career staff has seen and heard some truly cringe-worthy moments at the many on-campus career fairs that we attend every year. Our employer clients also share some bizarre career fair stories with us. The results of these employer-student interactions were less than impressive, so here are a few mistakes career fair attendees should avoid:


Parents! A college student took along their dad for moral support and to listen-in to their kid’s conversations with employers at a career fair. Even if your mom or dad is a “helicopter parent,” insist they stay away for the day. They won’t be able to join you on the job anyway!


Poor dress choices. Think about the power of first impressions. We’ve seen students who look like they just rolled out of bed with wrinkled jeans, mismatched socks, and a bad hair day, chewing gum and intent on their mobile phone. Dress appropriately for the professional atmosphere, not like you’re ready for a night out. Ensure you can bend over without embarrassment! Shoes are a common problem, so make sure yours are clean and comfortable. Practice wearing your new dress shoes before the fair; stay clear of too-high heels or platforms that make you stumble.


Who/what are you? Research employers that will be at the fair, and make sure you’re talking to the right organization. The first mistake in this realm is admitting “I’ve never heard of your company. What do you do?” We’ve also heard a student telling an employer everything they knew about their company; however, they had the wrong company. After realizing this the student ran away from the booth!


Over-confidence. A senior college student approached an employer and asked what upper management positions were open like CFO or CEO, then proceeded to tell the employer why they (the student) would be qualified for those positions. Consider instead asking about training programs or what positions are available for new graduates.


On the other hand, under-selling yourself. A student was conversing with an employer about what types of jobs they had open, when the student blurted out, “Can I just be the girl that poses for your banner photos?” Whether it was serious or sarcasm, instead be ready to tell what you can do, and not what you’ll settle for.


Speaking of humor, uncomfortable, corny joke introductions are a no-no. We’ve overheard a student approaching an employer’s booth with this classic: “How much does a fat penguin weigh?” The employer said, “Uh, I don’t know?” Student says, “Enough to break the ice,” then holds out his hand and introduces himself. The employer will probably remember him, but not for the right reasons!


Shopping spree. Don’t come to a career fair with a huge empty sack, grabbing giveaways at each booth. Accept any material or swag the company offers you and tuck it away securely. Don’t load up on giveaways from companies that you have no interest in.


Ready to start practicing your career fair moves? Check out our list of upcoming career fairs.

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