Let’s keep it short and simple. I hate job fairs. I’ve been to plenty, gotten a few interviews, had zero follow-up interviews, and no job offers. Sound similar.
That’s not entirely true…
I got my current day job at a job fair. I met with most of the companies represented, about 50 or so, though I was only really interested in 4. As it turned out, I had half dozen on site interviews which were followed by 5 phone interviews. I accepted a follow-up interview to 2 companies at their headquarters – one in Chicago and the other in Baltimore. I was living in Orlando at the time. They flew me up to see them.
I accept one of the jobs and been with them since 2006. They moved me up to Baltimore. In Hawaii now and still with them.
So, how do I reconcile my 2 statements?
The first job fairs are the cattle calls. Every company (up to several hundred in at least as many industries) within a multi-state region show up – along with several, several thousand applicants. Crazy.
The job fair I had success at was a focused, niche job fair that specialized in veterans. Multiple industries were present but they were all looking for a specific type of individuals.
And that is the key
The key to success
Success is niche
Steps before the Job Fair
- Define and narrow your industry or talent or association
- Identify Job Fairs that cater to you
- Select Job Fair you want to attend – location matters not. That job fair I mentioned was held in Austin, TX and I lived Orlando at the time – it was a long drive.
- Research and Analyze all the companies
- Prepare Your 30 second elevator speech, tweaked to each company
- Prepare resume, tweaked to each company
Steps at the Job Fair
Attend all Seminars Offered – many niche specific job fair also have seminars to help you. If offered, take, mingle, introduce yourself – BUT NO active job hunting at these seminars, only offer resumes or business cards if asked – this is not a back way into seeing a recruiter or company rep
Many niche events are 2 day affairs – on the first day, seminars and gather intell on who is there. 2nd day, work the job fair
- Start of the day – gameplan which companies to see and what order. Arrange all focused resumes and cue cards for elevator speeches in order – be organized.
- Take a brief break after each company and debrief yourself. Also list who you met and what they did and write down anything of importance.
- Mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack – take em. Do not get hungry and stay hydrated.
- Be professional – every single person you meet is a potential employer, be in the restroom or at the bar. Keep it professional.
- At the end of the day – write a brief thank you note to everyone you met.
- Hopefully, you had one or two that were interested in you. Obviously follow-up. But resist the urge to push too hard. Be firm, be professional, and work to get a commitment to meet or speak again – just don’t be obnoxiously pushy.
The most important thing is this:
Plan your work…
Work your plan…
But first and foremost, do not waste your time at a big, generic job fair with 300 companies participating and 5000 participants. It will only be painful and ugly.
Instead, specialize and pursue niche job fairs that cater to your industry, your experience, your associations, your alumni, etc.
Those are the fairs you want to go to…with all due respects to Simon and Garfunkel.