How to Stand Out at the Career Fair

Going to a career fair is one of the most intimidating events of a college student’s experience. You dress in a full suit, stand in line to talk to one person, and see all the other students also trying to get an internship/job just like you. With all this in mind, it is hard to 1. breathe and 2. be yourself. If you are anything like me, you tend to focus on how to be different from your peers and stand out in the recruiters’ minds and end up psyching yourself out before you’ve even said hello.

Luckily, Smeal provides its students with an abundance of resources in order to approach recruiters confidently and genuinely and ultimately achieve their goals. Some of these resources include: the Mock Career Fairs, Career Blitz, and other networking workshops, all of which are run through the Business Career Center and are posted on the website. These events not only give you the foundational knowledge of career fairs and networking, but also allow students to engage with real recruiters in the hopes of improving their skills, while also starting relationships with potential future employers.

Going to these events is half the battle, though. You can learn about how to approach recruiters every day, but in order to be your best self, you need to take it a step further. To truly be yourself and be comfortable during the recruiting process, one must reflect on their past experiences, their present roles, and their future aspirations and then be able to talk about them in a meaningful way. I remember I had no clue how to talk about my previous internships, part-time jobs, or campus involvement, until I started talking to my peers about them. I’d ask my roommates to ask me questions, I’d seek out other Smeal students to give me their opinions, and used every resource I could in the Business Career Center. It sounds really simple, but to be able to talk about yourself in a professional yet valuable way is an important skill that many people struggle to master.

After you’ve gained the confidence to go to the fair and go up to a recruiter, there are a few do’s and don’ts to note if you truly want to stand out in their minds.

  • DO introduce yourself and ask how the recruiter is doing/engage in some small talk.
    • DON’T simply hand them your resume and wait for them to start the conversation.
  • DO maintain eye contact and positive mannerisms (stand up straight, hands still, etc.).
    • DON’T tell the recruiters about the other companies you are there to see.
  • DO send a follow-up email to the recruiter to thank them for their time and try to mention a specific detail from your conversation that they will use to differentiate you (For example, if you talked about the PSU vs. Buffalo game, mention that in your email!).

Career fairs are where students should be ready to start their new lives as future employees of a company that they are excited to work for, but so many students focus too much on their nerves that they lose sight of who the career fairs are for: us, the students. To conclude, here are some bullet points on how to stand out and be confident at career fairs:

  1. When preparing for the event, know how to talk about your past, present, and future in a valuable way
  2. Utilize the Business Career Center’s events and career coaches
  3. On the day of, dress professionally and in something that makes you feel confident
  4. Ask the recruiters how they are doing and make the introduction more of a conversation than an information session
  5. Remember that recruiters are there to talk to you, not a version of you that you think they want
  6. Have fun! You definitely hear this all of the time, but while in college you have more resources available to you than you ever will again; so use them!

If you have any further questions, please come into our office so we can make you feel more confident to go to career fairs!

By Christine Kovell
Christine Kovell