Business Horizons Line

Virginia Tech students wait in the check-in line for Business Horizons, Sept. 5 2019

I once scored a huge summer internship simply because I was waiting in line at a job fair.

Seriously, I really did get an internship. I was waiting in line to speak to one of the big, intimidating corporations and perhaps slip my nearly blank resume to its recruiters. The line was basically out of the door, and it passed, rather overshadowed, a dozen other companies. After about a half hour of little to no progress made in line, I started a conversation with someone at one of these companies. We had a good interaction, and I graciously gave him one of my resumes before I moved up in line.

Well, it turned out that he was the vice president of the company and I was hired in a matter of days.

Now I’m not saying that you should get in line at a job fair and expect a job from one of the surrounding companies –– I probably got lucky. However, I do think there is a lot more to standing in line than one might think.

As job fair season begins, there may be a few skills to work on before speaking to your dream company. Some of these skills include warming up before the big question barrage, using normal body language and figuring out how to walk around comfortably in dress clothes.

Luckily, if you are a huge procrastinator like me, you can accomplish all of this while you’re waiting in line. Here are a few activities you can do while you wait for your incredibly nervous shot at a first impression.

Practice your act

In my opinion, talking to a company at a job fair is similar to acting out a scene in a play. There are cues to speak, and there are lines to practice; it is almost all scripted word for word. When talking to a recruiter or representative, they will ask you highly expected questions such as “What is your background?” and “Why do you want to work here?”

While waiting in line, you can tailor your answers to these questions like an actor polishing their dialogue. By imagining the future conversation, you can practice exactly how to speak, act and smile, which will make you look less nervous.

Research your future employers

If you haven’t already done this, you shouldn’t even be looking to speak with them. Luckily, their line is very long, and you have plenty of time to pull your phone out and look at their statistics. Recruiters and representatives would rather talk to people who at least know what they do for a living — especially if you expect them to listen to who you are in return. It’s common courtesy.

Look into the company a little deeper, too. Don’t go to the NASA booth and say, “Wow, so you’re the dudes who went to the moon? Here’s my resume!”

Maybe talk about their company dynamics a little, or why you would make a good fit.

Look nice

Job fairs can be very stressful, especially if you have to wait in a suspenseful line. Take the time to fix your hair. You can straighten out your tie or dress a little. With all of the people in the room, it may get hot wearing business clothes. Bring a handkerchief or a towel to wipe the sweat off your forehead.

Spark a conversation

It’s a no-brainer. If you are in line, you can only check your phone for so long. Start chatting with the other hopefuls in line while waiting. After all, they all likely have the same interests as you if you’re waiting in the same line. You might even make a few friends, even if you are essentially competing against one another.

You can also follow what I did. Try your hand at talking to one of the companies blocked by the huge line you are waiting in. Maybe do a little more research than I did, but I would try it. These are companies that look for people to talk to, not the other way around. They are much more approachable, even if they may be less known. Who knows, you might even get a career out of it.

So next time you find yourself in line at a job fair, consider some of this advice because it might even make the difference between a job and sitting on the couch all summer. I encourage you to make the most out of your time at a job fair in every moment, whether that be conversing with a company directly or waiting in line for your shot at a job.