With our upcoming Recent Graduates & Students Career Fair on Thursday, April 13, from 10 am – 2 pm on Trousdale Parkway, it is important to prepare for this opportunity to engage with employers as you plan for upcoming graduation. If you plan to attend, showing up is not enough! To make sure you stand out, read the Career Center’s strategies and tips to get the most out of our career fair:
Do Your Research
The biggest mistake you can do coming to the career fair is being unprepared and not doing your research on employers attending ahead of time. Log in to connectSC, click on the Events tab, then click on Career Fair, and RSVP to see the full list of participating employers. Research employers by visiting their websites and find out what positions they are recruiting for. Knowing about the organization will help you ask well-thought-out questions and make you stand out. Look up alumni on the Trojan Network from organizations you are interested in and connect with them beforehand to gain more insight. Hone in on your research by selecting the employers you’re most interested in learning more about and visit them first on the day of the event.
Pro Tip: If it is the day of career fair and you want to meet with an employer you haven’t researched, you can still meet with them, but do a quick google search prior to your conversation. to find their organization’s website and quickly get insight on what they do.
Dress to Impress
Conservative, professional business attire is REQUIRED. Even though we have spent nearly two years on Zoom, it’s time to hang up those sweats, and dress to impress! Remember, you are dressing for a business function, not a night out, or a day at the beach. View our Dress for Success guide or Dress for Success video. Wear a neatly pressed business suit and keep in mind the following:
- Dress in a dark or neutral color matching business suit.
- Wear freshly pressed clothing and polished dress shoes.
- Keep makeup as natural as possible. Avoid flashy or bright nail polish.
- Grooming is important: hair and nails should be neat and clean.
Know Your Elevator Pitch
Prepare a 30 second introduction, or your elevator pitch, to use with employers. Students can practice answering this important question through our Big Interview mock interview platform. You don’t want to sound like you are reading a script, but you do want to sound like you thought about why you are there. It might be something like, “Hello. I’m Tommy Trojan, a senior in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing. My experiences include working as a marketing intern for a finance company and leading their social media strategy. I’m looking for a position related to marketing when I graduate this May. I read on your website that (name of organization) has an entry-level position in your corporate marketing department, and would really like to learn more about this role.” Get tips on perfecting your elevator pitch with this video.
Bring a Well-Polished Resume
A resume is a type of advertisement. Cover the basics: your education, work experience, leadership/extracurricular experience, and skills. You can receive tailored constructive feedback on your resume instantly through the USC Smart Resume tool through the VMock website. You can also have your resume critiqued by the Career Center or your school-based career services office. Cover letters are not necessary at a career fair. Carry a simple padfolio or folder to keep your resumes organized and ready. Not all employers will take your resume, and may refer you to their website. Either way, it is always good to be prepared.
First Impressions Count
It’s common to be nervous when meeting with employers, so be aware of what your body language says and practice your conversational skills. Maintain eye contact, smile, be enthusiastic, and have a positive attitude. Let employers know how serious you are. Find a balance of asking questions, and active listening. Don’t monopolize the conversation. With COVID, be respectful of the recruiter’s space. Recognize that in this unique environment, recruiters may not shake hands out of safety precautions. Recruiters are taking note of your interaction and their overall impression of you as a potential candidate.
Know What to Expect the Day Of
The best way to approach the Career Fair is to create a plan for the day. Be prepared to wait in line, be patient, and be respectful. Focus on your top employers but be prepared that you may not see them. Plan B would be to use the Trojan Network to connect with alumni from that organization. Also, keep in mind that some employers will ask you to apply online. This does not mean the employer is brushing you off. Follow-up on a position based on the recruiter’s suggestions (apply for a position on their website, send your resume to them, connect with another person). Remember, employer representatives are taking note of candidates they are interested in, but they have to follow recruiting procedures.
Ask the Right Questions
Use each discussion with a recruiter as an opportunity. Increase your knowledge of the employer and its job options, the qualities, and skills the recruiter is looking for in a candidate. Examples of questions to ask:
- What career opportunities are available in your organization?
- What opportunities do you have for ___________ majors?
- What type of training is available?
- What do you look for in candidates?
- What key skills/experiences are highly desirable?
- Do you have any tips for success in this field?
- Note: Do not ask about salary, benefits, or work hours.
Explore Your Options
Talk with as many recruiters as you can who might be interested in your major, experience, skills and accomplishments. Keep an open mind! For example, a healthcare company may not be only looking for health science majors – it may have openings in finance, data analytics, and management.
Follow-Up with a Thank-You Email
Ask the recruiter how you can follow-up. If they provide you with their business card, write notes about your interaction with them so that you can mention this in your thank-you email and jog their memory about who you are. Add potential contacts on LinkedIn or the Trojan Network. View this helpful article on using thank you notes to boost your network.
Take a Break
It may be a little overwhelming meeting with employers throughout the day, so look for the USC Career Center’s Wellness Tent during the fair. Stop by for snacks, water, participate in our affirmation board, and take a moment to recharge. We are here to support you!
- View our videos on what to do before, during, and after a career fair.
- Learn what employers are looking for in candidates during a career fair.
- Practice your 30-second elevator pitch (and more!) for recruiters. Watch an example here.
- Boost your confidence and watch our Networking for Introverts workshop.
Good luck and with the right preparation and professionalism, you will be sure to impress employers in-person!