Published
Feb 15, 2018

How to Work a Job Fair

Feb 15, 2018

The key to success at a high- quality job fair is Goal Setting, Preparation, Execution and Follow Up.

1.      Goals

People say they “attend” a job fair but they should really say that they are going to “work” a career fair. Effective and efficient use of a career fair begins with understanding your goals for the event. Do you know what you offer and what sort of work you seek? It is normal to change the answers to these questions as your search campaign develops, but it is not good to not have crisp and concise answers to these questions because they inform the execution of your strategy at every step.

·         Contacts: Developing social capital (or networking contacts).

·         Information: Knowing the positions companies seek to fill, the skills they need and the people responsible for hiring.

Be as specific as possible and write down your desired end state.

2. Prepare: Having determined your goals for the event, the next step is to prepare. Job seekers need to get "psyched up" to work a career fair. This is especially hard for introverts, but you need to get ready to hold yourself accountable for engagement.

Find out which companies are attending and research every single one online. Understand what they do and what sort of positions they might be seeking. Brainstorm a conversational hook for each one. The hook should refer to your well-understood elevator pitch.

For example, if you're talking with Lowes or Ace Hardware, you might open like this: "I grew up with a very handy father. I love home improvement and tools. I see myself further developing a career in logistics and supply chain. May we discuss your needs in that field?"

Next, be sure you arrive with plenty of copies of a well-prepared resume and dress appropriately.

3. Execution: Register online before the fair begins to save time when you arrive. Come early and enter when the doors open.  First, do a reconnaissance lap of the fair, get a sense of where everyone is located and come up with a game plan. Practice your "routine" on a few companies that are not priorities for you and then move on to your top prospects before you get too tired.

Be sure to stop at every single booth, even those for service organizations and schools. All organizations hire people, and they may also help you with your networking. Don't be afraid to take a break, have a drink or a snack. The job fair is a marathon and not a sprint.

Take thorough notes using paper, your phone's voice recorder or a laptop. Record with whom you spoke, append a digital photo of their card and note the next steps.

At the end of the day, stop by your top prospects to say goodbye and remind them of the follow-up steps you discussed. Give the impression that you are in high demand with employers. For example, you might say, "Hey, Lisa. Remember me? We spoke this morning about the sales manager position. I am (insert your name). We talked about our common love of baseball. I have had a great day today and I am excited about my job search. But of all the companies, yours really stuck out because (state some reasons). I look forward to your call on Friday." Remember that each company will have met many candidates that day. How will you differentiate yourself?

4. Follow Up: In addition to your goodbye tour at the end of the career fair, you should follow up with each prospect by phone or email. Like the example above, remind the contact who you are, what you discussed and a few key points on why you are a fit. Be professionally persistent.

You are not being a bother. You are showing the type of resilience that most employers value. Some employers will not take your resume at the event because of their interpretation of federal contracting rules. Don’t let that annoy you. Apply online and forward the electronic receipt to the company contact to show that you followed up.

A job fair is a lot like a high school dance. At the same event, some job seekers will report that the event was a waste of time, and others will be giddy about their prospects. The factors that separate these two types of experience are clear goal setting, careful and thorough preparation, aggressive execution and diligent follow-up.

Know yourself, take advantage of the convenience of the career fair experience and make it happen. No one is going to hand you a job you did not earn.