The Career Spectrum Blog

Getting The Most Out of a Job Fair

Posted on: January 17, 2010

You spend days preparing for that big career fair, where you’ll meet your dream employer who will throw lots of money your way because YOU are the one they’ve been waiting for. However, the reality is that many people who attend job fairs are left disappointed, frustrated and jobless. That’s because they come unprepared to take advantage of all a job fair has to offer.

Here are some pointers to help you get the most out of your next job fair experience.

  • Lower your expectations. Very rarely do people get hired for jobs at job fairs on the spot, which is why the description “job fair” is a misnomer. Typically, a recruiter at a job fair will glance over your resumé, spend about five or ten minutes talking to you, and then move on to other candidates. The idea is to make a positive first impression and get a dialogue going.
  • Do some scouting.  The job fair is like attending a singles dance stag — it’s an opportunity to scout what’s out there and pursue what’s interesting. chances are you’ll be given some type of floor plan identifying which employers are attending. Before you start walking round, you might want to make a list of those employers that are most appealing and visit them first because you’re more likely to be “fresher” at the start of a job fair as opposed to later on, when you’ve been walking around in uncomfortable shows all day.
  • Leave your resumé with every employer, regardless of what they’re looking for.  The human resources representatives present at job fairs typically do all the recruiting for their respective organizations. If the company isn’t offering anything in your desired field, it doesn’t hurt to leave a copy of your resumé in case something opens later. Think of it as performing a mass broadcast delivery of your resumé in person.
  • Bring a cover letter to go with your resumé. Remember, at most job fairs, recruiters see hundreds of candidates. A cover letter keeps your name fresh in their minds, and helps the recruiter better place you within their company, especially later on if they want to share notes with managers within their companies.
  • Don’t grab the goodies. Many companies offer a small premium item to keep their name in front of candidates. If you’re a collector, think for a moment about the message you’re sending. If you show up at a table with a bag full of goodies that you’ve gathered from other tables, it makes you look as though you only came for the giveaways. Still worse, if you approach a recruiter with chocolate, or some other flavored treat clearly visible on your teeth, lips or breath, do you think a recruiter is going to take you seriously?
  • Know what you want to do. When times are tough, it’s not uncommon for the person who’s been unemployed a while to be less discriminating about the employment they’ll accept. In reality, your willingness to do “anything” the company has to offer is more frustrating than you realize. You can’t expect the recruiter to read your mind and find the perfect role for you; you need to meet them halfway by offering a hint as to where your interests lie. Further, unless you really mean that you’ll do anything, including standing outside in inclement weather wearing some funky costume to promote a company’s event, don’t put yourself in a position where you’ll have to backtrack.

Career fairs are an excellent way to network, not just with recruiters but with people who might be able to help you advance your career. Make good use of your time and you’re bound to get positive results.

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