Alumni Advice: Career Fair Connections

The Spring 2024 Career Fair is coming to campus on February 14th! We took this opportunity to alumni on St. Thomas Connect, “What advice do you have for students hoping to make great impressions with employers at career fairs?” Check out their top tips below! You can get even more great advice by attending an upcoming Career Fair Prep event where alumni and staff will be available to review your resume and help you perfect your elevator pitch. Visit our Career Fair Prep Page to sign up for these events and get even more resources to prepare for the fair!

Do your research.

“‘Pre-shop’ the companies that are attending the fair and learn about them. Choose a few companies that you’re very interested in and learn more, then engage in conversation with the representatives at the booth. Prepare a few questions so you can learn more about the company: “Your website says the company culture is _____, can you share some examples of that?” A career fair is your opportunity to learn more and make a connection. Ask about internships too! (Inside scoop) The companies at the fair, most likely favor St. Thomas graduates as future hires, which is a benefit for you!”

Linda Lysdahl, M.A., Learning Solutions Specialist – Royal Credit Union

“Find out the specific organizations that will be attending the fair. Identify the ones you are interested in an do some research on those organizations. Also, dress professional, it makes a difference.”

John Alpers, Assistant Professor – Carson-Newman University

“First know the company, what they make, what’s their mission. Then describe how you can add value.”

David Rumpf, Retired Chief Consulting Engineer for Applied Statistics – GE Aviation

“This is pretty standard advice: target a company you really want to work for in your field of choice, and research as much as you can find out about that company. Then you can formulate questions to ask that demonstrate to the interviewer your interest and depth of knowledge. Be friendly and flexible.”

Timothy Moran, Retired newspaper reporter, and public information officer

Come prepared.

“Have some questions thought out in advance. Do your research on your desired potential employers. At the career fair, start off with organizations not at the top of your desired list in order to get some practice (but still engage sincerely). Then move on to the organizations that are on the top of your list.”

Jon Ruzek, Independent Consultant

“Be organized and prepared. Have resume ready in printed and virtual formats. Be inquisitive about the companies your meet. Be polite but engaging. Remember there is a buck to be made in many different industries so be open to different job opportunities.”

Mike Harper, Chairman – Summit Group LLC

“Come prepared with an updated resume; you may also want to have a letter of recommendation; lastly, dress for success, you only have one chance for a first impression.”

Linda Ladley, Senior Project Manager – PinPoint Consulting

Make a great impression.

“Be professional, courteous, and do research about the event and employers ahead of time to make yourself stand out.”

Jeff Sevaldson, Director – Merkle

“Have your elevator pitch down. Be able to tell the employers who YOU are, not just what you can do. Be ambitious”

Japel Hook, CEO – Lions Den Sports Management

“Be confident and introduce yourself. Give a good handshake and ask a relevant question about the company or the person. Have a “because” statement ready. I am interested in your company BECAUSE!”

Jake Bourassa, Product Manager

“First impressions are vital at career fairs. Representatives make notes, creating a visual to go along with the resume for when they debrief after the event. For example: ‘Great Tie’ or ‘Bright Red Scarf’. Take some time to look good and smile!!!”

Tom Fischer, Retired Sr. Program Manager – Medtronic

“First impressions matter! Dress nicely and come prepared to pitch yourself, but also have good questions for the recruiters. Think about bringing a creative leave-behind or find another way to stand out from the crowd (especially if you’re an introvert like me!)”

Jennifer Harrison, Executive Director – Dakota Woodlands

Be open and honest.

“I would advise students hoping to make great impressions with employers to show their aptitude and willingness to learn. Employers today generally hire for aptitude, attitude, and malleability. Hard skills of a job can be taught, but an eager, passionate, humble individual can thrive in any environment if they’re willing to share knowledge and eager to learn. If students can show employers their confidence and humility in a first interaction, it’s likely they’ll get calls back in today’s talent landscape.”

Lexy Johnson, Executive Search Consultant (Recruiting) – Cultura Solutions

“BE HONEST!!! I have found in my career being upfront and honest about my strongest skills and my skills needing development has won me so many job opportunities. The last thing you want to do is oversell yourself and under deliver your work product. Employers value honesty, because for them, it shows you’re upfront about your abilities and whether they can train you or not. There will always be a job that fits you, so be real with yourself and with them, it’ll get you far in any industry!”

Leigh Hartenberg, LICSW, Independent Consultant and Adjunct Professor, St. Catherine University

“Treat your experience at St. Thomas like a job fair- Meet everybody, be adventurous, try everything, go outside your comfort zone.”

Japel Hook, CEO – Lions Den Sports Management

By Marit Aaseng
Marit Aaseng Assistant Director, Career Readiness