Attending a job or career fair is a great way to meet with several employers and present yourself in person. Making sure you stand out amongst the sea of job seekers, and navigating the event can be overwhelming. Before the big event, take some time to prepare so that you can leave the event with job leads. Here are some tips to help you put your best foot forward.
Prep starts long before the actual fair. When attending a job or career fair it’s important to know what’s expected of you as an attendee, how to prepare, and how to get a job offer. Always look at a job or career fair as a chance to brush up on your networking and small talk skills, and connect with employers for an opportunity to build your resume, work experience, and of course, make some money. Below are some guidelines to help you maximize your job fair experience and get hired. Although each job fair may have it’s own requirements on what materials to bring, these tips and suggestions will definitely help you stand out from a crowd of hundreds of other students and alumni.
Be sure your resume is polished and up to date. Have it reviewed by at least one professional. Print at least 10-15 copies to have on hand to share with employers if they ask for it. Even if an employer doesn’t take your resume and rather you fill out an application, you’ll want to have employment or work history dates on hand.
Although it may not be required, you may want to have your portfolio standing by or easily accessible. Talking about your work just doesn’t have the same impact as showing it. Compile your work and consider having it reviewed beforehand. Make work samples available – either hard copy or digital – the day of the fair.
Business cards are another tool that could make you more memorable. These also compliment your resume. Plus, you will occasionally encounter a recruiter who won’t accept resumes on the spot. This way, you’ve got something professional to leave behind.
Few of us are inherently good at selling ourselves, so it’s wise to take some time to practice. Brainstorm a short, 30 second summary that you can use when you introduce yourself to professionals. Include your past experience, strengths, and your future goals.
RESEARCH THE COMPANIES
This is not a craft fair! Don’t “shop” an employer by asking them what the company does. Take into consideration the employer’s time. They’ve likely taken the day out of the office to be there and meet interested candidates. You should approach professionals with knowledge about what they do. Check to see if the businesses and job openings are posted in advance. Start by digging around the company website. Check their “careers” page to gather info about open positions (but keep in mind that many jobs are not openly posted). Look at their client list and recent projects. Read industry publications and blogs to see what others are saying about them. Our Career Research pages will also give you clues on where to start.
MAKE AN IMPRESSION
The big day is here – Get Ready! It may seem overwhelming when you first get there. You won’t be as nervous if you scope out the jobs and do as much company research ahead of time. Other things to take into consideration are making plans to eat breakfast or lunch so you don’t have to cut out early or arrive too late because you’re hungry. Bring a pen and a notepad to write things down. Charge your phone if you need to access anything online or snap photos to help you remember.
DRESS THE PART
While you probably don’t need to wear a full suit, you shouldn’t wander in wearing sweat pants either. A nice pair of pants/skirt and a nice shirt will show that you take this seriously. Interview attire can be modified by opting for comfortable shoes and foregoing the full on suit, blazer or tie to give you a cleaned up, less than casual appearance.
Many businesses and organizations will be in attendance, but you may not have time to meet them all. Decide before you arrive whom you want to meet first. When you get there, take a minute to become oriented with the space. Look for a faculty or staff member if you don’t know where to start.
FLEX THAT HANDSHAKE
When you arrive, companies will be at tables waiting to meet you. Your interactions will go something like this: Approach and give a firm (but not crushing) handshake. Launch with your short introduction, then segue into a question such as: What kind of talent are you looking for? Who is the ideal candidate? What’s the application process or how may I apply? They will likely give you a rundown of company and hiring information, and ask you about the work you do. Depending on the individual, and the size of the crowd, this interaction will only last five minutes, maybe less.
It’s always okay to ask what the next step should be. Some companies will accept your resume on the spot; others will require that you apply online. Whatever they advise, try to snag a business card and make notes about next steps.
What you do after the fair is as important as what you did the day of.
Did they ask you to apply online? Email them a resume and work samples? Do it – immediately. If you wait more than 24 hours, you may have missed your chance. For jobs based within your industry, it’s wise to email a cover letter with a resume attached (and a link to your web portfolio).
LAND AN INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW
You may have met some companies that didn’t have current job openings in your area of interest. Think long term. If you got their contact info, follow up to ask if you can have 20 minutes of their time to learn more about the company. Expo interactions will be short, so this gives you the chance to prepare additional questions and gather information that will help you land a job down the road.
Contact the Portfolio Center for more information or questions: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (312) 369-7280