A career fair can be one of the quickest ways to find potential employers, but it can also be one of the most time-wasting activities if you don’t know why you’re there in the first place. Don’t get caught in the trap of walking around like a headless chicken for your first-ever career fair. Here’s how to prepare.
Study the floor plan
It’s staggering just how often I meet candidates who enter a job fair with no idea of where they’re heading. First of all, you want to know what booths will be most advantageous for you. If you are looking for jobs in the tech sector, your best bet is not going to be with companies that are mainly focused on administrative work. It also helps for you to know where the open positions are. Some companies attend career fairs when they don’t have any openings and are just looking for potential talent. These are the companies you should approach last. If companies are doing same-day interviews, approach these first. These will be the most time-consuming booths to visit, and you’ll have a better memory of what these companies do if you go to their booths first. This will maximize your time with recruiters relevant to your field.
Be sure that you look and act professional
First impressions can make or break you. You wouldn’t walk into an interview wearing sweatpants covered in Cheeto dust from the night before, so you shouldn’t do it at a job fair either. Learn how to dress for an interview. Avoid perfume and cologne as much as possible, as a lot of workplaces in this day and age are scent-free. When you go to a job fair, you are basically selling yourself to potential recruiters, so you want to put your best foot forward. This means be well groomed and don’t forget deodorant — it happens! Keep some in a bag with you just in case you forget or get the nervous sweats. Remember to stay positive and alert. It is recommended that you dress the same as you would if you were attending an interview with the company. This rings especially true when the companies at your job fair are giving on-the-spot interviews.
Have multiple copies of your resume
As you plan your route around the job fair, you’ll want to make sure you have enough resumes for the recruiters you intend to speak to. You should also have more than enough to go to all the recruiters — do this because some tables may have multiple recruiters that would like to look at your resume at the same time. You also need to make sure your resume is in a chronological order if you are applying for different types of positions. This can be easily completed with a resume builder that can re-arrange work experience. This allows you to have your experience highlighted in a way that shows what you did and where you did it. If a recruiter asks you to email a resume, format it specifically for the job you are applying for.
Know what types of questions may be asked
Research each company that interests you that will be attending the fair beforehand. This gives you a one up on all other applicants, because your first impression will be to impress the recruiters with how much you know about the company. Understand what kind of questions they could possibly ask you, whether they are just curious about your experience, or if you have a full-on interview there and then. This could be preparing a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis and then devising questions based around this, or it could be as simple as reading the company blog and bringing up some questions on an industry-related subject.
Prepare a short, one-minute speech
First impressions mean a lot, especially to a recruiter. They will notice your posture, if you’re absolutely terrified, or if you have spinach in your teeth from that panini you had at lunch. You want to be on your A-game when you are interacting with recruiters for the first time. You want to have a short speech that represents exactly who you are and why you can be beneficial to their company, a sort-of condensed elevator pitch. You want to have it rehearsed enough beforehand that you don’t stutter, stumble over your words, or say something completely different that ends up coming across as arrogant.
Get business cards
This is the best time to start networking! It’s your first job fair and it’s going to be very intimidating. What you want to do is make the most of it, right? Get business cards from each of the recruiters you meet with, especially the ones in your preferred field. Meet other job seekers just like you — they may have connections in your area of interest. You could even go a step up and bring your own business cards. That’s something that can be deemed impressive. It will at least make you a little bit more memorable. And when you get those business cards, don’t forget to write a follow-up email! If you’re stuck or need some ideas, Hubspot has some great examples.