Essentials for career fairs

University career fairs can sometimes seem like madhouses with hundreds of employers visiting each day and an even greater number of students passing through the fairs. Nevertheless, it’s important to remain collected and professional when presenting yourself to the people who may soon be hiring you for a full-time position or summer internship. Following are five things to bring to the Business Opportunities Conference (BOC) and Technical Opportunities Conference (TOC) to make sure you strike the perfect first impression.

The right attire

Looking like you know what you’re doing is half the battle at a career fair. To make your attire reflect the confidence employers want to see in candidates, stick to a formal dress code. For men, wear a business suit with a solid shirt or one that has a clean pattern. Tuck in your shirt, and wear a belt even if you don’t need one.

Don’t forget a tie and a pair of black or brown shoes to finish off your look. For women, wear a suit or a skirt with a suit jacket. Stick to neutral colors like black or gray, and wear heels to complement the outfit. Both men and women should take the time to iron out wrinkles in your pants and shirt and to brush off any smudges that may be lingering on your jacket. As for hygiene, make sure your hair is cleaned up — cut and combed — and you look as if you got more than your fair share of sleep the night before, even if you haven’t.

Lists of companies to visit

Before attending fairs, visit the Career and Professional Development Center’s career fair webpages to view the companies coming to campus. Research those companies and make a list of the ones that seem to be good fits for your interests. For the companies you’re head over heels for, consider spicing up your résumé and making unique copies, rather than a general résumé, to focus on the qualities you know those companies are looking for. Hand your general résumé out to the companies you’re less interested in, but would still be happy to work for. By researching companies beforehand, you’re sure to make a better impression with recruiters. Knowing a company’s work and how you can specifically help the company will definitely make you stand out from the rest of the pack.

A portfolio for résumés

Have a handful of résumés, but don’t know what to do with them? Take a trip to the University Bookstore to pick up a portfolio. These firm folders for your papers will round out your professional look.

Not only do they look sleek, but they also ensure that you won’t have any résumé snafus, such as dropping all your papers or accidentally handing a recruiter a résumé crafted for another company. These handy folders will allow you to organize your résumés, and possibly a list of references and samples of your work if your field typically requires those elements.

Portfolios are easy to tuck under your arm and walk with, so you won’t even know it’s there.

A water bottle and food

Career fairs can become packed and hectic. To give yourself some relief in your multiple layers of clothing, bring a water bottle. Take a drink if you’re feeling hot or overwhelmed for refreshing relief.

Staying hydrated will ensure that you are focused before you visit the companies that potentially hold your dream jobs. Before the fair, also make sure to eat. Sometimes, you may find yourself waiting in unexpectedly long lines, which could cut into time allotted for lunch after the fair. Even if the fair isn’t crowded, it’s always better to be overprepared rather than unprepared.

The right attitude

Remember that you’re at the career fair to land a job or internship. Act that way. Approach all recruiters as if you want nothing more than to work for their company. Greet them enthusiastically and shake their hand firmly.

Show them what qualifies you for a position at their company through an already prepared speech, but be sure to be flexible in what you’ve prepared if the recruiter has other plans for your conversation. Be ready to answer some tough questions, and don’t break a sweat if you’re not able to adequately answer one. Answer it to the best of your ability and get ready for the next question. Ask the recruiter some questions yourself to show your interest and ensure that a position at the business is something you truly want to pursue. Thank the recruiter at the end of your conversation and follow up with an email after.