Job seekers have differing viewpoints about the purpose and usefulness of job fairs. They may have attended a job fair hoping for a job offer, but they left without one and discouraged. They might have been overwhelmed by the number of job seekers and length of the lines. Or perhaps they may have thought "Why did I bother?" after handing their resume to a recruiter and being told to apply online.
People who have a positive view of job fairs may realize that a job fair is merely a method of networking and a step in the employment process. Their goals might include making a positive impression, building networking connections and gathering more information to follow up with organizations where they might want to work. They would be thrilled to have an actual interview, but they realize they will leave the job fair having more knowledge than when they arrived. Listed below are a few suggested steps for job fair success.
- Research. Get a list of representative companies the week prior to the job fair from the website or job fair organizer. Take the time to visit each company's website to learn more about their organization. Write brief details about each company (what they do, where they're headquartered) and find one piece of interesting information about the company (new leadership, new product or award) to use as conversation starters. To best use your time at the job fair, consider listing the top ten companies you are interested in.
- Dress for an interview. You will be speed interviewing at the job fair, so strive to make a positive impression by dressing for success in business attire. This is not the time for heavy makeup, flip flops or chewing gum.
- Accessorize. Bring copies of your resume, highlighting your skills and achievements. For your top companies of interest, you might want to consider preparing folders that include your resume, cover letter, recommendations and possibly work samples. Carry plenty of personal contact cards - Lisa Jones, Technology Sales Management, email and phone - to hand to recruiters and other job seekers you meet.
- Organize. Prepare a contact plan to keep organized and include your company interest list. Carry a portfolio or clipboard to easily manage and collect information. Have a pen (or two) for taking notes. Practice at home approaching a table with your portfolio or clipboard, pretend to shake hands and make sure you don't drop things. Reorganize if necessary.
When You Arrive
- Relax, breathe and smile. Make a good first impression.
- Walk around. Get the lay of the land, see where your top companies are located and keep breathing. Don't start picking up goodies from tables, now or during the event.
- Network. Talk to other job seekers. Ask questions. Find out what types of positions they're seeking. Tell them a little about yourself. You never know who they might know, or if you might be able to help them with an introduction. Don't hesitate to exchange information if you make a connection.
- Visit booths. You may want to start by practicing your technique with recruiters representing companies where you probably don't want to work. Have a list of top companies you really want to visit and check them off as you go. This will keep you from introducing yourself to the same recruiter twice by accident. Listen to the "interviews" in front of you to get an idea what to expect and develop questions based on what you hear.
Speaking to Recruiters
- Connect. Your goal should be to connect with the recruiter and make an impression. Make eye contact, smile, state your name and shake their hand. If appropriate use a prepared 10 second version of your elevator speech (who you are, your skills, your achievements). Don't just hand them your resume and ask if they're hiring.
- Listen. Pay attention, respond to questions and ask for more information. When appropriate, hand your resume to the recruiter and pause for them to do a quick review. Be prepared for questions. Try to respond with SAR (Situation, Action you took, Response you achieved) answers, if possible.
- Keep it brief. Recruiters are typically swamped, so be mindful that your conversation may be limited to a few minutes. If appropriate, ask questions about next steps, applicant qualifications or any suggestions they may have for you.
- Get recruiter contact information. Request a business card, and if one is not available, ask for their email address making sure you have some place to write it. Close the conversation making sure to say thank you and then move on.
- Step aside. Make time to write conversation notes before you move on to the next recruiter. If they mentioned they went to Florida State, capture that information. If they tell you they'll be hiring scientists in a couple of months (and you're a scientist), write it down. Summarize your job fair experiences immediately in order to take full advantage of the event.
- Call or email. After a few days, call or send an email thanking the recruiter for their time and the information they provided. If emailing the recruiter who mentioned they went to Florida State, it is appropriate to mention, "I'm the administrative assistant at the job fair who discussed Florida State with you" because that will help them identify you from the many people they spoke to at the job fair. Just taking the time to follow up will separate you from most job fair attendees. Don't be surprised when you receive an email back.
- Stay in contact. If the recruiter responds back to you, stay in contact. Keep an eye open for articles about their organization or industry and don't hesitate to forward them on with a note. If you see the perfect job for you in their organization (make sure you're qualified), apply for the position and then email them that you applied.
- Build your network. If you connected with other job seekers and traded contact information, follow up with them. You never know when they might have a job prospect for you or vice versa.
Hiring our Heroes Job Fairs
Hiring our Heroes job fairs provide the opportunity for military spouses to connect with businesses that are interested in hiring military spouses. These job fairs also offer presentations about careers for highly mobile environments and on-site help with updating resumes for a more marketable profile for potential employers. In 2012 Hiring our Heroes established a stand-alone program for military spouses to provide more dedicated attention to spouses' employment needs. For a full listing of job fair events, visit the Hiring our Heroes website.
Whether you plan to attend a job fair designated for military spouses or a job fair at your local educational institution, take steps to prepare for the event. Do your research and read lots of articles taking the best ideas and making them your own. Job fairs along with other types of networking help you connect with employers and other job seekers expanding your options for employment.