Prepare for the Job Fair

Here are some tried and true tips for attending job fairs, but first, the burning questions you might be asking yourself:

  • Why go?
  • Will I find my dream job?
  • Will I get an interview?
  • Where do the 110 copies of my resume go?
  • How do I follow up?
  • Should I take my own business cards?
  • What should I wear?
  • How many emails constitute “stalking”?
  • What time should I go?
  • How many tchotchkes can I take?

Inquiring minds want to know. So, I will share what I have learned from both recruiters and job seekers alike.

One purpose for many companies to participate in job fairs is name recognition/branding. Job fairs assist with being able to connect brand and culture with interested candidates. It isn’t often that a candidate walks in and is a perfect fit for an open position. So, why do recruiters go? It is a wonderful opportunity to meet great folks who may not fit a particular position at this point in time, but who is worth keeping in touch with and fostering a relationship. For me, it is about making friends. I work in a small-knit community.

Some suggestions:

  • Do your homework before you go. Find out which companies will be attending. Look at their career pages. Are there positions that rock your socks? Custom edit a resume tailored to those positions and write a cover letter that states the job title(s)/number(s). Put them in your folder in alphabetical order by company so you can quickly retrieve them when you get to a table.
  • Dress for an interview. Know your industry, and dress accordingly!
  • Practice your elevator pitch. “I am Jack, and I love web development. So much so that I create video games outside of my work hours. I am looking to help grow a company that aims to provide innovative solutions in record time. Here is my resume with cover letter that articulates the ways my skills are a great match for three positions you have advertised on your website.”
  • Smile! Await a response from the recruiter. Here is a key: if you are given a business card, it is your golden ticket to follow up. That recruiter WANTS to be in touch with you, because something about you or your resume or your answers to questions has made an impression. Didn’t get a business card? Your cue to move on to the next table, and do not look back. It is okay. It isn’t personal! This is not the time to be discouraged. It will affect your mojo at the next table, and you want to make your best impression on each company.
  • Were you asked to send a soft copy of your resume? Do not send it with 2 pages of self-promotion in your email! Simply thank the recruiter for inviting you to send it over, for their time to review it, and ask for the next steps. Short. Simple. Effective. Gently follow up twice.
  • Why take business cards? I work in the tech industry. It is more efficient for me to run those cards through my ScanSnap and have the info more readily accessible than having to manually enter info from dozens of resumes.
  • Do not load up your pockets with the very neat logo embossed goodies. This is not the time to find stocking stuffers for the kids in your life. If ONE thing on the table speaks to you, feel free to take that one thing, unless the recruiter encourages you to take more! Seriously. We do notice!
  • Please talk with your bestie before coming, and rehearse one more time why your boss was a jerk for letting you go. And leave that story in those well-trusted hands. Do not bring those tales of woe inside the venue. You do not want to repel others with your complaining or to project unprofessionalism. One job seeker I know has something negative to say every time he opens his mouth. I can assure you that even if he doesn’t say those things on interviews, that negativity oozes from his very pores. Yes. It is noticeable. Practice speaking about what you are grateful for, out loud, every day. Smile when you say them. Bring in that uplifting persona, no matter how hard the career transition has been.
  • Go early. Very early. By the time the last half hour of the job fair rolls around, recruiters may have had hundreds of meet-n-greets, in-depth convos, and we are tired, very tired! We are doing our best to stay engaged, but not all of us have caffeine drips concealed in our jackets. Will there be long lines? Yes. But do not be discouraged. Hit your top 3-5 tables first, then meander through the others.

Here is the twist. I am a firm believer of the pay-it-forward, kharma, give of yourself way of living. Strike up conversations with other job seekers while you are waiting. It can start out as a simple, “Hey, have you used Wordle or Word It Out? I have found that it helps me to know which synonyms to use on my resume so it makes it past the Applicant Tracking System.” Share a tip! Ask the other person what industry they are in and what sort of position they are seeking. Ask for their target companies. Know anyone you can refer them to? Maybe you know recruiting companies that are sourcing for someone like them. Offer to get them connected. What if you go through the whole fair and have only been giving out great info and no one has offered anything to you? It is still okay! You may have inspired others to do the same at the next job fair, and you could then be the recipient of new tips and connections!