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Tips for Doing Your Best at UIUC’s Career Fairs

Every semester UIUC hosts some career fairs. Here are some tips to be successful at these fairs:

  • Start going to career fairs early in college, and go multiple times. As with most things in life, you’ll perform better at career fairs with experience. So don’t wait until Spring semester of your senior year to dust off your professional attire for your first campus career fair.* Challenge yourself to go to a career fair as a freshman, sophomore, or junior, even if you aren’t sure yet what you want to do after graduation. Each time you go, you’ll become more comfortable with the process. Think of your first career fair experience(s) as a trial run, an opportunity to work through issues in your elevator pitch or your interviewing strategies. If the first time doesn’t go well, don’t get discouraged! Use it as a learning experience, and know that you’ll be better off the next time you go because you’ll know what to expect.(*If you’re reading this now as a graduating senior and you haven’t yet attended a career fair, don’t panic! You can still be successful at the upcoming career fairs!)
  • Do your research ahead of time. You should read about each of the companies and their available positions online at least a couple days before the career fair. Companies attending the Business Career Fair are listed on Handshake. Give yourself time to explore, since many companies and organizations will be in attendance. As you conduct research, prepare specific questions for career fair recruiters that will demonstrate your familiarity with the company and your interest a position.
  • You can make a free professional-looking nametag for the Business Career Fair ahead of time at the Career Center. (If you register in advance for the Arts and Culture Career Fair, there will be a nametag for you at the event.)
  • You can get a free professional photo taken at the Business Career Fair. If the line for photos is long, you might get a photo taken after you’ve talked to recruiters. This could be a great photo to use on your LinkedIn profile!
  • For the Business Career Fair, bring one copy of your résumé for each company you hope to talk to. For the Arts & Culture Career fair, you should bring résumés for each organization you’re interested in, plus 3 to 5 extra.
  • Because your résumé should tell a story about why you’re the person for a particular job, you may want to tailor your résumé to specific positions, in which case you may want to bring multiple versions of your résumé. If you do make multiple versions, be sure you remember which version you plan to use for each company.
  • If you have a suit for the Business Career Fair, great! Wear it. If you don’t have a suit, you don’t have to go out and buy one to do well at the Business Career Fair. Just do your best to blend in by wearing nice, inconspicuous business attire. Choose a conservative color scheme and tone down (or skip) the accessories.
  • Make notes on the back of business cards after you’ve talked with someone, especially if you have a good conversation.
  • Send follow-up emails to the recruiters with whom you spoke, attaching a PDF of your résumé, conveying your interest, describing follow-up actions, and including LinkedIn or other relevant social media links in your signature line.

If you’d like to review your resume, practice your pitch, discuss the pros and cons of attending, or practice parsing job descriptions, make an appointment with Kirstin Wilcox by emailing kwilcox@illinois.edu.