A couple of years ago, there was a huge job fair in my city with all kinds of sponsors. There were ads everywhere I looked, and pretty much everyone in town had heard about it. I got some reminders on email, and text messages on my phone. And although I wasn’t really looking for a job as I was still studying, I was intrigued and thought I’d check it out — you never know where your golden ticket to success awaits you!
Having never been to a job fair before, I didn’t know the key to be successful at a job fair is to be prepared, very prepared. I was the opposite of prepared and my first experience was a total disaster. However, I did manage to learn from my mistakes and now surf through job fairs like a pro.
As James Joyce once said, “A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery.”
Research the companies at the job fair
Job fair sponsors usually list the companies that will be participating on their official website. Other sources of information are their social media pages, information pamphlets, ads, or you can directly call them.
Knowing what companies are going to be there helps you better prepare for interviews. You can narrow down the ones you’re interested in, and focus on them alone. A couple of taps and clicks on Google will have you know everything about them, and what they’re looking for. There will be literature available at every booth, but don’t rely on them to give you complete information.
Have some ‘smart’ questions ready in advance. Employers like people who are proactive, rather than passive. But make sure these are questions which aren’t already answered on their website or literature. You can ask about their hiring process, the kind of skills they value most, or the working environment of the company.
Print your CV
You simply cannot go to a job fair without printing your CV. I actually knew that golden principle before my first job fair, but had left the task to the last minute. Unluckily for me, my printer was out of ink and because I had no time to go knocking on somebody else’s door I actually went CV-less to my first job fair. As you can imagine it did not go well. I resorted to downloading my documents onto my iPad and flash drive, telling myself that everything’s electronic nowadays, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. With so many people crowding a single stall, there was no chance for me to transfer my CV to their computers or wave my iPad in their faces!
Word to the wise: print your résumés a day in advance. You can figure out how many to print by looking at the number of organizations that will be at the job fair from your research. To be on the safe side, print a couple of extras as well. If you’re interested in more than one type of position, print different versions of your résumé to match them. Also have your business cards ready.
Exchange business cards
If you don’t have a business card, you can buy a stack of blank business cards and then print them at home. List your full name, contact information and your job title. If you’re currently working, add the title of the position you’re working at and the organization you’re employed at, otherwise write the title of the kind of work you do. e.g “graphic designer”, “web developer”, or “realtor”. Leave a business card with your CV with representatives at the fair, and ask for theirs in return.
Not only are job fairs great for finding job vacancies, but they’re also great for creating contacts. Many people use these events to network. So have your business card ready and get networking.
The way you look really, really matters. As they say, first impression is the last impression. Dress in business casual, but not too casual. Wear comfortable shoes that can carry you through the day, yet look professional. The dress style can differ according to the industry and profession you’re applying to, and some job fairs have dress codes. So once again scour the website for clues on what the appropriate dress code might be. Scan through Facebook and Instagram for photos of past jobs fairs by the same sponsors, and you’ll get a pretty clear idea of what works.
But if in doubt, overdress.
Pre-register ahead of time
Not all job fairs require you to pre-register, but just to be safe check out the official website or Facebook page to see whether or not you need to register. Some fairs have limited capacity, others add applicants to a central database, while some pre-screen candidates. Either way, skipping out on an a simple registration form could cause you problems in entering the event. Better safe, than sorry.
Perfect your elevator pitch
You don’t have much time to make an impression — two minutes maximum. Rehearse what you can say to prospective employers to make them remember you. The longer your pitch is, the more likely they’ll get bored and forget all about you. So keep it short, simple and captivating. Sell yourself!
Greet them with a firm handshake, eye contact and a smile. At the end of your introduction, hand in your CV and business card, ask for their business card, and thank them for their time. If you have any questions, ask them towards the end of your conversation.
Send a Thank You Email
A recent job fair I went to had only 12 booths, but hundreds of job seekers. The place was jam-packed and a chance to deliver my elevator pitch meant elbowing my way to the front and stepping on people’s toes. At the end of the event, I wasn’t so optimistic that they’d remember me with so many eager applicants lined up.
That’s where a thank you note came in handy. I emailed all the company representatives I had spoken to (using the business cards I had gathered), thanking them for their time and mentioning something specific that had come up in our conversation. One had asked about my blogs, so I was able to send him links to them in the thank you email, sparking a conversation.
Send an email of appreciation within a week of the event. If you can do it within a day of the job fair, even better!
Article by Mishka N Orakzai