campus recruiting

5 ways to make the most of a campus career fair

October 19, 2012: 10:28 AM ET

Graduating from college in the spring? The job market for the class of 2013 is super-competitive, but standing out from the crowd at a career fair can help.

FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: I'll be getting a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering next spring, and I'm nervous about my chances of having a job offer in hand by then. With a lot of student loans to start paying off, I really have to be working right away. So I have two questions: First, my school is having a career fair next month, with recruiters from about 50 companies. A zillion other students have already signed up. Do you have any suggestions about how not to get lost in the crowd?

And second, I've had a couple of job interviews already, with two different companies where I think I'd really like to work. It's been about a month now, and I haven't heard anything back from either one. Does that mean they're not interested, or what? — Dixie Chick

Dear Dixie: Not to add to your anxiety, but you're right to be nervous about finding a job -- and smart to have started looking already. As you probably know, a much-publicized Associated Press report a few months ago said that more than half (54%) of 2011 college grads were either unemployed or underemployed, meaning stuck in jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree, and the class of 2012 doesn't seem to be faring much better. In September, unemployment among Americans ages 18 to 29 stood at 11.8%, well above the 7.8% average for the workforce as a whole.

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On the bright side, however, employers expect to hire 13% more new grads in 2013 than in 2012, according to preliminary results from the National Association of Colleges and Employers' annual survey of hiring managers. Moreover, your choice of major gives you an advantage. "Those most likely to increase their hiring of new college graduates include employers in chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing," notes Marilyn Mackes, executive director at NACE, adding that demand will be particularly strong for new grads with business, computer science, and all types of engineering degrees -- and that employers "are looking to college campuses to supply their hiring needs." More

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