‘Tis the season for college career fairs. As a matter of fact, we held our annual business career fair last week at UMass Boston and hundreds of students attended. Prior to the career fair, I presented a couple of workshops entitled “How to Prepare for the Career Fair,” and several students also came to see me in my office to get advice and pointers on how to make the most of this premier career event. While preparing for a career fair is definitely important, what happens after the career fair is even more important.
A few days after the career fair, one student came to my office and expressed her dismay that she did not have a lot of time to speak with recruiters and that one recruiter seemed eager to move on to the next person in line. I reassured her that this is a normal practice since recruiters want to make sure that they get to speak with every student in line. She was left wondering however, “What’s the point of going to a career fair if I only have a few minutes to make an impression?” and “How will recruiters even remember who I am given the fact that they meet hundreds of students within the span of a couple of hours?” Good questions.
I think the best way to answer these questions is to first clarify what students should realistically expect from attending a career fair and what they shouldn’t expect in order to avoid disappointment and frustration. At a career fair, you will not be interviewed, offered a job or have a chance to have an in-depth conversation with a recruiter. However, what you will get from attending a career fair is a chance to meet and speak with recruiters at your dream companies and to personally hand them your resume, as opposed to having to submit it through the online job application black hole. Just think: If you hadn’t gone to the career fair, none of this would have happened!
To make the most of your career fair experience, you need to maintain those relationships with recruiters in the following days, weeks and months ahead in order to reap the full benefits. By doing the following, you’re bound to be noticed and remembered!
Send Thank You Notes
Send each recruiter you spoke with a personalized thank you note. Mention why you are interested in their company and why you are a good fit. Also state that you look forward to applying to positions there.
Recruiters keep these emails and refer back to them when you apply for jobs at their companies. All things being equal, the person who sent a thank you note will get the interview over someone who didn’t. It also shows the recruiter that you were interested enough in their companies to make time to attend the career fair and make a point of meeting them.
Connect with Recruiters on LinkedIn
Connect with the recruiters you met at the career fair on LinkedIn and make sure to change the default email message to a more personal one, mentioning something you spoke about at the fair. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and complete before you do so.
Reference the Career Fair in Your Cover Letters
When you write your cover letters to apply for internships or jobs at these companies, make sure to address your cover letter to the recruiter you met at the career fair. Then mention where and how you met them in the first paragraph of your letter.
Follow Companies on LinkedIn
Make sure to follow the companies you interacted with at the career fair on LinkedIn. That way you’ll get updates about what’s happening at these companies and can make comments about those updates. This is a terrific way to get noticed!
Attend Other Company Events on Campus
Often companies will have separate information sessions, workshops, and networking events on campus as a way to connect with students. Make sure to attend those events to meet recruiters for a second (or third) time.
Stay on Recruiters’ Radar Screens
Send them periodic email updates about your academic accomplishments or links to articles that might be of interest to them. Post frequent status updates on LinkedIn which will show up in their newsfeed if they’re in your network.