While most everyone believes that applying for jobs online, establishing a LinkedIn profile, or networking with friends and family for referrals is the way to find employment, don’t discount attending a career fair! In order to maximize your career fair experience, you’ll need to do some upfront preparation.
- Before -
Develop a Strong Resumé – If it’s been years since you’ve written or updated your resumé, consider hiring a professional resumé service, seek out a free or low-cost seminars that offers resumé assistance, or research current resumés online from others in your field. Ask several objective friends or peers to review it and give honest feedback. Play close attention to the format, grammar and content. Once it’s perfect, print several copies on heavy stock paper and put them in a portfolio or pocket folder to bring to the career fair.
Create Business Cards – In addition to providing a resumé include a personalized business card. Business card templates can be obtained from any office supply store.
Study the Organizations at the Career Fair – Review each company’s website prior to attending the fair so that you can develop specific questions during the interview. List the questions for each company on an index card and take these cards to the career fair.
Create an “Elevator Pitch” – If you were riding an elevator with a potential employer, what would you say? Rehearse a 30-second pitch about yourself and your background. Practice it in front of a mirror or with a friend who can provide objective feedback. Revise as needed. Be prepared to deliver your pitch to each representative, but try to avoid sounding too robotic.
Dress Appropriately – Professional attire is always recommended when attending a career fair or any job interview.
- During -
Turn Off Technology – Turn off your cell phone, iPad or other electronic devices prior to attending the career fair.
Introduce Yourself – When meeting the company representative, smile, state your name clearly, and give them a firm handshake Provide them with a copy of your resumé and business card. Tell them why you’re interested in the company and/or positions related to your background. Be positive and upbeat during the interview.
Ask Direct, Thoughtful Questions about the Company – Review the questions on each index card you prepared prior to the career fair and ask these questions during the interview.
Articulate Your Strengths – Provide concrete examples of your past work experience, including any quantifiable information (reducing expenditures, improving workplace productivity). Explain how these strengths can benefit the company and the position that you’re interested in.
Listen Carefully – Be an active listener. Make direct eye contact and focus on the speaker. Ask questions for clarification. Don’t check your text messages or answer phone calls during an interview.
Take Notes – Immediately following the interview, write your observations on the back of the index card you prepared. These notes will be helpful to jog your memory or serve as a place to pick up where you left off should you be asked to attend a formal interview.
Request a Business Card – Always request a business card from the representative so that you have a record of whom you met at the fair. Once you return home, input their contact information into your database for future reference.
- After -
Send a Hand-written Thank You Card – Thank each representative for meeting with you and reiterate your interest in the company. Reference the name of the job fair you attended and the date you attended it. If deemed appropriate, remind the representative of a personal anecdote, such as that you both graduated the same year from college. Provide a date and time for a follow-up phone call and end the note in a pleasant manner.
As a final step, assess your performance at the career fair. What went well and what didn’t? What would you do differently in the future?
Good luck and keep a positive attitude as you embark on your career search. The best is yet to come!