A great way to connect with job seekers and hiring professionals alike, a job fair can be a convenient and effective tool in obtaining the very position you want.
On a broader scale, you can use a job fair to help you on many job-adjacent points: honing in on the field you’d like to pursue, expanding your network, and identifying tools to help your search.
On the other hand, the prospect of attending a job fair and finding your way through the crowds of fellow job seekers can be daunting. To avoid wasting your time and feeling let down after attending such a fair, try the following tips to prepare.
Know Before You Go
Be sure to research the fair you will be attending. All should have informational websites with details on what businesses and/or hiring professionals will be in attendance. In most cases, a map of the event space and tables will be available. Think about which companies you want to learn more about and plan your agenda for the day.
As with a job interview, you should be fully prepared to answer questions about the companies in which your interested. Asking “So, what do you guys do?” does not exactly convey your readiness.
Prepare for your job fair outing as you would prepare for an interview. You’ll need copies of your resume, professional attire, and a firm handshake. Bring business cards, if you have them. Make sure your resume is scannable and easy to follow.
This may not be the right time for a graphically stunning or quirky resume, and your cover letter is completely moot here. In the case of Job Fairs, your cover letter is verbal. When you are asked “Tell me about yourself”, you should have a quick “commercial” script (or “elevator pitch”) about yourself ready to go.
A job fair is a big room and often a days-long affair. In many cases, reps have been traveling to different job fairs, and can be burnt out by the middle of the day. Take this opportunity to stay fresh in their minds as one of the very first seekers they met with that day.
When first meeting with each rep, employ eye contact and a firm handshake. Representatives are there to meet with job seekers. Without being pushy, approach each meeting as if this is your exploratory interview. That is, gain information about the position, company or industry, and determine whether the career path offered is right for you.
Use your elevator pitch to make a strong impression on each new contact and try to learn more about the best way to follow up after the job fair.
Work The Room
As stated above, you’ve probably planned out your circuit around the fair, and are visiting those companies in which you are most interested. But don’t limit yourself.
Other job seekers will be in attendance (obviously) and can have some information for you as well. This is prime time for networking, and you shouldn’t write a fellow seeker off as “competition”, especially if they are more knowledgeable about, or higher up in, the career path you’ve chosen.
Notes and Thank Yous
A great trick at job fairs is to take short notes on the back of business cards. Jot down key conversation points or things mentioned which interest you on the card which corresponds. This will help you keep names and companies straight, as well as help you make key connections when following up.
After the fair, a thank you note is imperative. This gets you back in the mind of the rep or hiring manager. If you reiterate your interest, you could very conceivably land an interview.
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