As the Fall Career Fairs approach, it is time to think about how to maximize your experience at these fairs. In today’s competitive job market, you want to stand out and be remembered by the recruiters. Having attended a few school fairs myself, I have learned from experience what a huge difference good preparation can make. Job fairs are rich opportunities to meet recruiters and learn about open positions. You may not get in the door of a company immediately, but career fairs are also a great venue for networking.
The right preparation will maximize your chances of making great first impressions, getting a second round of interview and expanding your network. Here is what you can do to best prepare yourself:
- Find out which companies are attending: For most career fairs, you can go online prior to the event and find a list of companies attending the fair. Highlight the companies that are of interest to you.
- Research the companies: Make sure you’re well informed about each of the companies you plan to visit. Research the growth areas and think of a thoughtful question you would like to ask. Look for any new products that have been introduced, or any other business news that gives you an idea of where the company is headed and how you can play a role.
- Prioritize: It is unlikely you’d be able to visit all the companies during the limited time. So be focused and prioritize. You don’t want to waste time on the companies you are not interested in.
- Resume: Tailor a version of resume to each specific job/company you’re targeting. This means you will have several versions of your resume, depending on your list of companies. A big mistake that some people make is to carry a generic resume. This shows your lack of seriousness and focus– the last thing that you want!
- Interview Preparation: Prepare a 30 sec – 1min pitch/introduction to get the conversation started. And make sure this is relevant to the specific company. Anticipate other interview questions and prepare your responses. Also, prepare a list of questions so you come across as prepared and professional.
- Appearance: You will often see people dressed casually at career fairs. Do not do that! Wear a business suit, so you create a great first impression.
Once you have done your homework and are well prepared with your documents and your pitch, you will enter the main event with confidence and a focused plan. Here are some tips and strategies to make the fair most productive for you:
- Manage your time efficiently: Survey the layout of the fair and determine an order of visits. Meet with your top choices first, but remember to stay flexible as your top choices may be the top choices of many, creating long lines that you may wish to avoid.
- Network: Career fairs are a great place for networking. You may not land a job immediately, but you will have built a network of professionals who could help you or who you could help in the future. Talk to both the employers and other candidates attending the fair. Learn here how to start, steer, and continue a networking conversation.
- Request business cards or an email address so you can follow-up
- Be prepared with a list of questions to keep the conversation flowing
- Have an open mind: It is essential to come in with a plan and the list of companies in order of priority. But, there may be some new companies that weren’t on the list that you saw prior to the event. If any of these companies are of interest to you, visit them.
- Conduct yourself in a professional manner
- Be confident and proactive
Last but certainly not the least, make sure you follow-up. Using the business cards and contact information you collected, get back to the company representatives. Thank them for taking the time to speak with you. For best follow-up strategies, read our blog on the Art of Follow-up.