Job Fairs…Worth the Effort?

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Jun 8, 2011 in , , | No Comments

If you prepare properly, job fairs can be beneficial to your job search.

There are many ways to increase your chances of being hired–the best of course is networking. But in this market, don’t leave any stone unturned. If a job fair is scheduled in your area, do take advantage of what it has to offer: an opportunity to meet employers, other job seekers, see what’s available, and practice marketing what you have to offer.

A Pro’s Tips

Bob Westerkamp, general manager of Targeted Job Fairs, gives these tips to job seekers:

  1. Preregister online to avoid long lines and research the companies listed.
  2. Dress as if you are going to a job interview.
  3. Take several copies of your resume.
  4. Arrive early to get a complete list of jobs that are being offered that day.
  5. Network, network, network!

After attending a few job fairs, I’ve noticed most people walk around, pick up information, but never engage employers or other job seekers. This is a mistake. Be sure to smile, introduce yourself, strike up a conversation, ask questions and read handouts. Don’t forget to let them know if you’re interested in their company, hand them your business card or JIST Card. If they’re interested, present your resume. Give them your “elevator pitch”. This opportunity to meet employers, face-to-face, gives you an advantage. Instead of submitting an application online, or sending a resume directly to them, this is the way you can get your foot in the door!

Other Important Preparations

  • Before the job fair, take several days to practice your elevator pitch–memorize it.
  • Have a list of questions based on your company research.
  • Show enthusiasm, be polite and smile.
  • Cover tattoos and take out multiple piercings.
  • Practice in the mirror or with a friend how you will approach employers.
  • Put resumes in an envelope to keep them neat, business cards keep handy in a pocket.
  • Don’t corral an employer, or talk their ear off, be sure to let them do some of the talking.
  • Don’t limit your possibilities by only being interested in a specific job, salary, or title–stay open minded!
  • Let your networking contacts know about the job fair and carpool if possible to save on gas.
  • Turn off your cell phone!
  • Plan to attend early in the day, as more job seekers show up, you’ll have less time with employers.

If you find yourself in an engaging conversation with a potential employer regarding a particular job opening, do ask for an interview: “I’d enjoy talking with you more about this position, are you available tomorrow?” Be bold, but not obnoxious. If they hedge, ask what day and time would be most convenient for them. Another approach would be to invite them to lunch to continue the conversation. Even if they decline, (and they probably will) they’ll remember your offer. Collect company literature and business cards from those you’ve spoken to–both employers and your networking contacts. Make notes on that literature by quickly jotting down important points that came up in conversations with employers.

After the fair, immediately send out e-mails (if contacts have one on their card), or short notes, to employers you’ve interacted with letting them know you enjoyed meeting them at the job fair. Be sure to mention the position which interests you and you’d like an interview. Provide a short list of accomplishments which apply, highlights of your resume, and let them know you’ll be calling in a few days. Then, call when you’ve promised, usually within 3-5 days after mailing out your correspondence.

Stay Focused!

Even though job fairs usually have more job seekers than employers hiring, stay focused! If they’re looking for one person, you may be that person! Don’t be discouraged, keep honing your job fair skills. Discuss with your networking contacts (that attended the same fair) who they talked to and what headway they were able to make. If that contact gets hired, ask for their help to hand carry your resume to the right person on the inside. This is why it’s so important to keep in close contact with your network.

Sit down and take some notes the day of the job fair–while still fresh in your mind. Did you feel your elevator pitch was natural and interesting? How did people respond to it? What positions did you see, though out of your field, interested you? Are you checking into new fields to use your skill-sets? What, if anything, do you feel you can improve by the next job fair? Did you take advantage of any free services they offered at the job fair (resume review)? Have you checked with your local places of worship to see if they are offering any job fairs? Many churches have jumped on the job fair bandwagon and are sponsoring job fairs to assist both congregants and their community.

Basically a job fair can be beneficial, if you work it right. Prepare, do your best, and win them over!