A college career fair is an avenue (physically or virtually) for students (regardless of grade level) and alumni to meet potential employers to discuss employment and internship opportunities. Participants typically explore exhibitor booths, attend company presentations, and meet with organization representatives who have come to answer your questions.
A college career fair for computer science students will include companies ranging from small businesses to large, well-established enterprises, ranging from companies whose primary products are software to those using technology to support infrastructure. Participating companies include local companies, national industry leaders, and the government sector.
The objective of the students attending the career fair is to build a connection with a company or its representatives. Students also hope to get an interview. Most of the students attending career fairs are actively seeking internships or full-time offers. Compared to submitting your resumes online, applying in person gives you a better chance of moving past the initial screening stage and receiving an interview. Although some companies will still tell you to apply online, showing up to a career fair in person guarantees that your resume gets reviewed by either a recruiter or engineer, as opposed to possibly a computer filtering system.
In addition, a college career fair allows you to make a pitch to a recruiter. While conversing with the recruiter, highlight your strengths. Recruiters only scan your resume for a few seconds. The conversation may be all you need to create a connection that can lead to future opportunities. In some instances, companies may not give you an interview on your first try, but after talking to them at career fairs, they may give you a chance just because of your persistence.
Steps to take to get the most out of the career fair
You can expect to find many students and alumni at these job fairs. Distinguishing yourself is vital if you want to have a successful career fair. You should do the following!
Prepare your resume
Your resume is one of the most important things you need when attending career fairs. Your resume shows recruiters your experience as an indicator of your abilities. It highlights the kind of skills you can bring to their teams and gives companies a way to contact you if they want to interview you. Practical experience and skills are valuable in science and tech, so be sure to describe the skills and experiences you have accumulated, including any problems you have creatively solved.
Ensure your resume links to your personal website or GitHub profile. Your GitHub page could substitute for a resume. Employers look at your GitHub to gauge your involvement in the community and your relevant skills. Some projects don’t involve any code at all. Repos can be made entirely with text and sometimes for design.
Find out which companies are coming. Then research companies you are interested in to find out what the business is about, the products or services that the business provides, and the skills desired. Knowing this kind of information will help you stand out from the crowd. Visit company websites to learn, especially sections of the website marked “About Us” and “Careers.”
The information gleaned from your research will help you prepare a list of targeted and well-informed questions to ask recruiters during the career fair. Don’t ask questions that the company website can answer, such as “what does your company do?”; instead, ask questions that can help you learn more about the company culture or questions that show you are interested in the company. Questions like;
- What skills and knowledge are valued in your organization, especially in junior positions?
- What are some of the biggest problems and challenges facing your organization?
- What kind of changes or growth do you expect your organization to undergo in the next year?
On the career fair day, you should:
Be the early bird
Based on your research, create a list of the top employers you are interested in. on the day of the career fair, work your way up the list by starting from your lowest ranked employer to the highest. You will get warmed up and practice your conversation and approach before meeting the employer that interests you the most.
Try to attend the career fair during the earlier part of the event rather than the later part. Toward the end, recruiters start to lose their voices and enthusiasm. In the last hour of the fair, you can expect to find them hiding in the restrooms or trying to sneak out early despite the usual protests of the organizers who want recruiters to stay until the end of the event.
The above reality is why it is best to approach each recruiter with fresh enthusiasm and energy. Make eye contact and smile. If you shake hands with the recruiter, do so firmly but not enough to crush the bones of the recruiter’s hands. Say an introduction that includes your name and something about your background and skills.
Do not overstay your welcome. After a short and pleasant conversation, exchange contact information, and proceed to walk away. If the recruiter wants to know something else, he or she will stop you from leaving. It is better to end a conversation a bit early than to create an awkward situation where the recruiter is wondering how to get you to move on. Being brief may also provide you with the opportunity to meet other recruiters.
If you receive contact information from a recruiter, send a brief thank-you email after the event. The mail provides another opportunity to demonstrate excellent writing skills and may encourage the recruiter to interview you. Do not take offense if a recruiter doesn’t want to give you a business card. Recruiters can get hundreds of emails after an event and usually do not have time to respond to that many people.