How can you stand out from the crowd at a Career Fair?
- Who are you hoping to meet?
- What can you offer an employer?
- What are you hoping to learn?
As part of the Career Management team at Georgia State University’s Robinson College, our business is to provide career management advising for job seekers and recruitment support for employers. We have 8,000+ students each semester and 11,000+ recruiters in our job-board databases. We host many, large-scale career fairs for our job seeking students and our employers and business partners. We observe patterns of successs. As an MBA Career Counselor, I often get asked by job seekers : how can we prepare?
Let me share with you, some insider tips and best practices…From a recruiters perspective, the main purpose of a Career Expo is to promote the company brand and increase your community/campus presence and to meet a few candidates. From a candidates perspective – they just want a job.
A Career Fair, isn’t a first date, it is a first hello. You cannot expect a commitment, or interview, from a first hello. There are many, steps in this intricate job-search dance. Sometimes, if you are well prepared, you may get a call back and may be able to convert this to a phone interview or live interview. However, your goal is to test the waters and practice your networking skills, and your communication savvy while meeting decision makers. With these, reset expectations, you are on track – so let’s begin.
Top 10 Career Fair Strategies
1) Without a Career Fair Action-Plan and Strategy, you may be wasting your time and the employers time. Quality of contacts, is much more important than quantity. Prior to the event, review the Career Expo website. Research the employers and review the list of registered companies. Create a first tier list, second tier list and third tier list, of who you would like to speak with.
2) Review the exhibitor floor plan – know where you are going. Work the convention floor in an organized manner. Arrive early, begin at the back of the room, where the recruiters are still fresh. You may want to begin with your third tiered companies “just for practice.”
3) Wear comfortable shoes. Bring a roomy, briefcase with a shoulder strap. Sling your bag over your left side. Keep your right hand free, for shaking hands. You do not want to fumble the first impression. Store the brochures you receive in your briefcase – not in the free career fair bag.
4) Treat the recruiters’ as human beings, not just machines to dispense information. Don’t monopolize their time, when there are many others who are waiting. Be polite. Do not just drop off your resume, make a lasting impression, interact with representatives.
5) If you only interact with recruiters, you have missed out on 80% of the Networking. Interact with the fair organizers, people at the registration desk, attend workshops, speak to presenters. Network with other attendees even while you are standing in line. You never know who you can help or who can help you.
6) Create a “verbal business card,” your 45-second elevator pitch. Tell employers what you’re seeking and the value you can add to the organization. It should not be a memorized speech. http://mycareermanager.blogspot.com/2009/06/verbal-business-card-creating-your.html
7) Get regular, Business Cards printed. Note: a new trend is creating a mini-resume on your business card. There are specialty companies which can do this for you.
8) Body language: strong, firm handshake, project confidence, fresh breath, maintain good eye-contact and smile. Maintain personal space and don’t invade the space of the recruiters. Dress professionally.
9) Some employers may not accept hard copies of resumes, but will send you directly to their website. Apply for positions BEFORE the Career Fair and upload your resume on the Career Fair website. Most employers will pre-select applicants and set-up interview times before the event. Use the event to follow-up on your application. http://mycareermanager.blogspot.com/2009/11/resume-fashions-whats-hot-whats-not.html
10) After the fair, follow up! Write cover letters to employers of interest. In the first paragraph, indicate that you attended the Career Expo and spoke to a recruiter. Mention the recruiters’ name and department and specify, what role you are most suited for within the company, and why.
© 2010 – All Rights Reserved – Sharon B. Cohen, MA,Dip.Educ, CPRP, Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist.
Read my Career Blog postings at http://www.mycareermanager.blogspot.com/
On LinkedIn: Sharon B. Cohen
On Twitter: Mycareermanager
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