Spring is prime job fair season at colleges and universities, and February kicks it off. Whether you are graduating soon and starting to look for your first job out of school, or searching for a summer internship, attending your school’s job fair is a good move. If you’re a recent graduate and still job-hunting, contact your school—some allow their alumni to attend job fairs. These events are typically free or low-cost; some require registration in advance.
Know before you go
The benefits of attending a job fair are numerous: you can connect face-to-face with a quantity and variety of employers you wouldn’t otherwise be able to; you can learn more about specific career paths and companies; and you get to practice selling yourself as a candidate and answering questions from potential employers.
Some schools are large enough that they have industry-specific job fairs, such as finance, computer science, or healthcare. Researching employers who will be in attendance prior to attending a job fair is always important. However, in the case of industry-specific events, it matters even more. By attending an industry-specific event, you’re indicating to potential employers that you have more knowledge of, or interest in, a particular area than the general public. Not only might you be expected to answer tougher questions than at a general job fair, you could be judged more strictly based on the questions that you ask.
Even if you hope to work at a start-up so casual that “dressy fleece” becomes part of your vocabulary, make sure you present yourself well at a job fair. You want to make a good impression, so choose clothes that are clean, classic, and comfortable.
Write and rehearse your “elevator speech.” This is your pitch, lasting 20 to 30 seconds (in other words, roughly the length of an elevator ride), in which you give some basic information about yourself, your background, and your goals. Practice answers to common questions, and prepare some questions of your own.
Job fair resume advice
In the United States, including your photo on your resume is frowned upon almost across the board. In other countries, photos on resumes are the norm. Attending a job fair is the exception to America’s unofficial rule that photos don’t belong on resumes. When you’re meeting with people face-to-face—and when those recruiters might talk to hundreds of people on that day—having your photo on your resume can work to your advantage. It can help a recruiter to put a face with a name, jogging their memory later if needed.
If you do decide to include a photo on your resume, make sure it’s appropriate. Choose a headshot in which you’re dressed professionally, and avoid photos with elaborate backgrounds or settings.
Before attending a job fair, print out more copies of your resume than you think you will need. (You should be able to get either an exact or a ballpark figure of the number of organizations that will be in attendance ahead of time. You should also not expect to talk to every company in attendance.)
A one-page resume is especially important when attending a job fair. With everything a recruiter has to keep track of—all of the company’s promotional materials they’ll hand out, along with all of the resumes and other materials that attendees give to them—having a two-page resume increases your risk of getting lost in the shuffle. Keep everything to one page (which you should be doing for the first several years of your career, anyway. A clear, concise resume is much more powerful than a bloated, padded one).
The resume templates below, all featuring photos and many featuring bright colors, are not right for every situation. A much more traditional resume is needed in most other circumstances. But if a college job fair is in your future, you can’t go wrong with the following resume templates: