As an employment specialist at the Western Addition Career Center, I often suggest hiring events and job fairs featuring multiple employers to help job seekers maximize their time. But sometimes candidates don’t know exactly what it is they’re supposed to be doing — or what to expect. I’ve gathered the tips below to help job seekers with their search.
Why Go to Career Fairs (the Job Seekers Perspective):
Many job seekers mistakenly think the only benefit of going to a career fair is to meet and hopefully interview with employer representatives attending the event. But if you’re a savvy job seeker you can make the most of every job fair you attend by focusing on the less obvious aspects of job fairs.
Other benefits you as a job seeker may enjoy by attending career fairs include:
What to Do Before the Career Fair:
You often get only one chance to meet employers before they decide whether to continue with you in the hiring process. Do you want an employer to remember you as “sloppy, looked like he just rolled out of bed, and didn’t seem to know anything about our company” or “polished, professional, well-prepared, well-spoken and seemed like she would be great fit for our team?”
A little advanced preparation can make a big difference in helping you to distinguish yourself as a candidate and make a positive impression on prospective employers.
Your Career Fair Objectives:
Define your goals for the event, and devise a plan of action that outlines the specific steps you will take to achieve your goals.
Whatever the case may be, knowing exactly what you want to get out of the event is the first step to realizing your goals.
Due Diligence: Researching Employers:
Many job seekers go to fairs as if “window shopping” for jobs, and are ill prepared to answer commonly-asked questions such as “tell me a little about yourself” or “why are you interested in working for us?”
Do your research. Find out in advance which organizations will be attending the job fair, prioritize the employers you want to target, then learn as much as you can about the organizations of interest to you.
The more you know about an organization, the better equipped you will be at articulating that you not only understand their needs and challenges, but have skills their company or organization can use to help them better respond to them.
A great starting point is the organization’s own website. Also, look at any print or online materials such as annual reports, news releases, articles, or video commentaries. Ideally, you will want to try to speak with individuals who has been associated with either the company or the industry. This latter type of research is called “informational interviewing”.
Your Questions for Employers:
Prepare thoughtful, focused and open-ended questions to ask the employer representatives that demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of the organization. Review or remind the employer about our key qualifications or assets that would make you a good fit for a specific position or for their organization.
Before you leave an employer representative’s booth at the fair, inform them that you would like to continue the conversation by following up with them at a later date. Ask how they would prefer you to contact them after the fair, and whether there is anything they would like you to send to them.
Take the time to review, update and target your resume. Doing so can help you clearly and convincingly convey that you are a great fit for the job you want. Bring extra copies and – if you have different interests or job targets — different versions of your resume to the fair. Attend resume & cover letter writing workshops to assist you with your resumes.
By the way, we have free workshops at the career center every month to help you with your career development.
It’s always easier to ask for someone’s business card if you have one to give. Business cards can be easier than stacks of resumes for recruiters to manage, and they show foresight and planning.
Making Your Career Pitch:
Prepare and practice a 20-60 second introduction (AKA elevator pitch) that outlines some points about you as a potential candidate. Rehearse your introduction well so that it flows naturally and articulately.
Your choice of attire, personal grooming and hygiene, and the care and (or lack of care) you place in you over all presentation can say a lot about who you are, what is important to you, how seriously you take your job search, and how well you would fit within a specific organization/field.
What to Do During the Career Fair:
Devise a Plan of Action or Strategy for the fair. Give yourself time to get your bearings and survey the layout of the fair. Drop by one of the registration booths to pick up the most current list of employers attending the fair and then make a targeted list of the organizations whose booth you wish to visit, and determine the order in which you wish to visit each one.
When meeting an employer representative for the first time, attempt to establish rapport and build a connection early on. Paying careful attention to your manners and professional etiquette can help in ensuring that you leave a positive impression on employer representatives.
Keeping Notes of Your Employer Contacts:
Although it is very unlikely that you will secure a job at a career fair, you will be sharing and gathering a lot of valuable information that could lead to securing a job at a later date. Keep track of all of this information by making lots of notes to record important details, observations, insights, questions and follow-up or job application instructions gained from the fair.
Engage everyone- recruiter or job seeker – in conversation at the career fair. You never know who may have valuable information, insights or contacts that could help you in your job search.
What to Do After the Career Fair:
Career fairs are not only for sharing and gathering information related to job opportunities of interests to you: they also pose valuable opportunities for learning. To get the most out of a career fair and ensure that you walk away having learned some new things, reflect on and review how things went at the career fair for you.
Create a system to track all your job search, networking and follow-up efforts, including names of contacts, dates and modes of contacts, and outcomes.
Thank You Letters:
Within 24 hours after the career fair, send a one-page, personalized, and separate thank you notes to each and every one of the employer representatives you met. E-mail is fine but follow formal business letter format (a hand delivered letter however may stand out more.)
Thank you letters serve a variety of purposes:
These are just a few tips to help you be successful at job fairs. Use these tips to help you be confident, polished, and ready for any opportunities that may come your way at career events.
And to get more help with your job search or career development, contact the Western Addition Career Center at 1449 Fillmore in San Francisco. 415-549-7000.