Making the Most of Job Fairs

Making the Most of Job Fairs

Trying to decide whether or not to attend an upcoming job fair?  Here are some key considerations to help you maximize the fairs you attend.

Should I attend?

  • Is the event sponsored by a group you know or at least one that has a good reputation?
  • Before you decide, look to see which companies are participating.  If there are companies on your target list, you should definitely plan to attend.
  • Have you been invited to interview?  If so you certainly should be there.
  • Networking can be extremely valuable if there are companies of interest.

Plan Ahead

  • Review the list of companies in advance and do your research.  Look at their website and consider questions to ask each company.
  • Prioritize your list into A, B and C prospects.  You can’t leave until you see all your A companies and you should try to see all the B companies.  C companies are the ones you can skip but you never know where you might find a great contact.
  • Scope out the room before you start at a table.  See where your A companies are located.
  • Warm up with companies not on your A list.  Have a couple conversations under your belt before you focus on a top company.
  • Monitor lines and try to hit employers on your list when they don’t have a long line.
  • Manage your time to ensure that you meet all your top companies.

What are some common mistakes made at job fairs?

  • Talking to your friends not the employers – Employers attend these events to meet candidates.  It is very frustrating for them so see attendees standing around talking to each other.  You can talk to your friends, anytime.  Maximize your time with the employers.
  • Being unprepared – Do not ask “So, what does your company do?”  If you didn’t care enough to do some research in advance, they really don’t want to bother talking to you.
  • Asking for the sponsor for VISAs —  If you approach the booth and ask if they sponsor for visas, the must likely answer will be no.  You need to make them want you first.  Sell yourself and your skills for the job and then they may be willing to sponsor.  Don’t close the door by asking too soon.
  • Unprofessional attire or approach – It is critical that you look like the business professional you aspire to be.  Be professional, conservative, clean and neat.  Have resumes available.  Have a note pad to record notes.
  • Do not just collect the giveaways – Don’t think the employer misses your grab for their goodies.  Make your connections first.  At the end most employers would rather give items away than take them back.  Do not sacrifice making a positive impression for a job for the sake of some inexpensive giveaways.  Employers see everything that happens at their booth.
  • Focus on Networking – even if the jobs available are the right level, few people land a job at a fair.  It is much more important to focus on all the networking opportunities.  Meet people from companies that are of interest to you.  Let them know your area of interest.

How to exploit job fairs as a networking avenue?

  • Use the opportunity to make an impression by asking insightful questions.  Ask if you can share a resume.  Ask for an opportunity to follow-up to be respectful of their time at the event.
  • Identify functional area contacts – often it is not just HR representatives who staff the fairs, scope out the table to see if there are contacts from functional areas of interest.  If you are a finance person, talk to the finance representative or alum.  Maximize the value of your contacts.  Show your level of interest with insightful questions.
  • Collect business cards – make notes on the back so you can personalize your follow-up
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