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How to Make Internship Connections at a Career Fair

BEFORE THE FAIR

REGISTER ON HANDSHAKE 

Not required, but highly recommended.

CREATE AN EFFECTIVE AND PROFESSIONAL RESUME

Have an advisor review it ahead of time to make sure it showcases your strengths. You can make an appointment with Career Services using Handshake (look for Career Center on the top, then Appointments). You do not need cover letters at a career fair since you have the opportunity to tell your own story. Bring plenty of copies with you. Review the information on our website in the Resumes and Cover Letters section.

INVEST IN SOME PROFESSIONAL CLOTHING AND PAY ATTENTION TO GROOMING

Remember that you want recruiters to remember your skills and abilities, not your clothing or tattoos! The key element is to look sharp, be clean and have a positive attitude and pleasant personality. Remember too that employers are making judgments on their first impression of you, so make it a great one. Leave your backpack at home or on the coat rack, and hang up your coat if possible. Make sure you've showered and that your hair (including facial hair if applicable) is clean and neat.  

YES: button up shirt, polished closed toe shoes, a blazer/jacket/sweater (bonus - hides sweat!), a suit if you have one, muted colors (again, to keep the attention on you and not your clothes). Conservative jewelry is fine, body jewelry is best left at home.

NO:  jeans, sneakers, sweats, or hats - except CSET student, for whom dress can be more casual if looking for a programmer job.  Avoid athletic wear, leggings, super bright colors/patterns, very high heels, and cologne - some people are allergic

RESEARCH EMPLOYERS THOROUGHLY

Check your Handshake account in the Events section for a list of employers that will be at the Career Fair. Select the ones that are most interesting, but don't limit yourself based on industry: Hospitals need IT help, and state agencies need Marketing help (for example). Show them that you have done your homework and really have a genuine interest in what they do. It is easy to research a company to find out what they do as well as their history. The single most important thing you can do to make a positive impression on a recruiter is to go to the job fair and ask specific questions about the company. There are also a number of sites on the web that not only list specific jobs but information on employers such as Glassdoor.com and LinkedIn.

PRACTICE YOUR PITCH

It's helpful to practice talking about yourself ahead of time, as it feels very unnatural to many students when they are getting started. You can practice in the mirror, or with a friend. Start with your name, your major, what excites you about or why you chose your major, and the type of opportunity you are seeking. Then talk about what you've done in the classroom, in projects, or in other experiences, and how it has prepared you to make a contribution to whatever the firm does.

DURING THE FAIR

BE STRATEGIC ABOUT HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME

You may want to plan on first speaking to the recruiters at the top of your list. There may be long lines for the most popular employers at the fair. DO NOT talk on your cell phone while you are waiting in line. This is disrespectful to those around you and considered unprofessional by many recruiters. If you have plenty of time, you may consider talking to recruiter you are less interested in first just for practice.

HOW TO INTERACT WITH RECRUITERS

Smile as you approach the recruiter and offer them a firm (but not bone-crushing) handshake. Introduce yourself by speaking in a clear and articulate manner. Be prepared to offer a 30 second "pitch" about yourself (see above). Maintain good eye contact and smile.

Questions to expect from them: Can you tell me a little about yourself? How did you pick your major? What do you know about our company? Why do you want to work for us? Tell me about your proudest accomplishment.

Questions you can ask: You can learn something about companies by reading their websites, but there is WAY more you can learn by asking questions. What is their corporate culture like? What is a typical career path for someone in your major? What is your timing for hiring new college grads? How often do interns get offers for full time employment? What do they mean when they say [insert phrase from job description]?

Questions to avoid: What's the pay range? What kind of benefits do you offer? What does your company do?

AFTER THE FAIR

If recruiters told you to apply online, they are NOT blowing you off! At many firms, all applicants have to apply online for legal reasons. Once you do, they can flag your application for an interview. 

If recruiters shared their business cards, write brief thank you e-mails. 

If you were not able to speak to a firm that you wanted to, you may leave your resume with them, or contact Career Services and we can see if we can help connect you.

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