7 Tips for Building Relationships at a Career Fair

Disclaimer: Career fairs are hard work. Navigating a huge room of different companies is a challenging feat in itself, but the real obstacle is making sure you leave a lasting impression on the companies you meet with. During a two-hour time period, the representatives from the companies in attendance will meet with 60+ people. Standing out among the crowd is an excellent way to be remembered when the job application process rolls around. If the hiring manager remembers your name (or even better, the face to your name), you’ll have an advantage over the many other applicants vying for the position you’ve set your sights on.

The Imagineers have attended many career fairs and had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of students and hearing their stories. Believe us when we tell you that of those many students, the ones who stood out to us did so for a reason. We’ve rounded up some helpful tips for you to build a relationship with the company you meet with.

Do Your Research

This one should be obvious, but it’s surprising how many students don’t make it clear that they’ve done their research. Learn things about the company like their mission statement, purpose, target clients and core values. If you want to go above and beyond, many companies have an “About Us” section on their website that will tell you the backstory of the company. Another way to shine is by looking at their social media channels. If you’re able to mention a recent post or discuss a topic that was highlighted in their social media, this will get the company rep’s attention quickly. In addition to knowing these buzzwords, do some research beyond the company to add value to the conversation. For example, if they recently posted a blog about a social media trend, find another great blog written about the same trend and recommend it to them. If you can show how you add value before you’ve even handed them your resume, you’ve set yourself up for a successful conversation!

Be the First... or the Last

The primacy/recency effect says that the first and last things presented will be retained best. This means that if you’re one of the first visitors to that company or one of the last, you’ll be best remembered. So our recommendation is to be first in line for your top company’s table and then visit your second choice as one of the last guests to the table before the fair ends. Being strategic about when you visit your top-pick companies can help you resonate with the people you speak to.

The Introduction

When it’s your turn to speak to the company rep, you don’t need to open with your elevator pitch. A simple “How’s your day going?” or ice breaker question is a refreshing break in the conversation compared to the students who walk up and give the same rehearsed speech they give every company. This will also help you stay relaxed, as it’s intimidating to speak to people when you know your professional future could be on the line! Remember that the company reps behind the business attitude are normal people who have kids or pets or plans after the fair. Getting to know them on a personal level will show that you care about them on a more human level. After you break the ice, the next thing to chat about is why you’re at their booth and what the company means to you. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of their team and the company as a whole, which you learned while you conducted research.

The Elevator Pitch

After you’ve broken the ice and chatted about the company, now is the appropriate time to deliver your elevator pitch. This should be a short and sweet intro to who you are, what you’re doing now, and where you want to be. Explaining how your personal goals align with the company’s goals is an impressive way to showcase your enthusiasm for that company specifically. You can also discuss how your previous experience would have prepared you to fit in with the company. It’s so important to be yourself during this part of the conversation. If you’re putting on an act that has clearly been rehearsed, it will show to the person on the other end of that pitch. Practice this elevator pitch so many times that it feels natural!

Ask Questions

After your elevator pitch, if the conversation doesn’t naturally flow from there, now is a great time to ask questions. Come with questions prepared so that you’re not stumped and make sure you’re asking questions that you wouldn’t be able to find out from looking at the company’s website. The company reps are there to give you a behind the scenes look into their day-to-day, so take the time to ask thoughtful questions to justify their attendance at the fair. For example, you can dig deeper into the company’s culture, ask what their favorite part of their job is or ask how you could best prepare yourself for a position with them. Having questions prepared will allow the conversation to continue to flow naturally.

Be Respectful of Their Time

Even if you’ve successfully developed a connection with the person you’re chatting with, it’s important to be respectful of the many students who also want to meet with them. A great way to initiate the sign off is by asking them for a way you can reach out if you have additional questions. This will then prompt them to ask for your resume and the exchange of information will feel more natural.

Follow Up Follow Up Follow Up

Sending a follow-up email is a great way to keep your name top of mind for the hiring manager. Your follow-up email should include your resume and any links to an online portfolio or website. In the email, be sure to personalize it and draw from the conversation and rapport you built at the career fair. A way to go above and beyond is to send a hand-written thank you card with a business card inside. In this digital age, the company rep that you spoke with may receive over 100 emails a day! A hand-written note stands out and will definitely get you remembered.

We hope these tips help you feel equipped to take on your next career fair with confidence! The best thing to remember is that you’re building a relationship with an individual, not talking to the face of a company. We wish you the best of luck as you begin your professional journey beyond the halls of college!

Story By: Sophie Duncan