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Getting the Most Out of a Job Fair




When you’re looking for a job, you may spend all of your time applying to job ads, networking online and in person, and researching organizations to contact for informational interviews. These are all great ways to land a job, but if you’re not also attending job fairs, you may be missing out on important opportunities.

“A job fair is a way to get in front of a lot of interviewers, because generally the recruiters that you’re meeting there will be people that could be interviewing you for the job,” said Trish Thomas, the assistant director of the Center for Internships and Career Development at Eastern Connecticut State University. “These events also help job seekers perfect their interviewing skills, so they’re used to describing what it is they’re looking for and what it is they offer the employer.”

Like other networking events, you need to have a strategy in order to get the most out of a job fair. The following job fair tips can help.

Do your homework. Some job fair organizers will give out advance information about the companies that will be attending the event, so it’s best to take advantage of that. Do research on the companies to find out which ones are best suited for your career goals, so you know who to target at the job fair. Also, use the research you’ve done to show recruiters that you want to work for their company — not just any company. If you bring up specific information about what’s going on in their organization, this will make you stand out in a recruiter’s mind.

Have a plan. Because there are so many people at job fairs, recruiters don’t always have enough time to speak to everyone who wants to speak to them. In order to increase your chances of speaking to the organizations that are the best fit for you, make a list prioritizing the recruiters you want to connect with and work the room based on that list.

Dress professionally. Sometimes people who attend job fairs think that because they’re not going to a formal interview, they don’t need to dress professionally. Dressing down — and oftentimes even business casual attire — can leave a bad impression on recruiters and put you out of the running for a job. When in doubt, look at the job fair’s website to find out what kind of dress code is expected.

Bring enough resumes. One mistake that job seekers make is not bringing enough resumes for all of the recruiters they speak to — or not bringing any resumes at all. It’s best to bring about 20 to 30 resumes with you, which should cover the amount of companies that you speak to, as well as the possibility that some recruiters may ask for multiple copies.

Stand out from the crowd. Recruiters at job fairs will speak to hundreds — and in some cases, thousands — of applicants during the event. With that in mind, you should prepare to tell them something that will stick in their minds and set you apart from everyone else.

“When you think about what the competition is, odds are all the people going for the same job have the same educational background, and may have some of the same experience,” said Thomas. “You really want to bring up a few unique things about you — whether it’s the fact that you speak two languages or that you had an internship in the field. Anything that will really differentiate you from the other three or four hundred people recruiters are going to meet will make you stand out in their mind.”

Be enthusiastic. Looking for a job can be stressful, but you don’t want to show that stress when you’re at a job fair. Be sure to be enthusiastic when you’re speaking to recruiters and always have a good attitude.

“Recruiters are talking to a lot of people and they want to see a smile. They want to see somebody that’s passionate, that’s happy to be there, and that’s motivated,” said Ryan Naylor, Founder of LocalWork.com. “A recruiter’s assumption is, if you’re grumpy at the job fair, you’re probably going to be grumpy at work and nobody wants that.”

Don’t make snap judgments. According to Naylor, sometimes job seekers at these events make snap judgments about a company based on what the company does. For example, if a pest control company is at a job fair, don’t assume that the only positions available will be pest control technician jobs because the company may actually be recruiting for corporate positions.

“The biggest mistake you can make is judging a company by its brand, and judging the jobs that they’re hiring for because of the brand,” he said.

Make a connection. “You have to really stop and talk and make a connection at a job fair,” Thomas said. “It’s really about meeting people — it’s not just about how many resumes you can distribute around the room. You really do want to make a connection with recruiters, and let them know that you’re eager to work for them and you really have something to offer.”

Follow up. Be sure to get the contact information of every recruiter you speak to at a job fair so you can follow up. Even if the company doesn’t have any jobs open at the time of the job fair, be sure to periodically contact the recruiter via e-mail or LinkedIn so you remain on the company’s radar when there are positions available.

Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer based in California. She contributes to several websites, including Schools.com.

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