How to get the most out of attending a career fair
If you are covering all your bases while conducting a job search then you will be attending a job fair or two. Job fairs are primarily for companies to locate candidates for positions they have open within their company and for job seekers to meet potential employers.
Benefits of Job Fairs
- You find out which companies actually have openings and are actively hiring
- You can speak with recruiters who work for the company directly
- You get to be face to face with someone who could be instrumental in getting you hired
Recruiters at job fairs will flag the resumes of people they meet who impress them. While there isn’t an easier way to get up front and personal with a potential hiring company than at a career fair – making that impression can be another matter.
Which companies set up at job fairs?
- Smaller companies who might only need one person but want exposure to a large contingency of people
- Larger companies who may have several positions to fill and they need a larger volume of candidates
- Schools or training organizations attend to promote their courses and certification programs to people who want to upgrade
- Government agencies attend to bring awareness to their free programs and offerings
- Companies who want people to sell their products like insurance companies or real estate agencies
- Professional associations like the CMA, CGA, CA attend to raise awareness and attract new members
- Recruiting firms and staffing agencies looking for new candidates
- Resume writers and career coaches who can help you one on one look for new clients at career fairs
Preparing for the fair
- Scrutinize the marketing material to find out who is exhibiting at the fair
- Investigate which positions are being recruited for and who from the company is going to be recruiting at the fair.
- If you can address a cover letter with a specific name you will make an impression and be memorable
- Make copies of your resume
- Plan your wardrobe, wear comfortable shoes
- Ascertain whether a free resume service is being offered, be prepared to stand in line
- While standing in line, network with the people in line with you
- Perfect the answer to ‘Tell me about yourself’ in 30 seconds or less
- Eat before you go to a fair
Working the fair
- Go as early as possible, exhibitors get tired, catch them when they are fresh and so are you. Look like a million bucks.
- Smile, be pleasant, but not be arrogant. Keep in mind that you are looking for a way to help out their company
- Don’t ask, “What are you going to do for me?” That is the death question for career conversations
- Ask what positions are being recruited for
- Don’t give out your resume to everyone for the sake of giving it out. It’s your professional profile, not a flier.
- Be prepared to have an interview on the spot
- Listen to the exhibitor, ask questions and don’t talk too much
Last but not least, follow up with any companies you met with that had positions that you were qualified to fill. If you’re given the contact information of any recruiters, send a thank-you note reminding them of your conversation and thanking them for their time.
Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How to build relationships that count and How To Get a Job and Keep It