Let’s face it: the day-to-day hunt for job openings can be grueling. Even though most of the footwork these days is done online, the process of scouring LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job sites for open positions, then reaching out, customizing your resume, networking, following up, etc. can leave you feeling mentally exhausted.
That’s why a job fair can be such a breath of fresh air.
Job fairs are a goldmine for job seekers. They are events where employers, recruiters, and schools provide information about job openings and career opportunities. In other words, instead of researching companies and trying to find out if they have openings, you have access to a bunch of companies that are actively seeking new talent–all in one place. This is your chance to meet face-to-face with potential employers and make a lasting impression that a resume alone might not achieve.
A well-prepared job seeker can leave these events with valuable industry contacts, a better understanding of the job market, and even a potential job offer. However, making the most of a job fair is about more than just showing up. It requires preparation, finesse, and strategy. If you’re planning to attend a job fair in the upcoming weeks, here some practical and actionable tips to help you navigate the process more effectively.
Prepare in Advance
One of the key phrases in job hunting is “preparation is key,” and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to job fairs. Before heading out the door, make sure you take the following steps:
- Research Participating Companies. Get a list of participating companies and learn about them. Understand their industry, products or services, and culture. Then make a “short list” of the companies that are most interesting to you or most aligned with your career goals. This will help you save time and energy at the fair because you’ll invest most of your time focused on the companies that matter most to you.
- Prepare Relevant Questions. Show your interest and knowledge by asking relevant questions. This could range from queries about specific roles to the company culture and values. By engaging recruiters in this way, you not only showcase your curiosity and enthusiasm but also establish a meaningful connection that will help you be remembered after everyone goes home.
- Be Prepared to Answer Questions. If a company rep is interested in you–or if they’re highly motivated to bring on new talent–they may offer to give you an impromptu interview on the spot. Be prepared for that eventuality. Come to the fair ready to answer at least a few basic questions about your experience, examples of your ability to solve problems and work with a team, etc.
- Update Your Resume. Ensure your resume is up-to-date and aligns with the jobs you’re interested in. Bring multiple copies to hand out. A bit of a caveat here: most of my followers know I’m a stickler about customizing your resume to each job opening you apply to, but obviously that’s not a practical solution at a job fair. So my advice at job fairs is to have a few resumes handy, but only pass them out to employers who ask for them. Otherwise, just exchange basic contact information and schedule a follow-up so you can send a customized resume later.
First impressions matter at a job fair, especially since recruiters will be talking to lots of people. Dress as if you were going to a job interview. This not only demonstrates your seriousness about the job search but also sends a message to potential employers that you are dedicated, confident, and ready to make a positive impact.
Network, Network, Network
Job fairs are networking events. Engage in conversation with recruiters and other job seekers, exchange business cards, connect on social media (on the spot, if possible), and send an email following up afterward. Even if you don’t find your dream job at the fair, you never know who might provide a valuable connection.
You’d be surprised at how many job fair attendees don’t bother to follow up with recruiters, instead just waiting to be contacted by the companies. This presents a key opportunity for you to get an edge over your competition and jump to the head of the line, so to speak. Employers like people who show initiative. So within a couple of days after the fair, follow up with the recruiters you met. Send a personalized email expressing your interest in their company and the positions they have available. If you haven’t already handed them a resume, send them a version of the resume tailored to the company. This keeps the communication line open and increases your chances of landing an interview.
If you’re looking for a bit of additional support in your job search, I am here to help. Personalized career coaching can help you navigate the job search landscape, from crafting the perfect resume to acing interviews. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re feeling stuck or unsure about your next steps. For a free initial conversation with me, just schedule yourself a time on my calendar here.
(Photo courtesy of the City of Marietta. CC License)