Career fairs have two purposes: For the company it's a way to establish / further their brand, and for students it's a way to get their resumes to companies and talk to employees.
As someone who has been to a lot of career fairs to represent my company, it's really tedious to hear hundreds of students describe their course projects with a lot of sincerity.
If you are interested in chatting with an employee, please do so and I will be happy to talk about my experiences. This is the biggest value of a career fair for students, coz they can submit resumes on online portals anyway.
Otherwise just submit your resume and get going. This whole facade of pretending to care about the company and going on and on about having done this project and that project is very very pointless.
In my experience, skipping the career fair in favor of attending the smaller, company-specific information sessions yielded MUCH better results for my exposure.
At my university's career fair I did multiple interview screenings on campus as the result of the career fair. One interview (with an engineer, not a recruiter) led to an internship at a major tech company which led to a full time job there.
Many of my peers had similar experiences.
A lot of company representatives do in fact remember and note especially promising hires. I'm sure that Boeing and LM and whoever just throw resumes onto the stack, but younger and more dynamic startups definitely have room for human impressions in the process.
I've been burnt out by attending too many career fairs, and they are as he describes. Most of the people you speak to will simply take your resume and pass it on - they don't recommend any particular candidate, etc. Many companies are quite open about it. In fact, some companies will tell you not to give them your resume during the career fair. They just send you to their web site.
While i find the generalization of “big corps waste your time at career fairs, small companies actually do care” to be a good general heuristic for starting out, this is not universally true. Off the top of my head, i remember Palantir and Bloomberg specifically caring a lot about the career fair, with the former especially known for giving quick on-the-spot interviews at the career fair (note: i ended up working for neither of them, but i went through the full interview loops with both, and both can be absolutely attributed to my conversations with them at the fair).
It is difficult to know any of that the first time you attend a career fair, but by the time your last career fair rolls out, you should already have a good idea which companies are worth talking to at the fair and which ones are not (thru your own previous experiences, friends, etc).
For a company, especially one with brand recognition, a career fair is not a very good avenue for talent scouting. You get very little facetime with students, have to talk to a hundred of them in a couple of hours, and they are all telling you some small variation of the same thing, because well they did all these courses together and they all had to do the same projects and yadda yadda.
I am making these points to increase the chances that a career fair is an efficient use of my time and the student's time.
My company does the same as OP mentioned. We do not have any power to call out good candidates, we collect all their resumes all the same, then a recruiter reaches out.
Like OP above, I have no problem speaking about my own experiences, or answering any questions you may have. But trying to impress me by listing the projects you've done isn't helping either of us accomplish our goals.
I think anyone finds talking about irrelevant topics tedious.
Like, dude. It's a job. You have what seems like a bog standard middle class existence - just like countless others.
You have a blog post about how you've gone on a single proper holiday in your entire working career, for example.
It feels like you're holding other people to a standard higher than yourself, albeit not in precisely the same categories. I've done it in the past too, and I'm not proud of it.
The Stallman bashing is also completely unnecessary and I wonder if it's in there as a sort of unclear "</sarcasm>" tag.
I've worked for a company with a remote development office in Poland, and they get a mandatory 4 weeks plus another 3 weeks or so of paid holidays and a +1 week after 10 years of working (anywhere, including grad school)... so by the time you're in your 30's that's 8 weeks. Every year! And you know what, those guys worked really hard and were plenty productive and we in the US never noticed it because they managed it just fine. 
And this is a guy at a presumably relatively well compensated and respected engineering position. Everyone else has it even worse! We're doing great folks, everyone just keep doing what you're doing, woohoo!
Yes - the post seems to be ignorant of market forces.
My cool project you want to see? Likely more interesting and sophisticated than what most entry level jobs will have me do. I don't want to show you my "brilliance" and end up with a job full of tedium - but that's how most entry jobs are.
Yes, there are always a few companies who will allow you to do interesting work. And 80% of them are small/tiny companies who can't pay much even though they genuinely do interesting work. They are not startups - they are simply niche businesses who have reached their steady state size.
 I solved more challenging HW problems as an undergrad at an average university than in my first 8 years in industry. As is the case for most engineering undergrads.
College students don't have this privilege, but as an experienced software engineer, if I get a vibe that someone is this judgmental and expects me to sell myself to them more than they sell the opportunity to me, I'm going to pass.
I also think this falls under the common pattern of posts that claim to offer general advice ("wanna impress an engineer at a career fair") when they're really only giving non-generalizable advice ("how to impress ME with my particular criteria at a career fair").
This guy is an EE talking to EE/Comp. E. students; the market isn't as insanely hot for them as it is for software developers. In particular, it's not easy to find an entry level job as an EE or Comp. E. from what I hear.
"You’ve got a lot of learning to do - minimum nine months - before you even get to working with me."
Such an unpleasant disposition. People who demand humility of others could use a bit of more of it.
1. get any internship doing software after freshman year, even if it’s at a noname place which hardly pays
2. every summer leverage that into an internship at a place with more name recognition and money
From my perspective the best way to stand out at a career fair was always to have prior internships at good places. The people who did those crappy internships after freshman year got the best internships later, then after they graduated usually either went to Google/Facebook/Airbnb or whatever the top startups were.
I don’t know what this guy is on about talking so much about confidence or whatever, I get the impression from the article the author is on some weird little power trip lording over these college students.
It’s my impression that the way big tech actually recruits at most colleges is to just collect a shitton of resumes, set a target number of interviews, and pick the top N resumes out of that (perhaps with certain demographic goals as well). None of this weird confidence, impress me with an elevator pitch bullshit
You're also filtering out people who aren't privileged enough to burn Mom and Dad's money outside of class on their radio shack electrics hobbies. I can only assume that is intentional.
I'll take the student who did well in class and has a life outside engineering. I'll take that student every time.
Exception, of course, if you're specifically applying to a role (re)implementing bloom filters or something.
Is there some new trend of shitting on RMS this week?
I realize he might not be perfect but I don't being disrespectful to the man who started GNU as the right thing to do.
It feels all the more pathetic when tom-dick-harries of the field do it. Like, you probably owe the existence of your career path to giants like him. Have some humility.
He's just pointing at a problem and showing an example of that problem to prove it exists.
I've learned recently that this is a huge issue in the Smash Bros community, some people are proud of never taking showers or using deodorant. It's become a very real problem for this community: https://youtu.be/QkZB6YxtWKI
Then again, RMS ate his own toe cheese on camera, so I guess it's hard not to use him as the archetypical computer genius with poor hygeine.
Either way though, the ding on RMS doesn't exactly impress.
"If programmers deserve to be rewarded for creating innovative programs, by the same token they deserve to be punished if they restrict the use of these programs." RMS
When I was younger, I didn't have to do anything particularly special to get job/intern interviews at IBM Almaden, MIT Lincoln Labs or Trimble Navigation. Master your craft to an obsessional level, follow-up with any expressed interest or requests for data/CV and show curiosity by asking good questions.