This will outline eight steps to help give you an advantage over the many other job seekers by making the most of your career-fair efforts.
There are a variety of job fairs out there, and some of them are more worth your time than others. Some job fairs are specific to industry. Your alma mater might offer a job fair. There are also industry trade shows that have job boards or recruiting days, along with the opportunity to talk about jobs with exhibitors.
Large company’s also put on job fairs of their own to recruit candidates as well. They do this at one or more of their locations that can accommodate large groups of people. You can find and research job fairs through local newspapers, cable TV stations, the internet, business publications, and college recruiting offices. Career job fairs should only be a small part of your overall job search strategy.
- Register for a Job Fair. Pre-registering for the event is recommended, because most job fairs allow you to register online. You might be asked to submit a resume or summary resume. Pre-registration allows employers to prescreen applicants and make note of those they want to meet at the fair. Pre-registration does not guarantee that you will get noticed or that employers will even look at the registrations. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to pre-register since it’s easy to do and can reap big benefits.
- Research attending companies. I cannot overemphasize the importance of going to the web and researching the companies with which you plan to visit while you’re at the job fair. There will be hundreds, or in the case of larger job fairs, thousands of applicants who will be going to the same booth you plan to visit. Ask yourself, why will they consider you for their position instead of the many others who have shown up and told them what a great candidate they are? When you go to a job fair, be ready to interview. Often the people at the booth are recruiters or human resource professionals. The interview begins as soon as you walk up to the booth. The recruiter will size you up by noting your attire, your demeanor, your handshake, and how you conduct yourself during this conversation.
- Bring resumes. Bring lots of resumes to the fair, at least two for each company in which you have an interest. If you have multiple interests or job objectives, bring enough of each version of your resume. Make a good impression on recruiters by handing them a hard copy of your resume, collecting their business cards and promising to e-mail them a soft copy later in the day. Recruiters appreciate having a soft copy so they can reformat it when they present it to their clients or for internal use. Be productive at job fairs because they only last a day or two. Goal: Schedule an in-person interview with at least one exhibitor that you have an interest in.
- Wear appropriate conference attire. Conservative business attire is essential because image and first impressions are critical. Find out what is the expected attire for the conference and dress accordingly. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. A business suit always works best. Make sure the suit is clean and pressed.
- Devise an overall strategy. You need to devise a strategy or plan of attack for the fair. You’ve already done the first step by researching the companies you are interested in. The next step is to survey the layout of the fair and determine an order of interviewing. Some experts suggest meeting with your top choices first thing in the morning, interviewing with your other choices in the middle of the day, and returning to your top choices at the end of the day to thank them again for their time. But remember to stay flexible as your top choices may be the top choices for many.
- Hone your one-minute pitch. You won’t have much time to interview, so make every minute productive. You don’t want to be screened out early. Develop a one-minute “marketing” power discussion highlighting the key benefits that you can offer the organization. Also remember the four keys to all interviews: Make eye contact, offer a firm handshake, show enthusiasm and smile. You should also be prepared to answer interview questions just as you would any employment interview. Conclude the discussion by asking, “What do I need to do to obtain a second in-person interview with your firm?”
- Network While at the Job Fair. Career fairs are all about networking. You’re obviously building a network with the recruiters, but you can also network with your fellow job-seekers. Your peers can help by sharing information about job leads, companies, and their recruiting strategies and styles. There might also be professional organizations or employment agencies on hand at the fair, which are also good sources for networking.
Follow up. You would be surprised at how few job seekers actually take the time to follow up on their career fair interviews. Some experts suggest calling the recruiter the evening of the fair and leaving a voicemail message thanking them for their time. The more traditional approach is to write a thank-you note and mail it the next day. Thank the recruiter for their time, restate your interest in the position, reiterate your interest for a second interview and promise to follow up later with a phone call. Make sure you call! Enclose another copy of your resume with the thank-you letter.
For other job related statistics and relevant data, you can visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website at www.bls.com