Career Fair Advice

Career Fairs. Face-to-face contact with employers. In the weeks following the career fair, over 1500 on-campus interviews will be conducted. Image shows student talking to recruiters at the career fair.

Face-to-face contact with employers is crucial in the employment process, and career fairs provide great opportunities to connect with numerous hiring managers in a short period of time.  Employers like career fairs for exactly the same reason; the events give them an opportunity to quickly connect with many candidates and play a significant role in their college recruiting process.

The College of Engineering is proud to host several of the premier career fairs in the country each year (two in the fall and one in the spring).  The career fairs mark the beginning of the primary hiring season each semester.  All engineering students should participate in these valuable recruiting events. Students who are not actively seeking employment should use these events to investigate employers hiring their major and expand their knowledge of engineering.  It is never too early to start networking and looking for professional employment; some employers are even looking to hire students into internships as early as the summer following freshman year.

Please contact Engineering Career Services or Student Accessibility Services if you need an accommodation for a career fair due to a disability. 

Career Fair Goals

For those actively seeking employment, the primary goal of the fair is to get invited to one or more interviews.  You want to make a great impression that will lead to an interview where you can more fully present your qualifications.  You want to stand out in positive ways when recruiters review all of the people they met during the event.

For everyone attending the fair (seeking or not), goals should include:

  • Learning more about the employers and identifying those that align with interests.
  • Improving networking skills by engaging with a number of recruiters.  When not busy, employers are very willing to help students develop job search skills.
  • Making great impressions and starting/strengthening professional relationships with employers of interest.

Preparing for the Fair

Preparation is the key to reaching your goals at the fair!

Preparing for the career fair should begin at least two weeks before the fair.  Some preparation is absolutely essential and the likelihood of having a successful day increases with the amount of preparation.  Prepare by following these steps:

  1. Review and revise your resume.  Many good students struggle to secure interviews because they are passing out poor resumes that do not effectively present their qualifications.   Attend a resume presentation offered by Engineering Career Services and follow the advice offered in the resume preparation section of this guide.
  2. Research employers using CyHire and the Career Fairs section of the MyState app.
    • Start by identifying the employers that will be recruiting your major and offering the type of position (post-graduation or internship/co-op) you are seeking.
    • Gather and evaluate enough information on each of these employers to determine whether you would consider working for them.  Consider the type of position being offered, location, industry, products, company culture, etc.  Do not base your decision simply on name recognition.  Some of the lesser known employers hire more at ISU than the well-branded employers.  Similarly, give both large and small employers due consideration since they each have their particular set of advantages.
      Smaller employers often get less attention, so the probability of getting an interview is greater!
    • Conduct additional research on the employers you are still considering:
      • Determine if you are qualified to interview for their position(s).
      • Rank your level of interest (high, medium, or low) in each employer/position and determine which ones you will have time to visit at the fair.
      • Identify a few pieces of information about the employer and/or the positions that are of particular interest to you or generate a question that the recruiter might be able to answer.  This will give you something to talk about and indicate to the recruiter that you are truly interested in their employment opportunities.
  3. Attend information sessions to learn more about employers.  These sessions generally involve an employer presentation, time to ask questions, and a networking opportunity.  Attending these events prior to the career fair will give you additional talking points when you visit their booth.  Recruiters may even remember you from the event and appreciate your vested interest in their company. Information sessions are listed in the “Events” section of CyHire.
  4. Register early and get your name badge.  Registering early for the fair is easy and will allow you to maximize your time on the day of the fair. Students who register early are able to go directly into the venue to talk with employers.  If you do not register early, you will need to wait in the registration line to get your name badge. Early registration will take place starting the second week of each semester in the ECS office (3200 Marston Hall).
  5. Ready your outfit.  Make sure the  professional outfit you will be wearing to the fair is clean and wrinkle-free. More information can be found below on what is appropriate to wear to the career fair.
  6. Make arrangements to attend as much of the career fair as possible.   You can come and go from the fair, but maximizing your time there will maximize your opportunities.
  7. Polish your “Elevator Speech.”   This is the short pitch that you begin with as you approach a recruiter to introduce yourself, indicate the type of position you are seeking, and present your qualifications.  See the Elevator Speech Section for guidance on preparing your speech.
  8. Make a plan for the day of the career fair.  Use the Events section of your CyHire account or the Fairs section of the MyState app to see a complete list of employers including majors and types of positions they are hiring for. You will also be able to find their booth locations and view maps to make a preliminary plan for the route you’ll follow on the day of the fair.

