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How to maximize your next Career Fair


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It wasn’t until my Junior year in college that I began to understand the importance of going to a career fair. I would constantly receive emails regarding them but upon simply reading the title, I found myself moving them into the trash folder. After nearly two years of dodging these emails, I finally realized that my professors and colleagues were right. I decided that it was time to buckle down and prepare myself for my future.

Did I know what I was getting myself into? Of course not. But I knew that with the proper steps and right guidance, I would be able to make the most out me going to my first career fair. It was time to take action but I know one thing for sure: preparation is key.

Do research the companies

One great piece of advice that I received from my Accounting professor regarding career fairs is to first do research on the companies that will be in attendance. In order to maximize the effectiveness/efficiency of your research, you should:

  • Review the list of all the companies that will be represented
  • Pick out the companies that you are most interested in. Within those, pick out your top 3
  • Jot down anything you see fit as a reference point for conversation. You can write down information about the CEO, an office location or HQ, the name of a managing partner, etc.

Recruiters love to see that you are interested in their company and that you’ve done some homework on them. A little research can go a long way.

Know what you are getting yourself into

So the big day is here! You’re in your professional clothes and you arrive at the scene while noticing that there are hundreds of students dressed like you. When it comes to career fairs, it’s important that you know what you are getting yourself into. The lines of people at the Big 4 firms will more than likely be longer than the other ones in the room, but do not let this discourage or overwhelm you.

Some find it easier to first talk to a smaller company on their list in order to ease and relax their nerves. Then eventually you can work your way towards the companies that were top 3 on your list.

When speaking with the recruiter(s), remember to always:

  • Smile
  • Ask questions
  • Be yourself

If you come across as likable, curious, and professional, you will already be a step ahead of 70% of your peers.

Give the recruiter something to remember

You just had a great conversation with the recruiter. You smiled, asked a few thoughtful questions, and weren’t too robotic or jumpy. You made it through the hard part, but before you wrap things up, there are three crucial things you should do before you walk away from the recruiter:

  • Hand them your resume so they know how to contact you.
  • Ask what they normally like to see on the online application for the position you are interested in.
  • Give a nice, firm handshake and put their business card somewhere that you will not misplace it.

It’s also important that you give the recruiter something to remember you by. Each recruiter has probably talked to 100+ people over the course of the career fair, so the more memorable you can make yourself the better. For example, you could bring up something like a vacation or winter/summer plans so that you can make reference to it in your follow up email.

Your follow up email can be along the lines of the following:

“Hi John Doe,

It was nice chatting with you earlier today at UMD’s career fair! Thank you for your time and explaining xyz to me. I hope that you have a wonderful time with your family in the Dominican Republic this winter break and I look forward speaking with you soon.”

This helps them put a face to a name and will work in your favor as they discuss potential candidates with hiring managers and HR.

Broaden your focus and be open

Although you may have a list of the companies from a specific industry you for sure want to visit, it is okay to broaden your focus and be open to other opportunities. Even if you know you want to go work for a Big 4 firm, take some time to speak with recruiters from other companies. As a Big 4 auditor / tax practitioner / consultant, you need to know about a wide range of industries and companies, and should be taking advantage of every opportunity to learn more. You will also get practice building rapport and building relationships in professional settings, a critical skill in any Big 4 position.

Go crush it

If you’ve made it this far, you’re basically a career fair jedi – Big 4 firms will have no choice but to bring you in for an interview.

What did we miss? Do you have any more tips / tricks you’d like us to share? Any questions on the tips above? Leave a comment or send us a note to [email protected] and let us know.


Editor’s note: Simbiat will be a regular blog contributor going forward. She has a lot of great experience navigating the Big 4 recruiting waters, and will be joining EY in the fall. If there are any particular topics you would to hear from her on, please shoot us a note at [email protected].

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