Job Fairs can be intimidating if you are going for the first time. Sometimes a person can go to several job fairs and still not understand how to make them successful. I have recruited at more than a thousand job fairs, and here’s what I’ve learned:
A few days before you go, look at the job fair website to see which companies will be attending. There is usually a list, and sometimes it will list the specific jobs for each company. When you see a company that interests you, research it and the jobs that are on their company website. Be thorough because you are going to use this research not only for your own information but also to impress the recruiters that you meet. Take notes. You will really stand out if you take this one step.
Have a Goal!
If you want to be successful, you have to know why you are attending. Plan your day by deciding in advance which companies you will approach. Be prepared to speak to other companies, too because some companies decide to attend at the last minute and won’t be listed. Be sure that you know your goals before you even leave home.
Dress for an Interview
There are a number of ways for your appearance to stand out at a job fair, but only one of them is good. Say no to scuffed shoes, flip flops, suits that are too tight, tons of jewelry, T-shirts, and jeans. You are meeting decision makers for the first time, and they are seeing hundreds of people. Act professional and you will be seen as professional and worth their time. And don’t bring your mother, brother, sister or spouse. You will give the impression that you are not independent enough to work on your own. Don’t bring the kids. Maybe your mother, brother, sister or spouse could take care of them that day.
I see so many people standing around at job fairs with nervous, unhappy expressions. They walk up to the booth with a frown and never act happy to be there Recruiters are people, too, and we are attracted to enthusiastic, happy people. You may think that looking serious is professional, but it really isn’t. Keep smiling at other attendees and at company representatives. It will make you happier, too.
Take plenty of resumes. Some people have gotten good results by printing business cards with a mini-resume on them. Some companies will only accept resumes that are submitted online, but they are there to meet candidates anyway. This gives you a great opportunity to really talk with the recruiter instead of just referring to your resume.
Ask Good Questions
The absolute worst question that you can ask is: “What do y’all do?” You should have done your homework and know what we do. The second worst question is: “What are your benefits?” You questions should lead to an interview. Now is the time to ask anything you wondered about when you were online. You might want to ask how many positions they have open in your field. Ask what their hiring timeline is. Ask how long the recruiter has been with the company. Plan about ten questions, but you probably will have the opportunity to ask only one or two.
Have Good Answers
When I ask you what type of job you are seeking, do NOT answer, “Anything. I’ll take anything.” That one answer makes you look desperate and unqualified. Answer clearly about what you can do for the company and why their company appeals to you. Use the information you learned on their website. If we ask if you have any questions, say “yes!” We love questions, and we evaluate you based on those questions.
Listen to other candidates’ interactions while you are in line. You will learn more about the company, and you will also understand the type of questions being asked and the answers being given. It gives you a real advantage to know what the recruiter is asking and saying. If the person in front of you asks a question that you had planned to ask, change gears and ask something else. That’s why you prepared ten questions.
Be sure to collect business cards. You are going to need these and all of the company literature that you can find. Take notes on the brochures so that you’ll remember details about the person and the job. Put them in your bag and organize them as soon as you get home. Immediately email each person who talked with you to thank them for their time. Mention one specific comment to help their memory, and tell them how interested you are. Very few people take this step, and you will have a huge advantage. If they asked you to email a resume, email it and mention the person’s name who asked for it.
Be persistent, but don’t be a pest.