How job seekers approach a job fair can greatly affect the outcome. Maintaining a positive attitude and creating a professional image can help job candidates develop an aura of confidence that’s not possessed by the majority of the competition.
Although attending job fairs is only a very small part of any job search strategy, there are few opportunities available where job seekers get to meet individual employers prior to obtaining an actual job interview. It is therefore essential that serious job candidates thoroughly prepare themselves prior to attending a job fair.
Do Your Research
Take time to research participating companies prior to the job fair. After deciding which companies you most want to meet with, take some time to check out each of their websites to learn more about the company and the jobs they have available.
Dress Professionally and Create a Favorable First Impression
Since first impressions are critical when searching for a job, dressing professionally for a job fair makes perfect sense. Conservative business attire is often preferred for both men and women but business casual may be appropriate for certain jobs or professions. Attention to detail is important so be sure to wear comfortable, neat, well-polished shoes; carry a professional briefcase; ensure your hair is clean and well groomed: your nails are neatly manicured, and go light on makeup and perfume. It is best to downplay tattoos and additional body piercings whenever possible. Dressing professionally relays the message to employers that you are a serious candidate in the job search process.
Be Prepared and Develop a Plan
When arriving at a job fair, it’s wise to first study the layout of the fair and check to see if any additional employers have been added to the list. In addition to your resume, be sure to bring several pens, a notepad, and business cards to hand out. You may also carry a cheat sheet that reminds you of important information on the companies you want to meet. One job fair strategy you might want to employ is to plan on meeting with your first choice employers first and then move on to your second and third choices.
Bring Along Lots of Resumes
Be sure to bring extra resumes to the fair. You may end up handing out more than one resume to participating employers, so it’s best to maximize your efforts by bringing an ample supply of resumes to avoid running out. Make sure your resume is well prepared and looked over by at least one other person. You may decide to bring along different versions of your resume. Targeting your resume to specific jobs and/or employers offers an opportunity to focus on specific skills and accomplishments that are required for certain jobs or professions. Resumes should always be printed on professional white, gray, or ecru resume paper and free of photos or fancy fonts.
Meet and Greet Employers
Since first impressions are critical in the interviewing process, be prepared to assertively introduce yourself with confidence and enthusiasm. Maintain direct eye contact, offer a firm handshake, sport a genuine smile, and show enthusiasm—since these are all attributes employers look for in potential new hires. Be prepared to give each employer you meet a 30 to 60-second elevator speech that highlights your career objectives, strengths, interests, relevant skills and the type of job you are seeking. Be prepared to answer questions such as why you want to work for this particular company or why you feel that you would be an asset to the organization.
Practice and Prepare Questions for the Interviewer
The best way to prepare for an interview is to practice, practice, practice. Be sure to write down any vital information on the back of the employer’s business card to make it easy to follow up. Be prepared to ask each employer questions including how to arrange for a second interview.
Be Prepared to Network
Career Fairs are all about networking. It has been estimated that between 50% and 75% of all jobs are found through networking. By networking with recruiters, other job fair participants, and professional associations and/or employment agencies participating in the fair, you can increase your personal connections and improve your chances of getting called back for a second interview.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Following up with recruiters is one of the most important things job fair participants can do immediately after the job fair. Sending a personalized thank you note to each recruiter identifies you as a thoughtful and serious job candidate that they will want to get to know better. By restating your interests in the company and your qualifications, you will put yourself on their radar screen when they are in the process of seeking candidates to interview for future positions that open up. You may decide to enclose another copy of your resume with your letter to ensure that the employer has your information available. Following up a thank you letter with a phone call can also increase your chances of being called back for an interview.