NSHMBA Career Fair: Work this event like an MBA professional!

  • How can you stand out at such a large event?
  • Who are you hoping to meet?
  • What can you offer a prospective employer? 
  • What are you hoping to learn?
From a recruiters perspective, the main purpose of a Career Fair is to promote the company brand and to meet eligible candidates. From a candidates perspective – they just want a job!

The competition for the best jobs can be very intense. In my private practice, clients hire me to help them in all aspects of their career planning, job search and interview strategy.  The past few years, I'm also being sought out by private clients to help them plan the strategy and tactics to compete at the National Business Career Fairs. There is a lot of competition. This event is the is the 2nd largest of all the MBA career fairs in North America. I help clients identify what makes them unique and how to  differentiate their skill-set from the competition. 

 This year, the NSHMBA Fair is coming to Chicago, Illinois from Oct 9-11th. The top Fortune Companies will be in attendance and so should MBA's. It is a welcoming event and business professionals from diverse backgrounds, career interests and cultures attend each year. Let me share some of my best tips to help you prepare for career fairs. 

A Career Fair, isn’t a first date, it is a first hello. You cannot expect a job from a career fair! There are many interim steps to reach this lofty goal. At the fair, make a great first impression and stand out from the crowd. If you're lucky, you'll score a ticket or invitation to the employer 'after-parties,' and evening social 'mixers'. Go if you're invited! At these events,  practice your networking and communication skills. Exchange business cards and meet decision makers. Recruiters will assess a candidates' demeanor, inter-personal skills, attire and confidence at these socials. If you make a great impression, you may be offered an interview slot during the career fair week. 

With these, reset expectations, you are on track – so let’s begin.


Top 10 Career Fair Strategies

1) Without a Career Fair Action-Plan and Strategy, you are wasting your time and the employers time. Quality of contacts, is much more important than quantity. Prior to the event, review the Career Fair Website. Research the employers and review the list of registered companies. Create a first tier list, second tier list and third tier list of employer that you would like to speak to.

2) Review the exhibitor floor plan – know where you are going. Work the convention floor in an organized manner. Arrive early, begin at the back of the room, where the recruiters are still fresh. You may want to begin with your third tier companies 'just for practice.'


3) Wear comfortable shoes. Ladies, this applies to you! Bring a roomy, briefcase with a shoulder strap.  Sling your bag over your left side. Keep your right hand free, for shaking hands. You do not want to fumble the first impression. Store the brochures you receive in your briefcase or portfolio – not in the free, career fair bag. you receive at the event.

4) Treat the recruiters’ as human beings, not just machines to dispense information and hire people. Don't monopolize their time, when there are many others candidates who are waiting. Be polite. Don't just drop off your resume, this is very 1990's. Make a lasting impression and interact with representatives. 


5) If you only interact with recruiters, you have missed out on 50% of the networking. Interact with the Career Fair organizers, people at the registration desk, career coaches, attend workshops, speak to the presenters. Network with other attendees even while you are standing in line. You never know who you can help or who can help you. 

6) Create a “verbal business card,” your 45-second elevator pitch. Tell employers what you're seeking and the value you can add to the organization. It should not be a memorized speech.

7) Get regular, Business Cards printed. Note: a new trend is creating a mini-resume on your business card. and or creating a digital business card. These look like 3 inch CD's with the ends squared off. Each disk can store your entire website, resume, bio, samples of your projects etc. These are especially hot for professionals in Technology, Social Media and Marketing. There are specialty companies which can burn these mini CD's for you.

8) Proxemics and Body language: strong, firm handshake, project confidence, fresh breath, maintain good eye-contact and smile. Maintain personal space and don’t invade the space of the recruiters. Dress professionally.

9) Some employers may not accept hard copies of resumes, but will ask you to complete an application on their website. Apply for the Career Fair jobs several weeks BEFORE the Career Fair. This is especially essential for National Career Fairs. Many employers create e-resume books from this content and pre-select potential interviewees. Employers can also use this data to get a jump on the competition, and reach out to the best applicants to pre-schedule interviews before the Career Fair. If you've had a pre-interview, then follow-up with the recruiters at the Fair. The more they see you and get to know you, the more they will remember you.  See my blog post on Resume Fashions What's Hot, What's Not!
10) After the fair, follow up! Send a thank you card or letter to employers who spent time with you. By this I mean a traditional, snail mail letter with a stamp and envelope. It is much harder to discard or ignore this, than a quick email which may be discarded. Follow up with select employers and remind them of your conversations and anything that was memorable about you. Delineate how you can contribute and reference any specific jobs you discussed at the fair. See post on Cover Letter Fashions What's Hot, What's Not!

Happy job hunting at the fair!  Check out the UGA University of Georgia Terry MBA College Booth! Keep me posted on your career progression. I'd love to hear your success stories...


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Author: © 2015 -present All Rights Reserved - Sharon B. Cohen, MA, Counseling Psychology, CPRP. Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist. "Virtual Career Counseling: helping business professionals, reach their career potential!"

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