While Career Fairs definitely have their drawbacks (i.e. intense competition), they should definitely be part of your job search strategy. Here are 13 tips to maximize your chances of success at a Career Fair:
- Do your homework ahead of time. Before arriving at a Career Fair, you should have a list of all the employers you want to visit. You should also do some research on each of these companies by visiting their web sites and by reading through the job descriptions they have provided to attendees of the Career Fair.
- Bring your ammo. Bring multiple copies of your resume, letters of recommendation, and personalized cover letters for each employer you plan to visit. Keep your materials paper-clipped together by employer in a portfolio pad. Backpacks are NOT allowed!
- Dress your best. Looks matter during the hiring process, and you will be more confident if you feel good about how you look. Err on the side of being overdressed.
- Arrive early. This shows enthusiasm and might get you some more time with a recruiter.
- Warm-up. Speak to recruiters from 2-3 companies you are not interested in before moving on to those you came to see. A few “practice” conversations will loosen you up.
- Make the most of your time in line. When you find yourself waiting in line to speak to a recruiter, talk to other people also waiting in line (this helps loosen you up).
- Build rapport before you sell yourself. Effective salespeople understand that they must build rapport with prospects before trying to sell their products, and you must do the same with recruiters at career fairs if you want them to “buy” you. The first goal for any conversation at a Career Fair is to get the recruiter to like you. Keep reading to learn how to do that in a genuine way…
- Make a great first impression. In addition to dressing your best, you must smile, give a firm handshake, and make strong eye contact when first meeting a recruiter. This sets the tone for the rest of the interaction. Do not hand the recruiter your resume upon first meeting them. Wait until you are asked for it, or provide it at the end of your conversation.
- Make 2 pitches. Do not introduce yourself to recruiters with your 30-second elevator pitch. Instead, introduce yourself with a mini-pitch, such as “Hi, my name is Mary Smith. I’ve been looking forward to speaking to you about positions with ABC Company. Can I ask you a few quick questions?” After you ask a few questions, the recruiter will inevitably ask you about yourself. Then, and only then, should you throw out your 30-second elevator pitch. In your 30-second pitch (which you should have prepared ahead of time), you should provide a few reasons why you want to work for the company and why they should hire you.
- Ask great questions. Prepare several questions for each employer in advance. Avoid meaningless questions about company culture, salary, or hours. Focus on thought-provoking questions that demonstrate you have given some thought to working for the company. Click here for some ideas.
- Identify a next step. Before ending any conversation with a recruiter, you should ask what the next step is in the process, and you should get a business card so that you can send a thank you note after the Career Fair.
- Stop by again. Consider visiting each recruiter a 2nd time before you leave the Career Fair. You could do this to ask one more question you “forgot to ask when we spoke initially.” Make sure this is an intelligent question. This is a good trick to help the recruiter remember who you were.
- Follow-up. As with every job search strategy, proper follow-up after the Career Fair is essential to success. Send each recruiter a personalized email within 24 hours. Thank them for their time, try to reference something specific from your conversation (this helps them remember you), and quickly reiterate why you want to work for their company and how you can help make their company better. You can also attach a copy of your resume, a personalized cover letter, and a letter of recommendation(s) to this email. You can also drop a short handwritten note in the mail within 24 hours of the Career Fair.
In summary, you must treat each conversation at a career fair like an abbreviated job interview. By showing up well-prepared and by following up correctly after the Career Fair, you can significantly increase your chances of being called in for a more formal job interview.
-Career Expert and Professional Speaker
-President of Idealize Enterprises
P.S. I speak about career success to students and young professionals nationwide. To learn more about my programs and speaking availability for The 2011 Dream Job College Tour, please send an email to Pete@IdealizeNow.com.