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Career Fairs: 7 Best Practices

J0444217 I wanted to re-post some reminders about working career fairs.  No, they aren’t a waste of time if you approach them with the right objectives.

A major part of job search is getting yourself out there.  What better way than to attend a career fair.  First of all, it is going to help you get more comfortable talking about yourself to strangers and builds a little confidence. If you are going to go, do some serious preparation.

1.  Find out what companies will be there and research them for a “Must Visit” list.

It sounds obvious, but, if the company isn’t in your field or industry, then, you don’t NEED to visit their table.   If you don’t see companies from your target list at the fair,  perhaps it isn’t worth your time to attend.

2.  Visit their websites and see what jobs they have posted.

Generally, companies that attend a career fair have posted jobs.  If you can’t find them on their website, check Indeed.

3. Customize your resume for that one job and put together your stunning cover letter

The letter explains why you want to work for that company and list some of your top qualifications for the job. How much more impressive is this than a generic cover letter and resume?

4.  Wait in line.

Yes, you might have to. But use this time to meet other job seekers and share industry news.

5. Know your 45 second commercial

Confidently and happily convey your elevator pitch.

5a. With interest and enthusiasm, ask good questions of the recruiter at the table.

2-3 questions might be all you have time for.  You want to leave them with a positive, interested and qualified mental picture of you!

6.  Ask when and how to follow up.

“We’ll call you” isn’t good enough, ask when you can call if you don’t hear from them.  Nicely, but assertively.

7.  Follow up, don’t give up!

Companies are not giving away jobs at a career fair.  They are there to “source human capital”.  They are looking for the people who are better than the average bear.

Miscellaneous:

Get there early while the recruiters are fresh. Have business cards to hand.  Turn your cell phone off. Always look your best (wear a suit).  Breath mints.

Miscellaneous II:

Chris Brogan attends LOTS of conferences.  Here is his post on 27 Things to Do Before a Conference

When I worked in HR, I represented my company at career fairs.  We had two boxes under the skirted table.  One box was for resumes we would
take back to the office and the other box, well, it is painful to admit…

 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lee Silverstein May 9, 2012, 7:09 am

    Excellent advice Hannah. Sadly, the people that attend job fairs well prepared tend to be in the minority. Your suggestion to “ask good questions” is a a great one as it shows the candidate did their homework.

    I would add two things: be sure that the 45 “commercial” illustrates how the candidate can add value to THAT company and second, no matter how the company responds to the “how should I follow up?” question, be sure to send a hand written thank you note. Few will do it and it will help the candidate stand out from the rest.

    • Hannah Morgan May 9, 2012, 12:29 pm

      Lee,
      All wonderful additions! Most people botch their commercial…so I am glad you made your point about talking about adding value to that specific company! What problems can you solve for them???

      Standing apart from the crowd is really what success means at one of these events!

      Hope all is well and thanks for stopping by!

  • Jaime P September 18, 2012, 1:07 pm

    I think this is a really good list.  I’ve represented companies at many career fairs and I think the points about researching the companies ahead of time is so key.  You definitely want to show that you have familiarity with a company if you are asking them to spend a few minutes chatting with you.  Nailing down the 45 second “commercial” is another great tip.

  • Oliver Brown September 21, 2012, 9:51 am

    Thanks for the advice on preparing a commercial.  I’m getting better at presenting myself at a career fair, some of them don’t advertise all the companies attending.  I never thought of bringing a cover letter though, maybe I should think about that.  
     

    • careersherpa September 21, 2012, 12:13 pm

       @Oliver Brown Oliver, having a cover letter will convey interest if customized for each specific employer. It is nice to be remembered…for the right things!

    • careersherpa September 21, 2012, 12:13 pm

       @Oliver Brown Oliver, having a cover letter will convey interest if customized for each specific employer. It is nice to be remembered…for the right things!

  • George May 23, 2013, 1:46 pm

    Career fairs are a great opportunity, and have been quite good to me in the past.  However, I have a new problem.  I’m planning to attend a large career fair in the fall and have high hopes for making really good contacts.  The problem is that my current employer will also be there, with reps from different departments that know me.
    What’s your professional advice for handling this situation, and others where you are (possibly) seeking another position while currently employed?

    • careersherpa May 24, 2013, 6:55 am

      @George Kinda tricky! Were you planning on going as a rep for your company or to grow your network? If you’re representing your company, you can certainly mingle with the other companies there. If you are thinking about going in order to make contact, I would reconsider. It may be to obvious that you are there to job search. Instead, connect with those people at companies you want to meet via LinkedIn or Twitter and establish a relationship. This can be done more discretely. Email is even more discrete.  
      Check out this post about looking for a job while employed! : http://careersherpa.net/ive-got-to-find-a-new-job/
      Thanks for your comment George and let me know how it goes!