Career Fair 101: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Keys to Succeeding at Career Fairs

On Friday, February 3, Thomas Gadberry of Qualtrics' talent acquisition and employee relations team, and Bridget Reichenbach, corporate recruiter at Qualtrics, addressed BYU students on how they can best prepare and navigate career fairs, at the Career Fair 101 workshop. 

Gadberry and Reichenbach gave tips on what you can do before, during and after career fairs to make the best of your experience. 

Preparation and Research

Preparation is key. Gadberry and Reichenbach stressed that 80 percent of your success at career fairs comes from preparation. 

The first thing you should do to prepare is visit the websites of the companies you are interested in. From there, you can view the company's mission statement and "About" page. You can also see what positions they have available in your field. Find positions that fit your skills and experience level. Reichenbach explained that you should not ask a recruiter about a position that requires 3-5 years of experience if you're only a junior in your program. 

By doing your research, you won't waste time at career fairs asking each company what they do, what their mission is and if they have any job opportunities in your field. Here are some other resources you can use to do more research on the companies you are interested in: 

  • LinkedIn
  • Google News (to look up news and recent events in the company)
  • BYU Bridge
  • BYU Career Fair Plus app (available for download on the App Store and Google Play)

In reality, when you are at the career fair, you won't have researched every company there. Gadberry said not to be afraid to get onto your smartphone and do a quick, five-minute search on a company. It is still better than going to a recruiter knowing nothing about their company at all. 

By doing your preparation, you can set yourself apart from other students. It shows that you care and take initiative. Recruiters will remember students who took the time to get to know their company. 

Pitch

You probably already know that you should prepare a 15-20 second elevator pitch about yourself before talking to recruiters. What you may not know is that you should have a different elevator pitch for each company booth you want to visit. In your pitch, you should show that you did your research about the company, pulling key words from the company's mission statement and website to catch the recruiter's attention. Doing this will show that you are excited, invested and that you care. It is during this elevator pitch that you start to build conversations with recruiters. 

Dialogue

Hopefully, your pitch has started a dialogue between you and the recruiter. Now is the time to bring up positions you're interested in that you've seen on the company website. You can also go more in-depth into your background and experience. This includes telling recruiters about jobs you've had in the past. But don't just tell them what you did or your skills. Tell them how you've been able to develop those skills and how you can use those skills to fit that company's needs. Here is another chance to use key words from the company's website to grab the recruiter's attention. Now is the time to make yourself memorable. 

Another tip: adjust the tone of the conversation. You don't have to be formal in every conversation. If the recruiter seems more laid back, you can relax a little. If you're speaking to a more formal company, take their lead and adjust your tone. 

Way to Follow Up

Now that you've spoken with recruiters, ask them about the next steps in the application process. Ask aboout the best ways to follow up with them. In some cases, recruiters might ask for an interview right on the spot. Others might ask you to email them directly, or to apply online through the company's website. 

Another point Reichenbach and Gadberry emphasized was to not feel rejected if a recruiter just asks you to apply online. They said they ask everyone who visits the Qualtrics booth to do that, because it makes the hiring process more efficient. The difference is that if you take the time to prepare and make a good impression at career fairs, then recruiters will remember you when reviewing your application. 

Key Takeaways

Students learned a lot about the importance of research when preparing for career fairs. 

"I didn't realize there is such a big emphasis on preparation," Chloe King, a freshman studying mechanical engineering, said. "Realizing that has led me to creating a BYU Bridges account."

Amanda Collyer, a sophomore studying computational linguistics, said, "I learned what 'dumb questions' are, because there are a lot of questions I can answer just from researching the company."

The key to succeeding at career fairs is all about going the extra mile. By preparing and doing your research beforehand, you can show that you care. From there, taking what you've learned and turning it into a great elevator pitch will start a conversation between you and the recruiter. Finally, don't be afraid to follow up. 

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