Looking for a job or a better job? Job fairs can be a great way for face-to-face interaction with potential employers and the beginning of the hiring process. They can also be a waste of time and a source of discouragement. Here are six keys to job fair success. By taking these actions you can increase the chances that your next job fair will be the threshold to a great job.
Do Your Homework
There are literally hundreds of job fairs across the country. These run from small single company hiring event to fill immediate needs to large events sponsored by private job fair companies or by public agencies such as state Departments of Labor. A simple Google search can help you find job fairs in your area/region.
Visit the job fair website and register is there if the opportunity to do so. Review the list of participating companies and identify any that might have jobs you are interested in and for which you are qualified. Take the extra step of visiting the company's website. Learn what the company does, understand what kind of jobs they are seeking to fill, and pay attention to the language they use to describe those positions. Look at the content of the jobs, not just the titles. Check the job fair website several times because new companies are typically added as they sign up.
The one thing that you cannot afford to do at a job fair is to walk up to a table or booth and ask "what does your company do?" That is going to be a short pro-forma conversation.
Dress for the Job You Want
As someone who has participated in countless job fairs, the best advice I can offer is to dress "one level up" from people who do the kind of work for which you are looking. You want to look like you will fit in with the company and its culture. Send the message that you are a serious job seeker and are respectful of the companies who invest their time (and in some cases, serious money) to be there.
There are a couple of cautions for women. First, avoid anything too sexy (and I know that is subjective - but think of this is the first stage of a job interview). Secondly, wear comfortable shoes. Job fairs typically are held in large spaces and you will be walking a lot. Teetering around on stilettos, no matter how good they look, calls your judgement into question.
Distribute Your Resumes
Bring a lot of copies of your resume. While it is beyond the scope of this article, here are some best practices for resumes:
1. Do not print resumes on fancy paper and don't put them in a folders.
2. Print only on one side to facilitate scanning and be sure that you name is on each page of the resume.
3. Put the information that is important to the employer on the front page. Make it easy for the recruiter, HR professional or hiring authority to identify you as a viable candidate and worth a longer look.
4. Limit resumes to 2 1/2 pages at the absolute most no matter your level or length of experience.
5. Use bullets and metrics to make the experience relevant. People don't read a "wall of words."
6. Show don't tell. Eliminate all the bragging, self-aggrandizing claims. For example, don’t' tell me you are a "visionary leader" or "great communicator," show me in your work experience.
Be Social and Show Respect
Job Fairs are a venue where being polite, respectful, and social matter a lot. You may well find yourself waiting to talk to a recruiter. Be patient and be brief - do not monopolize the recruiter's time. If you find yourself getting tired and/or frustrated, take a break.
Tell Your Story - Quickly and Well
Practice your "elevator speech" until you can give it (and adapt it) comfortably and conversationally. You must be able to quickly introduce yourself, your experience, the kind of work you are seeking, and why. Remember, this is not about you just telling your story, but rather you explaining to a potential employer who you are and what you can do for them. Be employer-centric, not self-centric.
Relax and Learn
With rare exceptions, you will not have a job offer in hand at the conclusion of the job fair. This is the beginning of the recruiting/hiring process, not the end. Therefore, take a deep breath, relax and learn from the experience. When the job fair is over, you should have a much better understanding of the job market and how your skills fit (or don't fit) with the companies you have talked with. You will also have had the opportunity to tell your story and present yourself with employers. Finally, job hunting can be a frustrating, lonely, and isolated experience. Job fairs give you the opportunity to get out from behind your computer, to talk with other human beings, and to realize that you are not alone.
Special Help for Veterans
If you are a Veteran, transitioning military, or member of the Guard/Reserve and need help with your resume and job search, please contact Still Serving Veterans. We offer the full range of professional, personalized, and caring employment services. Our counselors (all of whom are Veterans) will help you at no charge because of generous support from both organizations such as the Call of Duty Endowment (CODE), The Boeing Company, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and from individual donors. Please visit the Still Serving Veterans’ website at www.SSV.org