Job fairs or career fairs have so much potential to help your job search tremendously. Or it can be a most brutal event that can completely waste your time. In theory, what a great opportunity – what other venue allows you to meet with so many live, breathing recruiters, HR pro’s and possibly hiring managers.
So much potential for success…
Or the brutal reality all that rejection in one day…
Look at it from the recruiters’ point of view; they see hundreds, perhaps more, over the course of a day or two. That’s can be staggering, even to the most experienced recruiters.
By the way, before you go any further, take a look at this hilarious take on “The 10 Types of Crappy Interviewees” from Oatmeal.com – good for laugh and not bad for keeping in mind when you go to see all those recruiters at the job fair. But mostly for a laugh because you never do those things, right…
With that reality facing you – your task is to be the most obvious, not only on the day of the job fair, but a few days later when they attempt to recap what all exactly happened.
You have to cut through all the noise and confusion of a job fair. Some time ago, at a job fair in a nearby convention center; 135 companies met up with close to 5000 job seekers – wow.
So, here’s my advice on how to make the most of your time at a job fair and stand out from the competition.
Pre-register. Always take advantage of pre-registration whether by mail or online. Oftentimes, pre-registration also includes sending in a resume, which the job fair will pre-distribute to all the participating companies. In any event, it will save time when you arrive.
Research. Take time to examine which companies will be there and make a list. You should determine beforehand which companies you want to approach. And make sure that you keep this list manageable. By manageable, I mean keeping your list to about 10 or so. With that list, again, take time to look at their websites, their mission statements, their list of accomplishments, etc. You want to know enough to discuss both the position and company intelligently.
Gameplan. Every good NFL team will script out what plays they will run first. You must script out which companies to see first and what your opening statements will be. You must have a good, engaging elevator statement. And be flexible when you get there. The recruiters are going to get a stack of resumes. You want your resume to be either toward the bottom or the top. If you arrive at a booth and there a ton of people there, then it might behoove you to come back later. Do not get lost in the middle.
Business dress. You must wear a clean, respectable and conservative business suit.
Arrive early. This is easy. That stated, in some cases, you may want to meet some toward the end of the day. Yes, many recruiters may be burnt out by then but it may also give you an opportunity to make a good, last impression of the last one. Again, as stated before, you want to avoid being in the great middle.
Act professionally. You are on stage all day. The gentleman in the next urinal could be the recruiter you see next. And do not discount the networking opportunity this represents. You must be positive and optimistic all day long, with no negative comments about how many people are there or how long the lines are.
Take a break. After every couple visits, go off somewhere quiet (good luck finding a spot – find it) and go a quick recap of how those visits went. How did you feel? Any issues, concerns? Make adjustments. Every time the offense or defense comes off the field, they get with their coaches/coordinators and talk. What happened? What went well? What was a dud? And breathe.
Drink and Eat. Stay hydrated. Have a good breakfast. Have a light lunch. Have a snack. No sugar. Lots of water. Don’t dry mouth taking to a recruiter.
Follow up. This is where it all counts. I guarantee most of the job fair participants will just drop off their resumes and wait. They will not research nor will they have a gameplan. And they definitely will not follow up. You must be different. At the very least, immediately send a brief thank you to everyone you meet.