Ten Tips for Getting the Most out of a Job Fair

job fair

Companies at a job fair arrive with one goal in mind: hire talented people. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

For me, the mystery of “what do I want to do when I grow up” was solved early on – I always knew that I wanted to work in broadcasting. But after graduating with a good degree from a good school, I still had no idea how to make that a reality.

Whether you are a college student close to graduation or a current professional looking for change, job fairs represent your best chance to meet face-to-face with hiring managers and recruiters from top notch businesses, media outlets, sales and marketing firms…you name it.

Companies are there with a goal in mind: find top notch talent. Here are ten tips to help your talent stand out:

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Job Fair Preparation

1: Polish Up Your Resume, Portfolio or Demo Reel

Your appearance makes the first impression with recruiters; your resume makes the lasting impression. Hire a professional to improve the quality of your resume and cover letter, a professional resume writer will really help articulate your skills. If you work in visual fields make sure you have a demo reel or portfolio ready.

If you can pre-register for the job fair you should. Typically when you pre-register you can submit your resume early and the companies attending will get an advanced look. If your resume is top notch and your skills well-highlighted, companies could be seeking you out on the day of the job fair.

2: Research Companies

Former Washington Redskins coach George Allen was accurate when he said, “Winning is the science of being totally prepared.” Do your research beforehand so that on the day of the event you can be calm, relaxed and confident.

“Nothing ticks me off more than a job fair attendee who approaches me and says, “So, tell me about your company…” says Pamela Joell, Manager of Corporate University Relations for PECO Energy, “I don’t mind telling you about my company or about the job opportunities that are available, but I do mind having to do all the work.”

Find out what companies will be at the job fair and pick 5-10 that seem interesting. Read their corporate websites and check online media outlets to see the latest news. You don’t need to know everything, but having some advance knowledge of the companies you speak to will impress.

3: Prepare a Quick Introduction

Write out a quick 2-3 sentence introduction that highlights what you can do for the company, not what they can do for you. Make sure to include your qualifications, strengths, related experiences, and skills.

networking at a job fair

Even if you don’t get a job at a job fair, you’ve started building your network which is an essential part of the process

What recruiters don’t want to hear is, “I just want to get hired, work hard and learn everything there is to know!” While that sounds genuine, companies look to hire people with the skills and ability to make them a better company. You have a limited time, sell them on why you are a great match!

4: Develop Job Fair Questions

You don’t want to sound rehearsed or robotic, but it is important to develop questions in advance so they are well thought out and intelligent. You might think you are good at just “winging it”, but recruiters have seen enough people to know who is taking this seriously and who is not.

Questions to ask at a Job Fair:

  • Are there specific courses or other requirements you look for in prospective employees?
  • Tell me about your customers/audience?
  • What specific skills does your organization look for in its employment candidates?
  • What is unique about your organization?
  • Can you suggest anything I can do to improve my chances of employment with your company?

Once you ask a question, take a deep breath and really listen. You don’t want to be so consumed with your next question that you don’t realize the recruiter just answered it. Don’t be too rigid in your questioning, rely on the advance research you have done to help guide the discussion.

On the Day of the Job Fair

5: Dress Professionally and Bring the Right Attitude

job fair preparation

Make a strong first impression and be prepared for anything at a job fair.

Know your industry. For some jobs a suit is appropriate (Sales, Finance, Marketing) but there will be some instances slightly more casual attire will fit the corporate culture better. Demonstrate confidence by making eye contact and giving a firm handshake – then be sure to smile. You want to appear professional, but also personable.

6: Have Your Materials Ready

Bring with you at least 20 copies of your professionally designed resume, 2 pens and a Reporter’s notebook to take notes after each conversation.

7: Get There Early and Build a Strategy

Walk the entire job fair floor making a mental map of where your most important companies are located, what they have at their booth and how many recruiters are at the stations. Take this time to settle your nerves and build your confidence.

One trick I have learned is to talk to other attendees after they finish up with a company you are interested in. Ask them how it went, what the recruiters asked and if they have any openings they are discussing.  Information is power, by networking with other people at the job fair you will have an idea of how to approach the recruiter when it’s your turn.

8: Step Right Up!

Introduce yourself, make eye contact, firm handshake, smile and dive into your 2-3 sentence introduction. Get the conversation started with some questions and find your flow in the conversation.  When you give a recruiter your resume, inquire what the next step in the process is and ask for a business card. You always want to leave the booth knowing “what’s next?”

9: Make Notes After Each Meeting

Job fairs are a whirlwind, if you wait until the event is over and then try to remember everything that was said you will invariably miss something important. After each meeting take out your Reporter’s notebook and write down everything you can remember.  This will greatly assist you in the follow up and will ensure you don’t have one of those “what was that guy’s name?” moments later that night.

10: Job Fair Thank You Letter

Don’t let the connections you build at the job fair dry up. Write a hand-written card to all of the people you interacted with at the job fair. Most everyone else will send emails; you can stand out by putting in the extra effort of hand-writing a card.

Here’s an example of a job fair follow up letter:

“Just wanted to say thank you for the time we spent discussing (insert company name) during the (insert job fair). When we discussed (insert something interesting from your notes) I felt even more confident that my skills will make me a valuable addition to your corporation. I really look forward to talking to you again in the near future.”

In one simple letter, you’ve:

  • shown you appreciated the opportunity and the recruiters time
  • proven that you paid attention
  • shown respect for their advice

After that first letter, continue to follow up occasionally with the recruiter, but make sure you are providing value. If you follow up by asking “do you have any jobs for me?” they will tire of you quickly. Try adding to what they already know about you, “I spent the summer interning in promotions at a music label, the experience was invaluable, can I buy you lunch and discuss more of what I’ve learned and how I can be a fit at (insert company name””

Follow these ten tips and you stand a great chance of turning a day at the job fair into a long-term career!

What kind of things have you learned from your experiences at a job fair?

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


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