How To Stand Out At A School Career Fair

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Standing out at a career fair

When speaking with an accounting club recently, the topic of how to stand out at a school career fair as a quality applicant came up.  In this particular discussion, we were talking about a very unique career fair where everyone there would be an accounting major.  Although it was unique in that respect, it wasn’t all that unique overall in that it happens at universities all across the nation.  The schools work hard to provide career opportunities for the students, and to provide a quality experience for the employers as well.  However, it becomes difficult to stand out as an individual when everyone there has similar education and has been given similar guidelines for how to present themselves.

So how do you stand out in a group where everyone has the exact same educational background as you do?  The answer is that it takes some effort, but it definitely isn’t impossible.  Below are some key tips for making sure the employers you meet will remember you:

  • Follow the rules, but be creative. Some schools have guidelines for what your resume should look like.  You definitely need to follow the university’s rules, but look for small ways to be a little unique.  Perhaps you can try adding a border to your resume or using non-traditional paper stock.  Or if paper resumes aren’t being used, perhaps you should have a business card with your contact information on it.  Or if many students are using cards, perhaps a colored card would be unique.  Or even a vertically printed card or something with a unique shape.  Find some way to make your ‘leave-behind’ memorable.  It doesn’t have to be crazy, just something that will catch their attention.
  • Add some color. If you anticipate the career fair to be a sea of black suits, another way to stand out is to add a little bit of color.  You still want to portray a professional image of course, but adding a little color to your wardrobe makes a dramatic difference when everyone else is wearing the typical dark suit.  Don’t go overboard, but something as simple as a coat pocket handkerchief for guys, or a colored accessory for ladies, can help you to stand out a little.  Obviously you still need to make a good impression through your conversation as well, but if you do, the slight visual difference will help you be more memorable.
  • Relate personally to the recruiter. When you speak with the company representatives, you definitely will end up talking about your experience, education, and career desires.  However, it shouldn’t end at that.  If you want to be memorable, ask them something about their own careers or what they appreciate about their role.  And then most importantly, find some way to relate to what they talk about.  If you can find some commonality in the few minutes that you have, it will make you more memorable later on as they consider who they want to talk to further.
  • Research if possible.  If you know in advance which employers will be attending, and which ones you are most interested in, do some advance research on their recent news or other items that may be important to them.  Many job seekers and students walk up to an employer’s table at a career fair prepared to talk about themselves, but most don’t come prepared to have a conversation about what may be important in the employer’s world.  If you know just a few key facts about recent news or happenings with the employer or in their industry, that is a great way to be remembered as the type of knowledgeable candidate that they will likely want to get to know better.
  • Smile. Yes!  And lastly smile.  As crazy as it sounds, sometimes simply looking friendly will distinguish you from the other attendees.  Not that everyone else isn’t friendly, but so many are nervous that it affects their facial expressions.  If you remember to breathe, relax, and smile as you approach the employer, it will lighten the mood and make for a better experience for you both.

These tips are relatively simple, but sometimes can be forgotten as we are trying to make sure we follow the guidelines set forth by the organizers of a career fair.  There again, always make sure you are following the rules as specified by the individuals in charge.  However, if you can find a way to professionally stand out, it’s likely to benefit you as the employers decide who they will contact later about an opportunity.

As always, I wish you the best in your career.

Mark Goldman CPA

(For additional thoughts on preparing yourself for a successful accounting career, check out our book titled “49 Tips For A Successful Accounting Career” either here on our website or on Amazon)