How job fairs work
A job fair is an exciting event filled with the promise of meeting new prospective employers with potential career opportunities. It can also be intimidating, with other job seekers competing for the attention of the same recruiters. You need to stand out from other job seekers and do it in a short period of time. Here is what you do at a job fair to grab the attention of employers.
What you should do at a job fair to make a positive impression
It’s important to prepare for a job fair. It’s the perfect opportunity to make an impression on new employers. With technology taking over much of the job search and application process, job fairs make it possible to get in front of recruiters and make personal connections.
Take time to prepare before the job fair
Never just wing it at a job fair. Make sure your resume is current, has the correct contact information, and free from any mistakes. Print out more copies than you think you’ll need, so you have enough for every recruiter and any other potential employer you might meet. If you have time, get business cards printed and bring these too.
Bring a targeted resume. If you have a specific job you are interested in, make a revised copy of your resume that highlights your skills and experience for that position. Bring a few of these for each job, so you can give them to recruiters when you meet them.
Preparation also includes getting the right attire, getting a haircut if you need one, and making sure you will look your best on the day of the job fair. First impressions are critical. Make sure you know the expected attire for your profession and the expected attire for the employers. Business attire is your best bet.
Research who will be there
Complete an in-depth review of the companies that will be at the job fair. Research every company that you are interested in working for, and go in ready to interview. You can find out almost everything you need to know with our convenient Employer Review tool. It is not uncommon for companies to offer on-the-spot interviews, so be ready for anything.
Be prepared to tailor your conversation to each of the companies that you want to work for, and think about how you can incorporate your skills and experience to the specific job.
Don’t limit yourself to just a few companies. As you research the people you know will be a good match, take a look at some that are outside of your wheelhouse. It might just open up some job opportunities that you didn’t think of.
Have your pitch ready
Once you know what companies will be at the job fair, you can prepare your pitch and construct a list of questions. Your pitch should include a quick overview of your background, skills, and your experience if you have it. If you are a new grad, your pitch can include the value you’ll add to the company. Keep it to about 30 seconds, because this is all the time you will get once you are in front of the recruiter.
Practice your pitch. This is just as important as having one. Use friends and family for practicing to make sure you sound natural, friendly, and to make sure you know exactly what you want to say.
Make a list of questions
Recruiters are there to ask the job seekers questions, but you’ll stand out from others if you have some relevant questions of your own. Write down a short list of questions relevant to the industry and use them as you talk with the recruiters. You’ll come across as informed, and invested in your job search.
It’s ok to ask the recruiter questions about what their company looks for in new employees, and ask about the company culture.
Get there early and have a plan of attack
You already know who is going to be there, but now you need to see the layout of the fair and decide the best way to navigate the fair. It can be beneficial to meet with your top choices in the morning when you are fresh and head to your other choices later in the day. This gives you time to return to your favorites in the afternoon to thank them for their time.
Get there early, and use the extra time wisely. Head to the internet and take a look at the social media pages of your top picks. Make notes of any recent posts that might be good talking points in your interview. Also, spend a few minutes looking at the company websites to check their most recent job postings.
If the company you are interested in has a line, wait patiently for your turn. You can use the time to review your notes about the job and the company, and even listen to others as they talk to the recruiter. You can pick up some information that you might not know, and use it when it’s your turn. Waiting in line will give you the time to compose yourself, make sure you have the correct resume for the job, and take a breath before you need to step up.
Smile when you introduce yourself
A smile makes you look and sound positive. Take the initiative and don’t wait for the recruiter to address you, walk up and introduce yourself. Keep it simple, and practice it before the event. Make sure you work on making eye contact as you introduce yourself, and even practice your stance. You want to appear open and friendly to think about your facial expressions and your body language.
Your departure is almost as important as your greeting. Don’t overstay your welcome. This will make you stand out, but not in a way you want. Smile, introduce yourself, make your pitch. Ask any relevant questions and answer theirs before moving on so the next job-seeker has a chance.
Use the job fair as a networking event
Job fairs are a huge networking opportunity. Your first plan should be networking with the recruiters, but you can also use fellow job seekers to get information about other job leads and find out about companies that might have open positions. Find out about professional organizations at the fair and what they have to offer, and use these to increase your network.
Be prepared for the unexpected
Unless it is slow at the job fair, you won’t have to answer too many questions other than the basics, but be ready for anything. If a recruiter wants to know more, have responses to general interview questions ready. Focus on the most common questions such as “Why are you here?” and “What do you know about our organization?’ Make sure you have the answer to “What can you bring to our company?” You can find answers to common interview questions in our interview question database.
Leave a memorable impression
You want to let the recruiter know you are interested in their company, so make sure to ask about the next steps before you leave. Thank the person you’re talking to for their time, and make an offer to go to the office for a more in-depth conversation. Always ask for their business card from every person to speak with. If you talk to several different recruiters, you’ll never remember everyone’s name, so having everyone’s business card will help when you do your follow-up.
Once you get home, organize the business cards. You can discard the ones that you know you’ll never use, but take the time to add the important ones to your LinkedIn network within a few days of the job fair.
Set aside time for following up. How you approach this depends on the conversations you had at the job fair. If you didn’t discuss a specific opening, send a quick email thanking the contact for their time. If you spoke to a recruiter about a specific job, think back to your conversation and include at least one of the talking points you covered. If you had an interview at the job fair, again, thank them for their time, express your interest in the position, and ask about the next steps. Make sure they know you are available to come in for another interview.
Each follow-up email needs to be unique. Don’t send a generic message to all the recruiters you spoke with. The more you can include about your conversation, the better chances the recruiter will remember you. This is especially important if there are a lot of other candidates at the job fair and the company was a popular stop for everyone.
Whether you are a new grad or an experienced professional, what you do at a job fair is essentially the same. Preparation is essential for success whether this means making new contacts, getting an interview, or gaining some experience.