Career fairs are highly important both in the eyes of the employers and the potential employees. It gives the perfect opportunity to the employers to meet, teach and interview potential candidates while providing instant employment, industry exposure, networking opportunities and guidance to the prospective employees. It becomes particularly important for international students to attend these career fairs as they face a lot of hurdles when they apply for jobs, internships or work placements due to issues such as visa problems, cultural barriers, etc. Getting an international education is tough, and many international students leave their country and move to a new one not just to pursue their education but they also have aspirations to work, or at least intern, at the host country during or after their studies. Therefore, these career fairs provide them the opportunity to meet their prospective employers one-on-one and reap all the benefits mentioned above. However, just attending a career fair won’t secure you a job offer. You need to stand out from the crowd to attract the attention of your prospective employers. Here’s how you can do it:
- Do your research – It’s important to do a thorough research and prepare yourself before attending a career fair. For instance, review the online directory of employers who are going to attend the fair and decide which employers you want to connect with first and prioritize them. Then do a little digging about the background of their company and the type of job opportunities they provide so that you can ask very focused and specific questions. The employers really appreciate it when the prospective employers take the initiative to research about their company as it shows them that they are genuinely interested. Also if you’re an international student, it becomes more important for you to do a background search so that you can target employers with a history of hiring international employees on work visas as they are more likely to sponsor you than others who have never hired internationally before.
- Be Confident – International students often feel hesitant and reluctant while interacting with others, mainly due to language barriers and cultural differences. And to add fuel to the fire, when you’re meeting your prospective employer it can make you even more nervous and add that extra pressure. However, do not lose your confidence. As you approach each table, be confident, friendly and assertive. Introduce yourself with a smile; make eye contact and a brief firm handshake. Having an elevator pitch ready will also make you stand out from the crowd. Remember that your confidence will overshadow most of your shortcomings. So have some faith and confidence in yourself.
- Confidence: One of the fastest ways to turn off a recruiter is to appear overly nervous. Though you are nervous, build a little confidence on yourself.
- Leadership: Every recruiter has some ranking for leadership potential in a candidate. Show some of your leadership capabilities at career fairs and events.
- Etiquette: It is important in making a lasting positive first impression and so you should build some basic etiquette.
- Dress Appropriately – Make sure that you dress appropriately so that people will take you seriously. How you present yourself is very important. While it is important to dress professionally but at a career fair you want to be comfortable too. It is better to wear a light outfit that won’t get too hot and wear comfortable shoes because you will be on your feet for several hours. While campus attire is acceptable for fairs, you will probably be most comfortable if you at least dress in “business casual.” Do not wear too much of cologne, perfume or apply heavy makeup and wear flashy jewelry.
- Prepare your Pitch – As an international student it becomes even more important to have a pitch ready when the classic “Tell me about yourself” question is thrown at you. It will give the employer a general understanding of your background and what caused you to be interested in their company. Your pitch should include your name, a brief statement about yourself and why you’re interested in the company you’re talking too. Use your time wisely and be concise as you would not get much time to make your impression before the recruiter is on to the next person. The best way to perfect your elevator pitch is to practice and rehearse it. Remember to include your key strengths, real life examples and information that can bring positive benefits to your professional arena but make it credible, clear and compelling.
- Apply online after you meet with a company representative – For the employers who are on your target list, make sure to access their job listings page and apply online instead of just doing research about their company. Then you can later tell the employer that you’ve already applied before talking to them. This will show the prospective employer that you are serious about your career. You can also apply after attending the career fair and use the knowledge and insight that you gained from interacting with the recruiter at the fair to highlight what’s really important from the organization’s point of view. And don’t forget to reference the conversation that you had with the recruiter.
- Work on your resume – Take time to review, update and target your resume. Customize your resume according to the job description, goals and objectives of your target companies to grab your recruiter’s attention. According to hackernoon.com, about 50% of recruiters that they talked to said that many students don’t bring their resumes. Therefore, always bring more resumes than you think you need. It’s better to have too many than too few. Also hand out your resume to the recruiter as you’re speaking about yourself and point out the places that substantiate what you’re saying instead of waiting until the end of the meeting. This will draw their attention to your resume and make you stand out from other faces at the table.
- Follow-up – It is vital to follow up with an e-mail or thank you note within 24-48 hours of the career fair and ask them for business cards. Do not copy and paste messages but you can keep them short and don’t forget to personalize them to each company and recruiter. This will show the recruiter that you’re interested in their job positions and company.