Job fairs offer an opportunity for face-to-face meetings between jobseekers and employers. Visiting these fairs is often an easy way to find good job leads. Many employers attending are there to hire workers, after all. And you can talk to recruiters, browse brochures, and distribute your résumé.
Making a good impression at a job fair may give your résumé or application added weight. The following tips can help you make the most of any fair.
Find the fair. Career centers, associations, state and local governments, and private companies organize job fairs. Find fairs in your area by searching online, asking a career counselor, reviewing business postings at your school or local library, or checking the newspaper employment section.
Ready your résumé. Before attending a fair, you should prepare a résumé. Bring several copies to the fair. Leave at least one with every company that seems promising. A résumé lists your name, contact information, education, and experience, both paid and unpaid. It emphasizes accomplishments and skills. Most résumés for entry-level jobs are one page.
Look the part. A job fair is like a series of mini-interviews, with recruiters forming impressions of the people they meet. You might not need to wear a suit, but too-casual clothes could be a strike against you. Clothes that are too short, too tight, too worn, or too playful are particularly risky. Similarly, be aware of your body language. Standing up straight and looking recruiters in the eye when talking to them, for example, projects confidence and may help to create a more positive rapport.
Go alone. You’ll get the most out of a job fair—and make a better impression—if you attend solo. If you plan to go with a friend, don’t appear to be inseparable when visiting booths. A professional image is easier to maintain if you speak to employers alone.
Plot a strategy. A few days before the fair, ask for a list of participating companies. Then, rank companies you’d like to visit so you can make the best use of your time. When you arrive on the day of the fair, take a quick walk through the venue. Locate the company representatives you want to meet, and plan your route for the event. Time is limited, and booths are crowded. Save visits with the best prospects until after you’ve warmed up with a few other prospective employers.
Complete applications flawlessly. If a company distributes application forms, take two; one will be a rough draft. And if you complete an application online or bring one home to send later, consider noting that you met the recruiter at the fair.
Master the mini-interview. Every time you speak with an employer, no matter how briefly or how boisterous the atmosphere, consider it an interview. Recruiters will expect you to introduce yourself, shake hands confidently, answer questions about your coursework or experience, and have an idea of the type of job you want. Finding out about the company is equally important. You might ask what the hiring process is like or what jobs are available for people with your education. Before you leave the booth, be sure to ask for the recruiter’s business card—and thank him or her for taking time to talk with you.
Take notes. After visiting several booths, it’s easy for conversations to run together. After each visit, take a few notes to read at home.
Stay organized. Fairgoers are deluged with information—company literature, recruiters’ business cards, and their own notes. Bring a folder or backpack to keep materials organized. Counselors suggest going through this information while your memory is still fresh.
Apply in absentia. If you cannot attend the job fair, contact the sponsoring organization. You may be able to submit your résumés to participating employers before or after the fair.
Olivia Crosby wrote this article while working in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. Update by Elka Torpey, BLS. Ms. Torpey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.