Attending career fairs is a great way for job seekers to learn about several companies in a few hours, all under one roof. Likewise, these events offer recruiters like me the occasion to meet hundreds of potential candidates in one day. With so many companies and so many job seekers in one place, it’s important to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd so you can connect with the types of companies and positions that interest you most.
Drawing from my eight years of experience, I recommend the following to ensure you make the most of your career fair experience:
What to wear
Remember, potential employers will only see you for 30 seconds to 30 minutes, depending on the situation. You’ll need to make a lasting impression in a short amount of time. Dress in professional, high quality clothing, including your shoes. Avoid trendy clothing; classic, tailored pieces are always your best bet. Women should keep their jewelry simple and men should be clean-shaven. And don’t forget to cover up distracting tattoos!
What to bring
Bring two copies of your most current resume for every company you plan to visit. Double and triple check your resume to make sure it is accurate, concise and has no typos. Also, bring along three copies of recommendations or references from former employers or teachers for every company you plan to visit. Some people bring business cards, but I advise refraining from giving out business cards with your current or past employer listed. Instead, make personalized business cards with your name and personal contact information.
What to do
When you first arrive, peruse the entire area to scope out which employers you wish to visit. Stand off to the side of the tables and listen to how the company representatives are interacting with the jobseekers, so you can learn more about whether or not the company may be a good fit for you. This also allows you to hear what types of questions the employers are asking, giving you more time to prepare.
Once you know whom you want to visit, it’s time to stand in line. While you’re in line, prepare your “elevator pitch,” one to two sentences that quickly and accurately describe why you would be a good fit with the employer. Be prepared to go into detail on your resume, if asked.
Once you approach the table, be sure to look the representatives in the eye and give them a firm handshake and a smile. I always look for people who are positive, confident and happy to be there to meet me. Share your elevator pitch and be prepared to undergo a short interview.
Ask recruiters for their business cards, taking any extra information they offer and thank them for their time. Once you get home, follow up with an email expressing interest and sharing your gratitude for the opportunity to connect at the career fair.
When to go
The best way to avoid crowds is to come early or late. If you come right in the middle of a career fair, be prepared to wait in longer lines.
All connections count
Keep in mind, company representatives are usually recruiters, not hiring managers. Our job is to recommend prospective employees to the hiring managers . Even though we don’t make the final decision, it’s important to connect with us so that we pass your resume along to the people who do.
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