
But here’s a secret: we’re just people. We had to change shirts this morning because we spilled our coffee, and we totally forgot our business cards, so we’re hoping you don’t ask for one… and we’re looking forward to meeting you. Don’t freak out—we’re humans, too.
Remember to be Memorable
I’ll be honest—by the time I get to the end of the day, I’ve seen so many faces and taken so many resumes that I’m lucky if I remember my own name, let alone yours. I do make notes on the back of everyone’s resume, but even then, I still struggle.
Know what helps? When students tell me something interesting, obscure, or funny about themselves. I don’t mean funny like dumb or inappropriate. But if you have 12 siblings, I want to know. Or if you’re from 7 states away. Or if your favorite candy is saltwater taffy. Or maybe you can solve a Rubik’s cube in 12 seconds. Give me something. Something to associate with your face and remind me that you were a nice human. It makes a huge difference, and it might just give you a boost in the hiring process. It certainly doesn’t hurt.
Remember Your Resume
It’s kinda hard to make notes on the back of your resume if you don’t hand me a resume to take notes on. I know printers are problematic and the internet is cool. I work for a software company—we hate printing things. But I’m here to tell you nothing can replace a real, live resume. Hand me a piece of paper and you’ve already made yourself more memorable. Add a tasteful touch of color and I’ll like it even more (not required, but always appreciated).
Resumes could have an entire post of their own, but I’ll limit myself to one more thing: please keep it to one page. It’s just easier that way.
Remember to Follow Up
Remember when your mom made you send thank you notes for your birthday presents? Turns out she was on to something. It’s not often that we get follow-up emails from students after a job fair. But when we do, we notice. If you show enough initiative to reach out afterwards to say hi, it was nice to meet you, I’m looking forward to pursuing opportunities with your company, it probably means you’ll show initiative if we hire you. That’s a good thing.
Of course there’s always more. What ways have you found to make job fairs successful—either from a host or a participant perspective? Comment and share!