Here’s some advice to help you prepare for your career fair.
Your next job fair could be one of the most important events of your life.
Most job seekers will attend these events with no understanding of how to make themselves stand out above the hundreds or thousands of other applicants.
Having had the opportunity of working both sides of the table, I’ve learned that there are things you can do prior, during, and after the job fair to help improve your chances of landing a job.
Read on for some tips to succeed at your next career fair.
Prior to the Job Fair
1. Do some background research on the companies attending the fair
While you may have the time to wander by every booth, you’re not going to be able to meet with each company at the fair.
Take some time to go over the list of companies attending, and then narrow the list down to those that meet your interests.
From this list, do some in-depth research on the companies. Read up on particulars such as their goals, their customer base, and their recent successes.
Write down a few questions to ask the company representative or interviewer when you speak with them. This will show them you’re interested in their company, and took some time to learn about them.
BTW, “So what does your company do?” is not one of the questions you should be asking.
2. Create a several versions of your resume based on your company list
While you don’t need to have a special resume for each company, you’ll want to have a targeted resume for each career area you’re interested in.
For example, if your background is technical but you’re also interested in program management, have a version of your resume for both areas.
If you speak with a company about jobs in your technical area, provide them a resume highlighting projects you’ve been involved in relevant to this.
On the other hand, if a company is looking for program managers, you should also have a version of your resume that
3. Build your personal ‘commercial’
One statement you’ll no doubt hear from each employer is, “Tell me little about yourself.”
This isn’t the time to ‘wing it,’ although amazingly many job seekers are caught off guard by this.
Have your commercial ready to go. This should include key elements of your background, your best success stories, and what you bring to the table for the company.
During the fair
1. Dress for the event
Many job fairs will state, “Business attire preferred.” If you show up in jeans and a t-shirt, you’ll no doubt stand out, but in a bad way.
Find a conservative suit and tie (or the equivalent for you ladies), get a haircut and shave, and get ready to impress.
When you look your best, this will also extend to your confidence and attitude.
2. Ramp up your enthusiasm
Speaking of attitude, be sure to put some polish on yours along with your clothing.
The employers are going to meet a lot of job hunters just going through the motions; now’s your chance to stand out from the pack.
Introduce yourself with confidence, smile, and offer a firm handshake, not just in the morning, but throughout the day as you meet your potential employers.
3. Listen and ask follow-up questions
This is where your research comes into play. In addition to your ‘personal commercial,’ listen to what the employers have to say about their company, then follow up with your own questions from your notes.
Feel free to refer to your notes; this will only impress upon them that you took time to learn about their company.
4. Take notes
As you leave each booth, take the time to jot down a few notes on what you learned. You can also write down notes on the back of the reps’ business cards.
Be sure to include the name of the person you spoke with, what specific jobs they plan to fill, and any other piece of information that can be used to follow up with the company.
Don’t wait until the end of the day, or after visiting several companies to write down your notes. You’ll only mix them up and forget valuable info.
After the fair
1. Compile your notes
After the job fair, sit down with your notes and expand on any conversations you had with the company reps.
Include names, phone numbers, interest level, and any other discussions you may have had about the company.
2. Send ‘Thank You’ notes
Preferably within 24 hours of the fair, while you’re still fresh in their memories, send a thank-you note to the company reps you met with.
Sending an email is perfectly acceptable. Be sure to thank them for their time, and reaffirm your interest in discussing a job with them in greater detail.
3. Attach an updated resume if needed
If your resume still needs updated to match the types of positions available, you can rework it and attach it to the thank you note.
Additionally, you can include a simple letter fleshing out some of your more relevant experience now that you know what they’re looking for.
Like any other opportunity, you can walk into a job fair with no research and no pre-work, and probably walk out without success.
However, if you take some time and approach it with the importance it deserves, a little work up front will certainly help your chances.