Every year in June, the Career Center hosts the Just in Time Job Fair, an event for students to learn about job and internship opportunities—or, in the case of graduating seniors, immediate full-time gigs. Employers from multiple industries will be seeking applicants with various majors and levels of experience, so it’s a great opportunity for anybody who is seeking employment as the academic year comes to a close.

Given that this particular fair is an ideal fit for just about everyone, it’s even more important that you prepare in advance as to increase your chances of standing out.

Here are four key tips for maximizing your job fair experience and wowing recruiters.

Research Companies in Advance

Prior to every major job fair, a list of organizations that will be in attendance—along with company bios and open position descriptions—is available on Handshake. The day of the fair, this information is also available on our CareerFair+ app and in a physical program you can pick up at the registration table. Even with this information at their fingertips, some job seekers will walk up to employers and ask questions like, “Who are you and what are you hiring for?” Given that the answers to these questions and others like them are available in advance, it can make a job seeker seem unprepared and make for a weak first impression.

Before speaking with any employer, take some time to review the company bio and have a basic understanding of the types of positions they are hiring for. Better yet, consider researching the company website, as this will allow you to gather even more background. With more information and talking points under your belt, you will feel more confident approaching representatives, and ultimately it will lead to stronger conversations at the fair.

Bottom line: An intro like, “In researching the company website, I noticed that you seek applicants with x, y, and z experience. I’d love to share with you how my experiences position me as an ideal match with what you are looking for,” will stand out more than, “So what exactly does your company do?”

Practice Your Pitch

In addition to thinking about what types of questions to ask employers, you want to also prepare how to communicate your background and experiences. When an employer says, “Tell me a little about yourself,” what they’re really looking for is something closer to a 30-second pitch. What is that and how can you master it? Here are quick steps for creating your pitch:

  1. Begin with a current perspective (e.g. “I’m a junior at DePaul majoring in accounting…”).
  2. Then, share recent experiences (this could be a sentence or two about a past job or internship, a relevant course project, and/or involvement in student organizations).
  3. Finally, end with how these experiences and your future goals directly correlate with the company you’re speaking with.

Practice makes perfect, though. We will have Career Center representatives available the day of the fair to help you perfect your pitch.

Devise a Plan of Attack

Before stepping foot inside the fair, take some time to plan out not only which companies you want to speak with, but the order you want to speak to them in. This is important because you never want to start with a company you’re most passionate about. Instead, choose an employer you’re interested in, but whom you would also feel comfortable “warming up” with; this way, if your nerves get the best of you, there’s still time to make a strong impression with your “top” employers.

Another factor that might impact whom you speak with right away is traffic. Some companies will have a longer line of students than others, which may also mean that you have a limited amount of time to make an impression. If employers have smaller lines, this may mean that you can have a lengthier conversation, ask more questions, and ultimately make a stronger impression.

Collect Business Cards & Follow-up

Make sure to collect business cards from everyone you speak with, and send them a thank you email within 24-48 hours after the fair. Many applicants know to do this after a job interview, but neglect to do so following a career fair. Sending a brief thank you email is a great way to reiterate your interest in the company, as well as highlight any specific information that was shared that piqued your interest. Since a smaller portion of job seekers will think to do this, it can help you stand out even more following the fair.

Remember, take some time to research company representatives in advance, and consider stopping by the Career Center to have your resume reviewed beforehand. Before jumping into the fair, think about how you will communicate your experiences in a brief, 30-second pitch. And, if you want to practice your intro and networking tactics, visit a Career Center rep at the fair—they’ve got your back.