How to act at a career fair

If you haven’t been living under a rock, then you know that it’s job application season here at Duke University. Freshly returned from their summer internships, students have wasted no time in turning around and starting the whole process over again. For some, this is an invigorating prospect; for others, such as myself, it is stressful and sometimes overwhelming.

Regardless of your outlook on the job search process, you probably have made time in your schedule for one of the great hallmarks of employment: the Career Fair. There are many such events around Duke in the fall, from the generalist’s Career Fair to specialty forums like TechConnect for the more hardcore STEM enthusiasts. Whatever your passions may be, navigating career fairs can be tough. After all, there are dozens if not hundreds of companies to choose from, hundreds of other students milling around and only so many hours in a day to spend schmoozing the company representatives. After attending the Fall Career Fair and seeing which strategies worked and which did not, I decided to write up a list of tips and tricks that will help you dominate your next career fair.

1. Your backpack is your greatest weapon. With only a backpack and a mildly distracted air, you can carve out ten square feet of standing space for yourself, which is crucial when you are struggling to get face-time with a recruiter. A normal college student’s backpack containing only a single textbook weighs over 12,000 pounds, and when swung at the speed of a typical turning motion it will impact its target with the force of a mid-size rhinoceros at full gallop. Upon slamming into the face, sternum, and/or stomach of your desired victim, your backpack will immediately knock them backwards or to the ground, freeing up the space that they were rudely occupying. Plus, if you’re spacey enough, you won’t even have to say “sorry!” You might feel dorky wearing a backpack over a suit or a nice dress, but rest assured that it will end up coming in handy.

2. Recruiting representatives are savage, wild animals. When aggravated, they won’t hesitate to tear your career aspirations to shreds. As with bears, lions and cougars, recruiters consider eye contact a sign of aggression, so to maintain proper safety, avoid eye contact with any recruiters unless you explicitly intend to engage them in conversation. For example, when passing by a booth you don’t intend to stop at, let your face go slack and your eyes become glazed and tired-looking. The recruiters will mistake you for carrion and will leave you alone.

3. Make sure to ask the recruiters their names, and repeat their names back to them slowly so that you never forget them. Never.

4. Hand every recruiter that you talk to at least three copies of your resume. After career fairs are over, recruiters engage in an ancient and mystical ritual in which they burn the first-handed-in resume of every applicant over a dumpster fire. The second resume is typically consumed as part of a post-career fair feast, along with small pieces of candy and bottled water. Only the third resume is actually read and discussed. The religious practices of recruiters are poorly understood.

5. There are only seven jobs given out every year, so competition is fierce. Remember that every time someone you know gets a job, there is one less job available for you, so you had better do your best to beat everybody else around you. Career fairs and job offers aren’t about finding out what makes you happy or fulfilled, they’re about measuring your success relative to that of other Duke students. Being happy for a friend who gets a job is tantamount to admitting that you are a disappointment and a leech on society. Pray for the failure of your loved ones and enemies alike. Subjugate your competitors.

6. Dress professionally.

7. You might get nervous when you’re talking to a recruiter, so keep a few airline/minibar-sized bottles of booze in your pockets. Knocking back a few drinks will help calm you down, and nothing displays confidence more than taking down a shot of bad tequila without the slightest hesitation.

8. Send follow-up emails to recruiters that you met. Make sure that they know that they were your favorite recruiter of the day, and that they are special. A compliment about their physical appearance will help show them that you really care.

With these handy career fair hacks up your sleeve, you’re ready to take on your next career fair in style! Good luck finding a job, fellow students. Just don’t take mine.


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