I’m often asked by students when the next career fair will be. The image of employers sitting at booths just waiting for them to come be a part of their company holds a lot of appeal. Unfortunately, it never seems to work out that way in real life. Job fairs are like anything else worth doing — complicated. It takes research, networking, presentation, and follow up to really work a fair.
1. RESEARCH: Go to the job fair’s website and check out the participants and their available positions. If there’s not enough information available there, go directly to the companies’ websites. If you still can’t find anything, try emailing or calling the person or group that’s hosting the event. They should have all the information.
Narrow down your companies of interest to no more than 20. Researching that many companies and having to visit that many booths at a busy event is hard enough. You can’t expect to get to them all.
2. NETWORKING: Sometimes you are able to email your resume in early. Definitely do that if you can. Try to find out who’s going to be attending the job fair and begin a dialogue BEFORE the day of the event. This way, you will have something to talk about when you get to that company’s booth.
3. PRESENTATION: Business attire is essential in a job fair if you really want to be considered for a position. It is, in essence, a mini-interview right there on the spot. Most recruiters will take your resume, talk to you for a few minutes, and, right there, decide whether to call you back for an interview or not. After speaking with you, they’ll put your resume into a particular pile or write notes on it…something to remind them of their initial impression.
Create a 30 sec. – 1 min. elevator speech about yourself which includes your name, job title (even if you’re not currently working, you can still say that you’re involved in a particular career field), background and experience, and what kind of position you are looking for. You may have to change it up depending on the company and available positions. You want to make sure that they always match. Creating and rehearsing this in advance will make you feel much more comfortable and prepared when you enter the event hall.
Another point to mention — be careful of your shoes. Some of the bigger events house as many as 200 employers and can take 2-3 hours to work. If you have bought new shoes or high heels that haven’t been broken in, you will be miserable in the first 10 minutes. There’s nothing wrong with nice-looking comfortable shoes that match your outfit. If you feel good, your attitude and appearance will reflect it, and recruiters like candidates who like themselves.
4. FOLLOW-UP: Enough cannot be said about follow-up. A polite thank you note says a lot about you. Although everyone talks about it, not many people actually do it. Sending a follow-up note gives you the opportunity to repeat things you want the recruiter to remember or mention things you forgot to talk about. Be sure to remind the recruiter of who you are and what the two of you talked about at the booth, so they will be able to place you. Attach your resume again in case they’ve misplaced it.
Once you get a response, stick with them. The burden is on you to keep the relationship going. Give them two weeks, and then follow up again. Eventually, they will either call you in for an interview or tell you that the position is not a good fit, closed, already filled, etc. Either way, you will have closure on it and can continue to follow up with the other companies.
Job fairs are indeed complicated, but where else are you going to find so many potential employers in one place and willing to talk to you? Use these events wisely, and they can be very helpful in landing a great job.
Tracee Ali is the CEO of Resume Your Life, a career management company headquartered in Dallas, TX. A former Career Director for the University of Dallas’ MBA program for 8 years and Masters degree-holder from Florida State University, Tracee has extensive experience in counseling students, hosting career fairs, and managing career offices. After leaving the university, she decided to start her own business offering full-service career services (from career counseling to placement) to universities on a virtual platform for easy access and less cost. Visit her company’s website at http://www.resumeyourlife.com. Learn more about Tracee at http://www.linkedin.com/in/traceeali.
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