How To Make Career Fairs Work

see also 20 Top Career Fair Success Strategies

  • Nothing's more important than doing your homework. Don't even think about walking into a career fair unprepared. This means knowing the organizations that you're interested in. There's so much information available at our fingertips that it's simply unacceptable to skip the research process. It doesn't take much effort to check out a corporate website, especially since the pay-off can be quite significant.
  • Being well versed in a company's background, environment and mission may very well go a long way in demonstrating enthusiasm to a recruiter. Likewise, knowing nothing about a company and admitting that you have absolutely no idea what your strengths and interests are is a prescription for disaster.
  • Looking, speaking and acting professionally help to make a terrific first impression. Something as simple as a smile--even if you're kept waiting longer than you'd like--goes a long way.
  • Time spent at a career fair may go down the tubes if you're not prepared to follow-up effectively. Even though proper follow-up procedures usually vary among interviewers and companies, there are a few universally acceptable things to keep in mind.
  • If it's a huge, bureaucratic firm you're interested in, the recruiter would probably appreciate a note--not a phone call--within a week. If you are given a business card that includes an e-mail address, it's totally acceptable to thank the interviewer electronically if you'd like. At the end of any interview or even a mini discussion, be sure to ask what the next steps are. Ask if the interviewer minds if you follow up by phone or email and try to establish a time frame in which to do so.
  • Keep in mind that all is not lost if you don't land a job. Career fairs also offer great practice in perfecting networking and interviewing skills. Talk to as many people as you can; never underestimate the value of face time with recruiters from leading companies. And, just as importantly, listen to them, too. Pay attention to the questions you're being asked and to the kind of information they're offering. It's impossible to leave without something of value.

20 Top Career Fair Success Strategies

While many job seekers earnestly seek to obtain employment by attending these events, few know how to go about it successfully. Many are ill prepared and walk away from them without interviews with their targeted companies and feeling let down. By developing a strategic plan, you can significantly increase your success at identifying employment opportunities, making an impression and obtaining second interviews. The following tips are designed to help you create a strategy that will have you walking away from these events with job leads and interviews.

Most job fairs now have web sites that showcase participating employers. Use the web sites to identify which companies that you want to approach.

You should also gather information about these employers from the site so you will be prepared to converse knowledgeably about the company with its representatives.

First impressions are lasting ones, so treat the career fairs that you are attending like a job interview. Come dressed for success in conservative attire, with a winning attitude, and ready to answer probing questions.

Periodically attend these events even when you are not necessarily looking for a job to see what opportunities are out there, and to gain a perspective on where you fit in the job marketplace.

Be prepared by bringing the following: a pen, note pad and stack of resumes. You should also bring a portfolio or carryall that has easily accessible storage areas. Wear comfortable, professional-looking shoes designed for standing long periods of time.

Your resume should be scannable, short and professional on white paper that is free of graphics, photographs or fancy print styles, but also containing larger margins for interviewer notes.

If they distribute name tags at the conference or job fair, by all means use them.

Arrive early to avoid having to stand in long lines, give yourself time to survey the layout of the fair, and determine the order that you plan to visit with company representatives. Large companies with high profiles will have the longest lines, so if some are on your list, you should visit them first.

If you are unfortunate enough to end up in a long line, which is likely during these economically difficult times, use the time to review your cheat sheet to refresh your memory about company facts and how you will sell yourself to that particular company.

Network with other job seekers. Talk to others while you are standing in line to exchange job-hunting ideas, provide support, and even obtain leads.

Be prepared to assertively introduce yourself, giving your best handshake, showing enthusiasm and making eye contact with the interviewer. Be concise, polite and direct, as you only have brief period of time to obtain the information that you need and to make an impression.

Recruiters will want you to be prepared to talk about your career objectives, strengths, willingness to relocate, interests, relevant skills, the kind of job you are looking for, why you want to work for their organization, and why you would be an asset. Be prepared to answer commonly asked questions and tailor them to the company’s needs.

The people at these events usually do not make hiring decisions, so close of the conversation by asking how you might go about arranging a second interview, how to contact the hiring manager, or what steps should be taken next. If a recruiter is not accepting resumes, find out about their application process.

Use career fairs to polish your interviewing skills. Pay close attention to the popular questions that you may not have anticipated and prepare answers to those questions for future interviews.

Finding out about position needs, company culture and diversity. These questions will help you figure out if the company is a good match for you. Use the information that you obtain from your company research, and the questions that you ask to sell your skills that address their needs.

After talking to each recruiter, use the back of his or her business card to record notes about the encounter to help you remember important details and follow-up instructions. If no card is available, record their contact information and your comments in your notepad .

Say Thank You. Follow up as soon as possible with thank you notes that address the companies’ hiring needs, your qualifications, and express your desire for a second interview.

Student & Community Engagement
Sinclair Community College
Room 8025, 444 West Third Street
Dayton, OH 45402