Stand out in a crowd: Advice on how to get noticed at a job fair

With over 150 employers and 1,500 students expected to be in attendance at this year’s Employment Opportunities Conference (EOC), participating students may wonder what steps they can take to stand out in the crowd of applicants. The difficulty of making an impression among hundreds of other Carnegie Mellon students seems daunting, and with only a few moments to talk to each representative, extra effort before the event may be the key to hitting it off with a dream employer. Luckily, according to Carnegie Mellon’s Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC), there are a few simple steps that can set a student apart from his or her peers.

Perfect your résumé

Before walking into Wiegand Gymnasium this Thursday, students should set aside a few minutes to be sure that they have properly prepared for potential employers. One simple step for students is to take another look at their résumés before printing off extra copies for the event. Students should make sure that the document is as up-to-date and clear as possible. A readable résumé that allows prospective employees to quickly gain an understanding of a student’s experiences and talents is important. The CPDC recommends that students limit their résumés to one page long.

Font choice can also be an important concern when considering résumé readability. “You should always use a sans-serif font so that employers can quickly skim your resume,” senior business administration major Yon Zloof said. The CPDC recommends students use Arial or Helvetica as their sans-serif font of choice. For other concerns, students can set up a meeting with a representative from the CPDC to look over a final copy before the big day.

Develop an elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a key part of the understanding that prospective employers gain about students in attendance. As the CPDC Job Fair Success Guide explains, “Preparing your pitch is useful in introducing yourself at a career fair.” An ideal elevator pitch should provide the listener with a brief overview of an individual’s relevant background. The message a student presents should be clear and concise, delivering useful information within a 30-second time period. Researching the companies a student plans to approach can make the difference between presenting an irrelevant elevator pitch and presenting one that matches the interests and needs of the employer. Students should spend time in advance researching recruiters that they are interested in. For the EOC, this information is readily available — students can review companies that will be in attendance on the CPDC website.

Choose appropriate attire

Dress and personal appearance are key aspects of how students present themselves to a company representative. The CPDC has a variety of recommendations for student attire, whether for interviewing or for attending a job fair such as the EOC. Students should plan outfits that are professional and in line with the expected attire of their industry of choice. While the specific elements of an individual’s attire can vary, clean, pressed, and presentable clothes are a must. However, a professional appearance does not mean that students have to stifle their creativity. The CPDC recommends tasteful jewelry and accessories to add an extra element to a professional outfit.

Whether students choose a basic suit or spruce their attire up with accessories, the CPDC reminds students that “a ‘dressed for success’ appearance creates a positive impact.”

With a few tips from the CPDC and their peers, students can be sure to make an impact at this semester’s EOC. For more advice, students should visit the CPDC website and check out the available Career Success guides at www.studentaffairs.cmu.edu/career/index.html.