Career fairs. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re a huge help when it comes to finding a job or internship. Chances are, your school or college offers a career fair every year or semester, and you’re probably thinking about going to one soon.

Nearly everyone wants a good job after graduation, so career fairs are often packed with people. It is easy to get lost in the crowd, unless you know the secrets to standing out to recruiters and rocking the career fair.

How do you stand out from the crowd? What can you do to make sure that the recruiter remembers you long after you’ve left their booth? What can you do to guarantee an interview after the career fair?

At Career In STEM we attend dozens of career fairs across the country each year. We have seen firsthand what works and what does not. If you want to rock the career fair, here are seven secret hacks to make sure that you land your dream job!

1. Get there early!

I know it is cliche but it can’t be said enough – the early bird really does get the worm! Recruiters often arrive 30 minutes to one hour prior to the start time of the event. They are set up and ready to go right when the fair starts – be one of the first faces they see. Attendance at career fairs typically peaks about an hour after the start time.

2. Don’t show up at the last minute

Showing up toward the end of the fair might seem like a good way to avoid the hordes of students, but don’t be tempted to do this. In the last hour of an event, recruiters are tired, hungry, and ready to go home. Chances are they won’t remember you as well as other students they spoke with earlier in the day.

3. Bring resumes – and lots of them

The whole point of a career fair is to get a job, and part of getting a job is being prepared. Thus do NOT arrive at a career fair unprepared! If they are interested in you, recruiters will ask for your resume, and on-the-spot interviews are not uncommon. If you do not have a resume at a career fair, the first impression you will make is that you are unprepared. Obviously this is not a good way to start a relationship with a future employer.

4. Dress the part

Don’t show up in jeans and a t-shirt! You should always dress for the position you want, not the position your have. Whether you like it or not, recruiters will judge your appearance. In a sea of candidates, recruiters are looking for anything to disqualify candidates off the bat and ease their burden of sorting through countless stacks of resumes. Professional business attire communicates that you mean business.

5. Practice your pitch

Pitching is not just for salespeople! Think of the career fair as a pre-interview. You are trying to impress the recruiters, so practice what you’ll say beforehand! In the words of another cliche, practice makes perfect. The good news is that there is not a huge amount of variation in what employers will ask you, making it easy to practice your responses.

6. Bring a tote

Most schools will provide one (usually sponsored by one of the companies attending the fair), but if they do not, make sure to bring a bag to the fair. You will be collecting lots of flyers, brochures, business cards and applications, and you’re going to need somewhere to put it all! Save yourself the embarrassment of dropping all your stuff on the floor and trying to pick it up without being trampled by the swarm of students.

7. Do your homework

Ready for a proven way to guarantee an interview after the job fair? Do your research. Smart and savvy hiring managers know that most students are not serious, and thus are not worth their time. The only students that will truly stand out at the career fair are those that come to the booth armed with background info. As we mentioned earlier, a career fair should be treated as a pre-interview of you and your skills, NOT a way of collecting info on companies. Recruiters are there to recruit – not to tell you about their company.

8. Follow up

Keep these tips in mind for your next career fair! Fairs are a great way to get an in with companies that you might not normally contact. They’re also a great way to practice your interview and interpersonal skills, so don’t skip your school’s next fair! And if you’re a STEM major, check out Career In STEM’s must-have college prep resources for STEM majors!

So keep these tips in mind for your next career fair! And if you’re a STEM student in need of some college prep resources, check out Career In STEM’s list of college resources!