Job Fair Tips

I visited a local job fair the other day, and each time I attend or exhibit at one, I find myself a little taken back at the huge range of approaches, dress codes, style, and personalities of candidates that appear.  There’s a long list of things that the general job seeker could learn just by watching from the back.  You can learn from the successful approaches of the job seeker that carries themselves in the right manner, as well as what NOT to do.

I’ll try to break this down into a couple of simple categories to keep it simple and straightforward.  Look at it this way – one of the biggest challenges job seekers have is getting a face to face with a hiring manager or recruiter. This is a chance to make a great impression on the recruiter that’s present at the job fair, and why they would want to sit down and discuss your qualifications further.

Dress Code/Hygiene: Not everyone has a three piece suit, but you should plan to dress in business casual attire at a minimum.  This means a nice pair of dress slacks/skirt or even khakis; a nice shirt/blouse and dress shoes (no sneakers/flip flops). Please make sure to take appropriate hygiene measures – be well groomed, clothes ironed & fresh, and no food stuck in your teeth.

Approaching Exhibitors: Of any of these categories, this is the most subjective. My advice (take it with a grain of salt) is to keep it simple. Make your initial contact, find out a little bit about the organization from the person at the booth, ask how their application process works and learn about what the organizational culture looks/feels like. Be sure to thank the exhibitor for their time, and ask how best to follow up with them regarding current or future job postings.  My personal approach would be to not take up a ton of the recruiter’s time, but to leave them with a favorable impression of who you are and what skills you offer (compared to the positions that they are recruiting for).

Preparation: Every company wants to have employees who know a little about their company.  Do your homework. Typically job fairs advertise in advance – determine which companies are appropriate for your skill set, visit their career page to learn about open positions and requirements. You may not see the exact role, but your preparation will tell the company that you care to do your homework ahead of time.  Approaching a business and asking, “so what do you do?’ will only lump you in with ‘the rest’ of the applicant pool.

What to bring: Bring many copies of your resume. How many depends on how many companies will be there that fit your skill set. Bring a note pad and paper to take notes for each conversation you have with prospective employers.

Job fairs are a nice way to learn a little bit about a lot of places. Be focused about your approach though. Some people have the approach of throwing as much at the wall as possible to see what sticks. Generally, that’s not the best approach when looking for a specific role.  Find the right opportunities, spend time with those exhibitors and keep good notes so you know what and how to follow up with. One last tip – don’t be afraid to speak with staffing agencies, such as AccuStaff, about temp jobs. Sometimes this can provide you some additional opportunities (see our other blog post, “Why Temp?”).

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