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Making the Most of Career Fairs

Adapted from an article published in by Garth Fowler

1) Be Prepared: Do not go to a career fair without the proper preparation. Know yourself and your prospective employers. Working out effective answers to several key questions will help you prepare:

  • What type of job are you looking for right now?
  • What do you see yourself doing in 5, 10 years?
  • What skills and abilities can you offer an employer (it would be best if you can make your answer specific to the employer to whom you are speaking)
  • What evidence can you provide for the quality of your work?

2) Research Employers: Review the list of companies who will be attending the career fair and identify companies that are of interest to you.

  • Find out what jobs they have open and will be recruiting for at the career fair. They may or may not be suitable to your skill set but don?t let that deter you.
  • Review the websites and career pages of the companies in which you?re interested. See what additional jobs they may be hiring for and identify jobs in which you are interested.
  • Before you visit the each company?s booth, review your notes as a refresher. Be prepared with answers to questions they may ask you. Let them know what jobs you are looking for and impress them with your strong focus, preparation and credentials.

3) Prepare Your Answers: Come prepared to answer a variety of questions from company representatives. Here are some likely questions:

  • What kind of research have you carried out?
  • What experimental techniques have you mastered?
  • Are you willing to relocate, and if so, where?
  • When can you start?
  • Why are you interested in our company?
  • Tell me about yourself

4) Develop, Practice, and Perfect the "TMAY Question:" The tell me about yourself question is an opportunity to present a self marketing pitch in a spontaneous, engaging and perfected way.

  • Do not ramble or use overly technical jargon.
  • Think of your top qualifications and frame into a brief statement that helps summarize your experience, education and skills.
  • Be sure to state one solid reason that you would be a good fit for the company- what is it about your background that makes you uniquely qualified?
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

5) Prepare Non-Technical Answers: It is important to recognize that not all recruiters at the career fair are scientists or have a technical background.

  • Try to avoid technical jargon unless you know you are speaking to a scientisttechnical recruiter.
  • Demonstrate your strong communication skills and ability to communicate technical information to non-technical people- it is a skill recruiters look for!

6) Be Presentable: A career fair is a recruiter?s first opportunity to judge you not just as a scientist but also as a potential colleague. This first impression could help land you a job. And you will be judged, in part, by how you look and act, so present yourself well:

  • Dress professionally - suits and ties for men, suits for women. Do not dress provocatively.
  • Make sure your outfit is clean, ironed and buttoned in all the right places.
  • Before you get to a booth, let your hand dry out if it is damp. Give the recruiter a firm, solid shake. Look them in the eye as you introduce yourself.
  • Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. You want to appear confident and sure of your skills and experience.

7) Follow-up: Attending a career fair is rarely enough to land you a job. Your self marketing plan is just getting started. The next step is to follow up with the company representatives with whom you met:

  • Immediately following the career fair, or after you visit the company booth, take the business cards and fact sheets you collected and jot notes about the conversations you had with each recruiter.
  • Determine the best way to follow up with each: sending a resume, calling a hiring manager, or sending a short thank you note. Re-express your interest in the company and position, and reiterate your skills and how you can contribute.