Look Your Best at the Career Fair

Your appearance should be just as polished as your resume on the day of the career fair. Your attire is a big part of your first impression, so make sure it aligns with how you want to present yourself. The position you are seeking may not require business attire, but you are showing the employer that you can present yourself professionally.  By trying to make a great first impression, you are also indicating to the employer that you have a strong desire to work for them. The following best practices are based on years of experience working with engineering employers and students:

  • Business casual attire is encouraged, so you can be comfortable and confident.
    • Examples include dress pants or skirt, nice collared shirt or blouse, professional shoes (no jeans or hoodies).
  • Suits- A suit can make you stand out; but, it isn’t required.
  • Clean and wrinkle-free clothes.
  • Practice good personal hygiene.
    • Keep fragrances to a minimum, as some individuals may be sensitive to them.

Strategies for Career Fair Day

If you have prepared well, the day of the fair will be interesting and beneficial.  Typically there will be hundreds of employer booths located on the floor and concourse of Hilton and throughout the Scheman Building.  It is in your best interest to explore both buildings.

The following list of things should be done the day of the fair:

  • View logistical information about the career fair including date, time, transportation, and more.
  • Double-check your supplies.  Try to minimize what you take to the fair, but you will need:
    • Your name badge if you registered early.
    • Copies of your resume. Print off a copy for each employer you plan to talk to plus some extras (note that there is NO printing center located at the career fair).
    • The notes you prepared on your target employers.
    • A padfolio or folder to carry your resumes and write notes.
  • Register and get a name badge (unless you registered early).   Go straight to the ground floor of Scheman to register.  If you registered early, you can skip this step.
  • Put on your name badge.  Put your name badge, with its corresponding colored dot for your major, on your right shoulder so it will be clearly visible when you shake hands.
  • Engage with employers.  Start visiting your target employers.  You may want to start with some of your lower-rated companies to practice before engaging with your top-ranked companies. When you engage:
    • Show initiative and confidence. Walk up to the recruiter, exchange a firm handshake and introduce yourself with your elevator speech. Demonstrate your interest in the company and their job opportunities.
    • Be enthusiastic.  Show enthusiasm and demonstrate a passion for the type of work being offered.  These are often cited by employers as traits that help a candidate get noticed.
    • Ask questions.  If you have a question about the company or position that the recruiter might be able to answer, ask it.  Not only is this an opportunity to get your question answered, but it also demonstrates that you are not afraid to ask questions.  Make sure the question isn’t one that could have easily been answered if you had done ten minutes of research on the company.  Also, this is not the time to get all your questions answered.
    • Collect business cards. Collect business cards or write down the recruiter’s name when you walk away, so you will have the contact information needed if you want to follow up in some way. Business cards from most recruiters attending the career fair are also available in the Engineering Career Services office (3200 Marston Hall) after the career fair.
    • Take notes.  Writing a few notes in your padfolio or on the back of the recruiter’s business card will help you remember what you learned during your short conversation.
    • Inquire about the possibility of an interview.  As your conversation with a recruiter winds down, express an interest in an interview where you can more fully present your qualifications.
    • Say thank you. End your conversation by thanking the recruiter for taking the time to speak with you.
  • Explore the fair.   Explore the fair to learn more about the companies attending and look for additional opportunities for engagement.  Look for employers hiring your major, especially those that have circled your major on their booth sign.  If a recruiter is available, talk to them.  You may learn something important, improve your networking skills and add interest to the recruiter’s day.
  • Network for the future.  Many recruiters return to the career fair year after year and the more familiar you are to them, the more likely they are to select you for a position.  Even if you are not actively seeking a position with an employer, a little relationship building now may result in a future job.  Employers come to the fair looking to connect with students– take advantage of the opportunity to talk to them!