How to Be Successful at Career Fairs

western digital picture
Western Digital’s Sara Reindl, left, and Chou Her shared their perspectives on being successful at career fairs.

When you attend a career fair, what steps can you take to stand out from the crowd?

Choua Her, university recruitment recruiter with Western Digital, shared her experiences Tuesday so attendees could be prepared for this Thursday’s CSULB STEM Job and Internship Fair.

First off, it’s important to identify which companies will attend the event, said Her. It’s easy to find the list of participating companies on the Career Center, then spend a few minutes visiting company websites and conducting online searches to decide which companies could be worthwhile to meet.

Her recommends creating a spreadsheet with columns for companies you definitely want to meet and might meet if you have time. The spreadsheet can also be used to capture information on the type of opportunities that are available.

That strategy will allow you to make maximum use of your time, and also show recruiters that you’re serious.

“We get students coming by and saying ‘What do you do?’” said Her. “How does that sound? It sounds really unprepared.”

Knowing which companies you want to meet with is also important in view of time constraints. It can be a wait of 15-45 minutes to speak to a company recruiter. Respect the recruiter’s time—and also the time of fellow students—by having your elevator pitch perfected.

Her said an elevator pitch should include your name, major, expected graduation date, and some indication of your technical and career interests. Above all, said Her, “Don’t just walk up and say ‘I’m looking for a job.’ It’s really up to you to drive the conversation.”

Keep your resume to one page. List your hard skills, such as the hardware and software programs you’ve used, and leave your soft skills, such as conversational ability, for interviews. List any internships and work experience, as well as projects you’ve worked on and any relevant coursework.

Be sure there are no typos in your phone number or email address. Her said from time to time, she and her colleagues have tried to reach out to top prospects only to reach a wrong number or have the email bounce back. Also make sure your voice mail box is set up.

“If we’re hiring engineers, we want people who are detail-oriented,” Her said.

Wear professional attire, such as a suit or shirt and dress pants, and make sure you follow through. If the recruiter invites you to complete an online application, do it promptly, otherwise the company may think you’re not interested. And be patient. After all, each recruiter typically takes resumes from up to 400 students per career fair.