Career Fairs

Internship Fair Tips

An internship fair is a unique and interesting place to look for internship/co-op opportunities or information about the internship/co-op market. Students will improve their chances of making good contacts at these events by following these suggestions:

Learn Who's Coming Ahead of Time

  • The Career Services Internship Fair page includes a link to a list of the employers who will attend the job fair. Check the list often; changes are made daily right up to the day of the fair.
  • The database is searchable by specific majors, job titles, employers, or employment location.
  • Prepare a list of employers who offer the employment opportunities which most closely match your interests and abilities. Consider the employer's products and/or services, location, job responsibilities, and corporate culture.

Contact Employers of Interest Prior to the Job Fair

  • Send a cover letter and résumé (via e-mail or ground mail) to companies you plan to visit at the Job Fair.
  • Explain your interest in the job they have to offer. Point out your educational and career background, qualifications, and experiences that best relate to a specific employer's job requirements.
  • The particular recruiter at the job fair may or may not have seen your letter or résumé, but it can't hurt to mention that contact. It will help them see that you are a serious candidate.
  • Talk to a career counselor if you need advice on how to write a job search letter and résumé. Call (815) 753-1641 to make an appointment, or drop in on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon between 12:00 and 4:00 p.m.

Prepare a 45-Second Verbal Summary of Your Qualifications

  • Be prepared to describe in about 45 seconds your education, work experience, and career interests. Be as specific as possible: "I was program chairman for XYZ club," is better than "I have strong leadership skills." "I wrote a computer program that is currently being used by the company where I did my internship" says more than "I have taken several database management classes." "I worked about 15 hours per week while I carried a full load of classes" is more descriptive than "I have good time management skills."
  • Practice the summary so that you feel comfortable and confident in your presentation, but avoid sounding as though you've memorized a script. Don't read from notes.
  • This summary will be most effective if you have read the employer's job description so that you can relate your qualifications and interests to the job being offered.
  • Reading job descriptions carefully also helps you ask questions based on what you do know, not what you don't know. (Example: I saw in the job description that this position requires occasional relocation during training. Can you tell me some of the locations that might be available?)
  • Don't ask about salary and benefits unless the employer prompts the conversation. If so, offer realistic salary expectations (see or other salary survey sources).

Dress and Act the Part

  • First impressions are critical. Conservative, well pressed, tailored business attire is your best choice.
  • When you find that you are second in line, maintain a two, or three, step distance behind the person who currently has the employer's attention.
  • Approach employers with confidence -- always remember that they are hoping that you will be the star candidate they have been waiting for.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Don't travel in packs. Employers want to talk to you, not you and your friends.
  • Smile. Offer a firm handshake. Chewing gum is inappropriate; so is eating or drinking anything.

Take the Right Things With You

  • You'll want plenty of copies of your résumé. Take a few more than you know you'll need for your "A List."
  • Though you probably won't need them, carry a few copies of your transcript (available in Registration and Records, 2nd floor in Williston), and a list of references. Your transcript will be stamped "unofficial;" that's fine -- employers will expect that.
  • Take your calendar or date book in order to schedule interviews.

Develop a Plan of Action for the Day of the Fair

  • Visit first the employer(s) in whom you have the strongest interest (your "A List").
  • Then visit with employers whose jobs looked like possibilities.
  • Make notes between employer contacts -- preferably on the recruiter's business card or company literature. These notes will be helpful to you as you write thank you letters, prepare for interviews, or evaluate job offers.

Learn What's Going to Happen Next

  • As you leave each employer, ask about the next step in the interview process and how you can advance your candidacy.
  • Be prepared to schedule interviews with employers later in the day or within the following weeks.
  • Ask for a business card from all recruiters with whom you speak. Shake their hands and thank them for their time.

Follow Up With Your Job Leads

  • Write a thank you message (paper or e-mail) to each recruiter you talked to who had jobs in which you were interested. Do not use social thank-you note stationery if you mail a follow-up message. Use standard business correspondence paper.
  • In your message remind the recruiter that you met at the NIU Job Fair, then restate your qualifications for, and interest in, the position.
  • Include a copy of your résumé and any documentation requested at the Job Fair.
  • Did the recruiter say, "Call me sometime soon if you're interested in the job"? That's recruiter code for "If I don't hear from you by the end of the day tomorrow, I won't think you're serious about the job."

Some Practical Suggestions

  • Plan to arrive as close to 10:00 a.m. as possible -- some recruiters may leave before 3:00 p.m.
  • The Huskie Bus runs out to the Convocation Center up to 12 times a day. Though parking is free for the job fair, the bus will drop you at the door. Very convenient.
  • Get something to eat before you go. You'll only find candy and soft drinks out of vending machines at the fair.
  • Locker space isn't very handy, so leave your backpack at home if you can.

Finally, some words of advice: A job fair is really a networking event. Employers are there to meet people, accept résumés, and end the day with good applicants to contact about follow-up interviews. It's true that job interviews have happened at job fairs; however, rarely are job offers made. Your primary goal should be to make some good contacts, learn everything you can about the opportunities available to you through the fair, and follow up as requested.

Good luck in your job search!