Making the Most of Your Time on
the Job Fair Floor
Job fairs are excellent places to learn, network and land a job. But
the big job fairs can be overly-crowded, competitive, confusing events.
Some have hundreds of employers and thousands of job seekers
participating, making it impossible for you to "shop" all
booths. You could easily miss your ideal job opportunity while trying to
squeeze through the crowd. It's also hard to leave lasting impressions
when hundreds of job seekers were at the booths before you, with hundreds
more after. But there are ways to make the most of your time on the job
fair floor and beat your competitors.
- If the Web sites of job fair producers
offer the option, search for jobs in advance, to target the most
promising, participating employers. Read the employers' profiles if
available, to help you answer the classic question, "Why do you
want to work for us?" Even if job fair producers don't offer
these options, most at least list the participating employers and the
general types of jobs they have open, so you may research them on your
own. That might be a good idea anyway, and the "About Us"
and career sections of employers' Web sites are typically good places
to start. You can find an employer's site by typing the full company
name in your browser, where you'd normally type a URL. Alternately,
try company-research resources, some of
which include business articles, financial reports and such for the
companies they track. Natch, in-depth research might not be practical
if dozens of companies are offering your job at the fair. But the more
you know about each, the better.
- Plan to take at least 25 crisp resumes
to a job fair, 40 or so if it's a huge event. (The job fair might have
copy facilities for free or a small fee, which is nice if you run out.
But don't count on it ahead of time.) The scannable
format is probably best for job fairs, as it accommodates most of
the ways employers file and distribute paper resumes and their
electronic counterparts. If your job requires formatting skills, you
might also bring some fancier resumes to offer employers a choice.
Bring a pen, pencil and notepad too, and organize it all in a nice
brief case or portfolio.
- Before a job fair, prepare to interview
on the spot, summary style in a few minutes or less. In other words,
be prepared to quickly sell your skills, talents and experiences. It's
better to politely sidestep up-front
salary discussions if you can. But have a salary figure
in mind, just in case your interview advances to the salary stage. Job
fairs tend to be more casual than formal interviews, so you can relax
and be more friendly. But also "read the mood" of the
employer's representative with whom you're speaking at the moment, and
adjust your style accordingly. Even though it's more casual, attire,
body language, manners and other interview professionalisms
still count. Dress sharp, act professional and display enthusiasm.
- Also prepare to fill out a job
application on the spot. Unless you're otherwise directed, it's best
to turn it in right away. Taking it home first allows your
better-prepared competitors to beat you to it.
- Arrive a few minutes early at a job fair, to register if required
and plan your "attack." Pick up a booth map if available,
and route your path to the employers you've targeted. If a job list is
available, check it, just in case employers added new jobs since you
last researched. If you're going to attend seminars, networking events
and such, look for the schedules while you're at it.
- Visit your targeted employers first with resume in hand, and spend
some "quality time" with each. But, remember that they have
many more job seekers waiting, so don't try to hog all their time or
be offended if they cut it short. Once you've hit all of your targets,
"shop" other employers' booths and do some networking. If
the job fair has casual get-togethers, have some fun while networking
too! But, natch, it's a good idea to go easy on the cocktails. Your
potential new boss might be watching you.
- When wrapping up your conversations with employers' reps, show your
interest by asking them what the next steps are. Ask if it's okay to
call them or send follow-up letters a few
days after the job fair ends. But if they say they'll contact you,
don't press your luck too much. The squeaking wheel doesn't always get
the oil in this case.
- Track to which employers you've submitted your resume at the job
fair, so you don't redundantly resubmit it too soon. It's a good idea
to jot down other notes too, right after you talk with each rep. This
will help you to stay consistent, in case you land a follow-up
interview with the same person. (You can bet that interested reps will
take notes on you.) Taking notes will also help you to effectively
follow up with a call or letter.
- Collect business cards or contact info as you go, and do follow up
within 24-48 hours with a thank-you letter
to each of the representatives with whom you spoke. It's courteous,
professional and typically expected, even after casual job fairs.
Complying might make you stand out in their minds, to help you land
- Afterwards, revisit the job fair producers' sites periodically. Many
continue to list new and unfilled openings for some time after job
fairs. Post your resume if you haven't already done so. Again, if
producers don't offer these options, visit the sites of employers that
interest you. It wouldn't hurt to visit the latter anyway, as they may
have new openings they don't forward to the producers after the job
fair. But don't bombard employers with your resume, as it'll appear
that you're unorganized and not keeping track. One resume in three to
six months is enough. If you want to know what's going with your
resume or if you see a new position, send a follow-up
letter or letter of inquiry
instead. The employer will let you know if you should submit your
For more like this, see "Strategies for Job
Fairs." To discover what diversity, college, virtual (online) and
other jobs fairs are about, plus link to nice-to-have resources, such as
driving maps and weather forecasts, see "About
Job Fairs." To locate job fair schedules, check local newspapers
and visit job fair producers' Web sites.
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Copyright © 2002, J. Steven Niznik. All Rights Reserved.