May 01, 2013

4 Steps to Job Fair Success

It's job fair season and that means a lot of wonderful opportunities to meet with employers face-to-face in an efficient, organized setting. That may not sound like the ideal way to spend a gorgeous spring day, but it's one of the best ways to let your personality make a good impression while ensuring your resume is actually seen by someone with the ability to make a hiring decision. You can find job fairs sponsored by local governments (such as the unemployment office in your county), local colleges, and even trade organizations and other non-profits. Still, it won't matter if you attend every job fair in a hundred mile radius if you don't come prepared. So here are 4 easy-to-follow tips to help you make the most of your job fair experience and, hopefully, get an interview.

1) Do Your Homework
The most important thing to do before going to any job fair is to research the companies attending and find out what types of positions they might be looking to fill. If you cannot find this information, contact the company or organization that is hosting the fair and ask them for a list of employers. Then look up every single organization to find out if what they do might be of any interest to you. Take a look at their careers page to see if there is a specific open role that you would like to apply for and make a note of it if so. Then, take the list of companies that match your interest and do a bit of extra research to learn about the company and any recent news or accomplishments so you have something to talk about that will help you stand out and impress. For example, I once attended a job fair where an employer began trying to explain to me where they were located but I had done the research and knew exactly where they were and politely told him this. He was impressed, gave me his card, and promised to do whatever he could to get me an interview since I had come prepared.


2) Make a Plan
Now that you know which companies match your interests, rank them in order of importance. It doesn't have to been an official scale, but make sure you know who your key targets are based on which companies are most important to you. You may want to focus especially on the companies whose expertise matches your interests and who happen to be looking to fill a position for which you want to apply. However, if there are companies you'd love to work for that aren't currently looking to fill a role that matches your expertise, don't be afraid to go say hello anyway and tell them why you'd like to work there. They can still take your resume and pass it on to someone in the correct department in case an opportunity opens in the future. Once you know what companies are most important to you, you can focus your efforts to use your time wisely by speaking with those you care about most first so that you don't run out of time. Be careful though, you shouldn't necessarily go to your first-choice company right away. Start by talking to a place that is lower on your list to give yourself a chance to get comfortable and get rid of any nerves.

3) Bring Notes
When you're on the floor of the job fair and you're getting tired, it can be difficult to remember exactly why you wanted to talk to each company. Bring some notes with bullet points explaining what the company does, where they are located, any recent news items, if they are hiring for a specific position, and what you like about them. Refer to this sheet before you approach each booth and you'll be sure to leave a better impression than the person who waits in line to talk to someone only to ask the recruiter what they do (don't be that person!).

4) Get a Card
Face time with an employer and the chance to hand over your resume is great, but the ultimate goal should be to a card. Then you will have a real person to reach out to and follow up with at the company and you have the opportunity to send a thank you note or email.

What are your job fair tips and strategies?