How To Stand Out At University And College Campus Job Fairs


For many students, the beginning of fall means new classes, new textbooks and a new hairstyle. It also means it’s time to start thinking about future employment plans.

Although it can be tempting to forget about the working world after a long summer at your student job, now is the time to be planning ahead as 70% of employers do the majority of their entry level recruiting in September.

“Some recruiters have told us that when they are impressed with a student, they write down their name and then seek out their online application.” 
Mary Goldsmith, Career Counsellor, Trent University

Mary Goldsmith, a Career Counsellor at Trent University, and Brittney Blake, Trent’s Employer Services Advisor, offered some tips and tricks regarding how students can stand out at campus job fairs and make the most of these opportunities.

Prepare for the career fair

Ensure your resume is up-to-date and you have multiple copies on hand. Although many employers will refer students to their websites to complete online applications instead, students shouldn’t necessarily be discouraged by this.

“Some recruiters have told us that when they are impressed with a student, they write down their name and then seek out their online application,” Mary says. She suggests, along with a resume, bringing business cards outlining your employment goals and some of your key skills.

Another must-bring? A notebook. This allows you to record conversation details and keep track of all the contact information you’ll be acquiring.

Don’t get lost in the crowd

Employers see hundreds of students over the course of the day, but there are some key things that might make you harder to forget.

First and foremost, exude confidence! Brittney recommends creating a 30-second “infomercial” or elevator pitch about yourself to share with employers. “Take five seconds to discuss your schooling, five seconds explaining what you’re looking for, five seconds showcasing your experience, five seconds describing school/work accomplishments, and 10 seconds to demonstrate your knowledge of the company,” she says.

Mary also highlights the importance of being prepared with questions for employers, as well as having an idea of how you would answer any questions thrown at you (for example, “What would you bring to this company?”)

“The most common thing we hear from employers is that students are not prepared,” Mary says. “Stand out by being professional and friendly; shake hands and smile!”

Look the part

Although employers understand university culture and casual dress, you will make a much more lasting impression if you show up in business or business casual attire. “They did take the time to come to your campus, so be respectful of this and be professional in how you present yourself,” Mary says.

Furthermore, if you’re approaching vendors that you are serious about, do it solo. Not only does this make you appear more serious about the opportunity, but it also gives you more time to focus on discussing yourself and your interests with the company.

The million dollar question(s)

It can be tricky to know what to ask employers in order to make the most of your time with them. “Ask questions that will help you make a good match between what you have to offer and what an organization needs,” Brittney says, offering the following examples:

  • Ask what the employer likes about their work – what topics do they deal with that are exceptionally interesting to them?
  • What are the most important skills required for new grads interested in this area?
  • What changes and trends are they seeing in this field?
  • What non-academic skills and experiences do they look for in new hires?
  • How did they get started in this line of work? (Sometimes you’ll discover people took a very unusual route to end up where they are now!)

Mary also suggests asking about typical entry level positions that are available to new grads and asking if the employer has a business card or would be willing to connect on LinkedIn.

Quick tips

“Start with yourself,” says Brittney. “Think about all the areas of work that have always intrigued you, then make a list of all the participants that might fall into these categories.”

Visit their careers website or TalentEgg employer profile to find out more about them. This will help you appear more knowledgable and interested in the booth you’re approaching.

On the flip side, this also helps you identify which participants aren’t really worth your time. “If time is a factor, rank the participants before you go,” Brittney says.

Mary also recommends ranking employers. “There will be many employers so you probably want to target ones that particularly interest you,” she says. “Be well prepared with your introduction, your questions and a targeted resume.”

What are your tips for making an impression at campus job fairs?

Share your tips and tricks in the comments below, or tweet your advice to @TalentEgg!

Photo credit: Job Fair at UIS by jeremy.wilburn on Flickr