A major part of job search is getting yourself out there. What better way than to attend a career fair? First, there are usually open jobs at companies that attend career fairs. Second, you’ll have the chance to meet employers and others face-to-face! If you are going to go, do some serious preparation.
In order to make the most of your time at career fairs, follow these best practices.
No, you won’t walk out of a career fair with a job offer and they aren’t a waste of time if you approach them with the right objectives.
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 probably don’t NEED to visit their table.
You won’t have time to wander through the event and visit every employer so you’ll want to review the list of participating companies a day before the event. Look for companies on your target list first to see if they will be there. Next, look for any employers you’ve been curious about. You should plan to visit 5-10 companies during the event.
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 or LinkedIn.
3. Bring a resume
It’s unlikely that you will be able to submit your resume for available jobs during the career fair. They would prefer you apply online. However, having a resume that speaks to your skills to “show” the recruiter or person at the table, can be helpful.
4. Prepare your pitch
You will absolutely be asked “so what do you do” numerous times at a career fair. This is your chance to concisely explain what you are looking for and what you are good at doing (your value). Remember, recruiters at a career fair meet hundreds of people so you want your pitch to be short and memorable. Keep it to 30 seconds or less. Here’s a formula to help you answer “tell me about yourself.”
5. Wait in line
Make the most of your time while waiting in line. Ask the person near you what kind of work they do, what other companies they have visited, and strike up some small chat to kill some time and meet new people. This is also a chance for you to practice your pitch or answer to the question “what do you do?” Use this time to meet other job seekers and share industry news.
5a. Ask good questions of the recruiter at the table
2-3 questions might be all you have time for. You want to leave the recruiter you meet with a positive, interested, and qualified mental picture of you! Asking questions shows you’ve done some research on the company and will help set you apart. Here are some questions you can ask a recruiter at a career fair.
6. Ask when and how to follow up
Nicely yet assertively ask for a business card so you can follow up after the event. If they recommend you apply online for a certain job, be sure to ask how to follow up and how long you should wait. Having their contact email will make this possible, so be sure to ask for it.
7. Follow up, don’t give up!
It’s up to you to stay in touch with the person you meet in case there are future jobs available. They will probably not be able to remember you or reach out to you if there is a new job posted in a couple of months. Companies are not giving away jobs at a career fair. They are there to meet people and build a pipeline for current or future jobs they have available.
- Arrive at the career fair early while the recruiters are fresh. Showing up near the end means they will probably be tired or may have decided to leave early.
- Always bring business cards to hand out either to those you meet while waiting in line or to hand to recruiters.
- Turn your cell phone off or at least turn the ringer off and do not answer calls in public.
- Always look your best (wear a suit).
- Two words: Breath mints.
One More Thought:
Chris Brogan attends LOTS of conferences. Here is his post on 27 Things to Do Before a Conference.
Attending a career fair can fill some people with anxiety. Being prepared and knowing what to expect from the event will help you navigate it more successfully.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.