As with any job search avenue, there are pros and cons to attending job fairs. Attending a job fair can be one of the most effective job search tools you employ, depending on the effort you exert to make the most of the event.
Just showing up and wandering from booth to booth is not going result in advancing your job search. If you’re going to bother getting dressed up, traveling to the event, and spending half the day, you should do everything possible to make it an effective job search tool. Here are some ideas to help you make the most of the next job fair…
Choose an event that has companies attending that you are interested in working for. There will likely be companies there you hadn’t heard of, and this is a good opportunity to learn about them and their opportunities. But if you research attending companies and don’t see a single one you are interested in, that may not be the event for you.
Attend military-focused job fairs, as they are a good match for veterans and those leaving the military. After all, that is the reason the recruiters are attending the event – to meet with candidates with the military experience they value. Cynics may say some companies attend to give the appearance of being military-friendly, but the companies that attend are spending valuable time and money on the event with the intent to spread the word to transitioning military members about their opportunities and to connect with prospective candidates.
Be proactive in preparing for the event. While the number of hires that may result from a job fair is relatively small, it increases for those who do their homework, come prepared, and make the most of the event.
Come prepared with questions about the companies and relevant information about yourself. This will help you take advantage of the face-to-face opportunity the job fair offers. Make the most of your short time with each company representative. Get as much information as you can from them and their brochures about the company culture to see whether it’s a fit for you.
Use LinkedIn before the event to identify your contacts at participating companies. Solicit their feedback and seek their assistance in identifying appropriate positions that you might want to discuss at the event.
Take the time to prepare your wardrobe and dress for success. That phrase may be overused, but it’s always the best policy. This is your chance to make many good first impressions in one fell swoop, and it’s worth putting the time and effort into a professional appearance.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT
By researching the companies prior to the event, you’ll better position yourself to take advantage of the face-to-face opportunity the job fair offers. Go beyond your resume by demonstrating your enthusiasm and interest in the company that can’t be conveyed on paper. Make the most of your short time with each company representative. Share relevant and interesting information about yourself to be memorable to the recruiter.
Ask questions that may have come up as you researched the companies. Get as much information as you can from the recruiters and their brochures. Learn about the company’s needs and culture to see if it’s a fit for you. You’re screening the recruiter just as they are screening you.
Many job fairs include quality preparatory seminars before or during the event. Plan to attend these free workshops to gain additional insights and get the most from the job fair experience.
Focus on learning from each recruiter about their company, its culture, and its needs. This information will help you better target companies of interest in the future.
Specific job openings can change rapidly, but a company that is a good match for your character and skills can keep you in mind for future needs. You might go to a job fair with a specific opening in mind but find out about other possibilities and opportunities after talking with the representative.
Be aware that some organizations, especially government agencies, are required to have you apply through their website. If a recruiter directs you to the organization’s website to apply for their opportunities, be sure to ask them for more information about the hiring process and the types of opportunities they have available now and will in the future.
Be realistic about the outcome you expect from attending the event. Few companies will make on-the-spot hires because of the vetting process that is required before a job offer can be extended. View the job fair as an opportunity to present your skills and enthusiasm for working at that company, and see what steps are next for landing an interview with those companies which are a good match.
When you are standing in line to speak with a recruiter, use that down-time to go over your company research and gather your thoughts about what you plan to say. Be patient and show courtesy to the job seekers ahead of you. Consider also using the wait time to network and share ideas with others in line.
Often times the small, lesser known businesses will have a shorter line (or no line) at their booth. Take this opportunity to engage the recruiter and find out more about their company’s needs. Since they are attending, they must need to fill certain positions, and you just might be a match.
BUILD YOUR NETWORK
Job fairs can be a great venue for networking. Collect contact names and information so you can follow up with company representatives after the event. Use LinkedIn to look up the people you meet at the event and invite them to join your network.
At a military-focused event, it’s possible you will meet fellow service members with whom you’ve previously served. Reconnect with these fellow job seekers (or company representatives, as the case may be) and add them to your network of supporters.
Review your notes after the event and give careful thought to your next moves. Keep a record of the contacts you made and the next steps you should take in the job search process.
Contact those you met at the event to add them to your network. If you engage with recruiters again in a follow-up email or via LinkedIn, you’ll increase the chances of making a positive impression and being memorable for future opportunities.
Corporate Gray has been a long time provider of job fairs because we believe there is value in the face-to-face interactions that these events afford. They are an opportunity to establish relationships with recruiters and glean much more information about the attending companies than can be found by Googling them. Online research can’t replace the value of meeting with representatives, even for a short time, getting answers to your questions in person, and making a positive first impression.
Best wishes for a successful job fair experience!