Fall is coming, and that means engineering career fairs will be taking place across the U.S. very soon. Are you planning to attend a fair at your school?
If you’re serious about graduating in the future with a job already in hand, then you definitely need to be attending the fairs at your school. However, rather than just showing up to attend, you need to invest heavily upfront by taking time to fully prepare.
Please trust me on this, as a former engineering recruiter for John Deere, I know that if you’re not properly prepared, the various company recruiters you meet with will probably write you off in a heartbeat. Why? Because lack of preparation for a career fair is easy to spot and makes a strong statement about what kind of employee you would likely be if hired later.
Some Awesome Prep Help For You
I was planning to write up my own suggestions for you based on my years of experience as an engineering student, as an intern, and later as a recruiter, but recently I found these excellent YouTube videos that my alma mater (Iowa State Engineering College) posted in September, 2014.
Each of these five videos are only 2-3 minutes long, but they are chock full of excellent advice. And something I really like is that it’s being shared by engineering students just like you. These aren’t highly polished corporate type videos. These are real students giving you real advice that you can trust and take to the bank.
If you’re serious about “knocking them dead” at the career fair, I strongly urge you to watch these videos, take notes, and then take action on the suggestions long before your career fair arrives. To help you out a bit, I’ve listed the key points from each of the videos right below them.
Career Fair Prep Video #1: Researching Companies
- Good company research will let you ask insightful questions and feel more confident
- Review the list of companies coming and the jobs/skills they’re seeking
- Use your research to help differentiate your conversations with the recruiters
- Don’t be afraid to use notes to help you remember what to ask
- Investigate and ask about the company cultures
Career Fair Prep Video #2: Your Resume
- Have 20-25 copies with you (fancy paper isn’t necessary)
- Be sure info is updated and current (e.g., GPA, work experience, etc.)
- Include objectives statement (either simple or targeted)
- Keep to one page, and print ahead of time
- Statements should include tasks, skills used, impact of project
- Resume is a relationship starter with the goal of getting an interview
WARNING from Don!……READ THIS and DO THIS TOO!
Don’t focus only on updating your printed resume. In particular, your LinkedIn Profile must be fine tuned and polished before you step foot in the career fair.
Why? Because any recruiter who is interested in you will most certainly scan your LinkedIn Profile (and possibly your entire online presence). LinkedIn is a hugely popular online resource today for recruiters and hiring managers. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by ignoring this fact.
Career Fair Prep Video #3: Logistics
- Pick your clothes ahead of time and insure they’re clean and pressed
- If needed, plan for transportation to and from the fair
- Preregister for the fair if possible
- Prepare a packet containing all relevant company info and a map
- Complete all your prep tasks far in advance of the fair
Career Fair Prep Video #4: Elevator Speech
- Firm handshake and eye contact should precede your conversation
- 30-40 seconds is all you need for this conversation
- Goal is not to recite info that’s on your resume
- Steer the conversation in your favor
- Craft your speech and practice, practice, practice ahead of time
- Smile and exude confidence
Career Fair Prep Video #5: Fair Booth Interactions
- Start with companies that aren’t at the top of your list
- Greet recruiter with a smile and handshake
- Initiate a conversation with your elevator speech
- Make eye contact, be pleasant, confident and interested
- Let recruiter ask for your resume
- Offer examples of previous work experiences and positive outcomes
- Don’t take rejection personally…stay upbeat
Finally, here are some Things Not To Do At A Career Fair that I wrote about in a previous blog post.
UPDATE: Here’s one more thing you must do before the fair……..get yourself a business card. Read THIS LINKEDIN Article to learn why.
Career Fairs Are The Critical First Step
From my experience, I believe a lot of students fail to realize how critically important career fairs are in the entire “life cycle” of their engineering college education.
Career fairs truly are the starting point on the journey towards securing multiple full-time job offers in your senior year. As a result, you need to get really good at engaging, and wowing, recruiters at career fairs.
Don’t cheat yourself. Put in the preparation effort now so you can earn the bigger payoff later!
Question: What experience and advice do you have in relation to preparing for an engineering career fair? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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