Dyllan’s declassified career fair survival guide

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By: Dyllan Brown-Bramble, Rutgers University – Newark

It is that time of the year. Big companies and firms are sending recruiters to career fairs all across the country to begin recruiting interns and employees for Summer 2018. So, you’ve reviewed Career Fair Do’s and Don’ts and made it through the career fair, but you are not finished just yet. There are still a few more steps you should take that can set you apart from other interested candidates, help you build your network, and help you improve for next time.

1) Send a follow-up thank you email

This is perhaps the MOST important thing to remember. Always send a thank you note to any recruiters you speak to and send them within 24 hours, if possible. When you are at a career fair that recruiter has spoken to dozens of other potential candidates, but you would be surprised how many simply never follow up. People often wait for the recruiter to do the follow-up and in doing so miss an opportunity.

If you are one of the few people to send a thank you note it can put you back on the recruiter’s radar, give you a chance to build a rapport with them, show them how interested you are in the company and set you apart from other potential candidates from the job fair.

Make sure that the message you send it not a generic one that you are sending to everyone. By mentioning things that you spoke with them about, things about their work or the company that interest or excite you, or a little bit about why you are interested you give the letter a personal touch and conveys a real interest in the company. This also gives the recruiter more information so that they can engage back with you.

Do not forget to attach your resume to the thank you email. That way, the recruiter has all the information they need in one email and does not have to go scouring through a pile of resumes to find yours. Triple-check that your email is well-written and does not contain any typos or grammatical errors.

Avoid this type of generic thank-you:

To Whom It May Concern:

Thank you for speaking to me at the career fair. It was nice meeting you. Let me know if any jobs are available.



2) Email companies who you didn’t get a chance to speak with

Career fairs are often packed, meaning you may not be able to speak with every company in which you are interested. Recruiters understand that and will hand out their business card to you and encourage you to reach out. Seize that opportunity. Yes, it is best if you can have a meaningful conversation at the fair, but it can be impossible to meet with everyone.

Instead, send them an email (within 24 hours) thanking them for giving you their information, expressing regret for not being able to have a conversation in person, and telling them about your background and interest in their company. You can also ask any questions you may have about the company and be sure to attach your resume. This is an excellent way to build a relationship and may lead to them inviting you to meet with them or scheduling a call so you can learn more.

3) Connect with them on LinkedIn

During the Braven Accelerator, you learn how LinkedIn is a powerful and convenient tool for networking. After you send the thank you email, connect with the recruiter on LinkedIn. Just like with the email, make sure to personalize the message that you send when you invite them to connect. In the message, mention where you met and what you discussed to remind them who you are.


Hello Mr./Ms. (name),

I enjoyed meeting you at (career fair name) and discussing (job/internship/program). I would love to connect.

Connecting on LinkedIn will allow you to stay engaged with them beyond the career fair. Once you have started to build a rapport, there may be people in their network that you would be interested in asking them to introduce you to for other opportunities.

4) Continue to follow up with them

Building your network is not a one-and-done kind of process. These are relationships that you must cultivate, nurture and build upon. Whether you are no longer interested in the company, you have taken another position, or they did not offer you the job/internship you wanted these recruiters can still be valuable members of your network.

Things a simple as sending news articles that have to do with topics you have discussed, checking in to see how they are occasionally, keeping them posted on your progress or congratulating them if they get a new position, start a new company or have any other exciting life development are great ways to maintain these relationships. This will boost your human capital and who knows how these relationships may pay off in the future.

The Braven Program Manager at Rutgers-Newark, Lissete, showed me a cool way to keep track of all the people you are networking with and to make sure you are keeping up with them.

You can use a simple Google spreadsheet like this:

Google spreadsheet

5) Reflect/Address any criticism

Going to career fairs is not just about getting a job or internship, it is also an excellent opportunity to grow. This is not the last time you will meet new people, have to share your elevator pitch, or try to make a good impression so you want to make sure to learn from it.

If any of the recruiters give you any feedback, make sure that you reflect on it and address it afterward. For example, if a recruiter says they want someone with strong written skills and you do not feel that describes you, consider taking a writing class, visiting your schools writing center or practicing on your own. If you went to the career fair with a friend, ask your friend if there is anything that they think you can improve. This may seem awkward, but your friends know you better than the recruiters do and they may catch things that the recruiters did not. Just because the recruiter did not notice something does not mean that you shouldn’t try to improve.

Finally, the most important thing is to engage in self-reflection. Later that night, or maybe the next day or two, give yourself some time to sit down and think about the experience. Ask yourself:

  • What went well? Why?
  • What did not go well? Why?
  • What do I need to work on for next time?
  • How interested am I in the companies I spoke to?
  • Why am I interested in those companies?
  • Why did I decide to talk to them?
  • What are the next steps?

Going through this reflection will not only help you to improve for the next networking opportunity, but it will also help you be more thoughtful as you continue to connect with the people you met at the career fair.

6) Continue applying

Be aware that things do not always pan out the way you had hoped. Although you were prepared and engaged, you may not be a good fit for those companies with whom you engaged. Do not put all of your eggs in one or two baskets. Do your research, keep networking, and continue to apply to other companies that pique your interest and provide opportunities for you to develop. You never know, they may end up being a perfect fit.

7) Be on the lookout for other career fairs

It is career fair season, not career fair day. There likely will be more career fairs at your school or in the area. Take all that you learned from the previous career fairs, adjust your strategy, rinse and repeat. The perfect job for you is out there, but to get it you have to put yourself out there and you have to be prepared.