Be a Hit at the Job Fair
A job fair is a great place to learn about companies and their hiring policies, meet employers and make networking contacts. However, successful attendance requires preparing for the event and taking responsibility for the outcome. Having a plan for meeting as many employers as possible is essential. These steps can help you be a hit:
Treat the job fair as an interview and wear a suit or other appropriate attire for your level and industry. Be aware of your body language, speech and nervous habits. Remove gum prior to talking with an employer. Wear a great attitude and maintain good posture.
Get There Early
Put yourself in the recruiters’ shoes. They will be at the fair all day, talking to dozens of people. It is probably best to approach recruiters during the first hour or two of the job fair.
Bring Critical Materials
Carry copies of your résumé printed on high-quality paper. Also, take along a notebook and several pens or pencils to make notes and complete requested application forms. Although tables are set up at most job fairs, you may have to complete applications while standing. Carry a small dictionary if you have trouble spelling; and have at least one master set of your transcript, references, addresses and phone numbers. Carry these in a plain, clean envelope or a portfolio or briefcase.
Create a Strategy
You are most likely to impress recruiters if you decide in advance which companies to visit. Do a little homework before you go, so you can focus your efforts. Review the names of participating employers, then divide the list into two groups: an “A” list of companies that meet your employment objectives, and a “B” list of firms to visit if time allows. Prioritize the companies on each list and make contact with them in that order.
Plan on spending at least two hours at a job fair. You should also allot extra time for waiting in lines, taking notes and investigating all available options.
Job fairs can be crowded and tiring. When the opportunity arises, sit down and take a break. Use downtime to learn more about a company whose booth has no lines instead of waiting in a long one. If you are unable to meet the recruiter of your dream job, get his or her business card and write a note explaining that you were unable to meet or talk for a sufficient length of time at the job fair and would like to make other arrangements.
Know What to Say When Meeting With Recruiters
Greet them with a firm – but not crushing – handshake. Then, either thank the recruiter for coming, ask if this is his/her first time at the fair, ask about the trip to the city or make some other type of small talk.
Allow recruiters to talk about their company and/or their vacancies. When asked about your background, be ready with a two-minute sales pitch describing your work experience, accomplishments and how you can be of benefit to the employer. Offer your résumé and ask for a business card and company literature. Always thank recruiters for their time.
After your meeting, take a moment to record notes on the back of the business card, in your notebook or on your tape recorder to use for later follow-up. Write down the main points of your conversation and when you should contact the company again.
Analyze Your Actions
Personal presentation skills can always be improved. Ask yourself how employers responded to your conversation and decide how you can do things better the next time.
A job fair is an excellent way to gain leads and make networking contacts. Expand on these contacts by writing personalized thank you letters and making follow-up calls within a week to 10 days. Review the information you received about each employer, and then ask about opportunities. Attending a job fair should not be a passive event. With a little effort and a plan, you will show employers that you are a good prospect for their hiring needs.
Created by Nancy Dootson, National Business Employment Weekly, Courtesy of the Center for Career Development.