Properly Using Career Fairs In Your Job Search

Written by on October 3, 2017

One of my students asked if career fairs are a waste of time for new job seekers or experienced professionals? My response was yes. Every professional should utilize Career Fairs and here’s why.

Career fairs are large events where multiple employers come in search of qualified employees. In most cases, career fairs are held in public places like hotels, arenas, convention halls or even sponsored venues like Chamber of Commerce. They are also often free to attend. While career fairs do vary, companies pay a hefty fee to set up small booths where they can display information about their company and the type of employees that they are looking for. You will find the employer representative, recruiters, or in some unique cases, a hiring manager will be there to take your resume and answer questions.

Most of the job seekers are there looking for jobs and many of them are not taking full advantage of the potential to gain much more than a job. I’ve had clients partake in these events unprepared and come back frustrated. That’s what will happen if you don’t have a game plan and set goals of what you want to accomplish. See—what job seekers fail to realize is that career fairs are overwhelming to someone who doesn’t know exactly what they want or where they want to be.

For that reason, you need to have:

* The right MINDSET for networking
* Set goals for the event
* Knowledge of who is going to be attending and where they will be located
* Ability to collect data on employers within your target market
* A focus on your objectives so that you can clear out the distractions of having thousands of people swarming around while you are on your mission.
* Must be ready to interview. Know your resume. Know your background. Repeat your goals and initiatives with finding employment with your target employers.

For that reasons, you need to do more than just attend a career fair; it is something that you need to prepare for. To make the most out of career fairs, you will want to set these objectives and build your game plan around them.

Tip #1: Make sure you investigate the target employers. Don’t walk up asking what they do, but approach the rep and let them know how your skills fit within their core competencies.

Tip #2: Give them more than your resume. Every conversation with a representative or recruiter is an interview. If you don’t have enough copies, or you’re asked a question from your resume—you need to be able to directly provide them with a connection to their opening. (You’ll know this once you’ve done your homework)

Tip #3: Practice your “on your feet interviews.” This is commonly known as a walking interview. If you are confident with explaining who you are and what you can provide, employers can maximize the time spent with you and get to the key points while you have their attention. Remember, you’ll have multiple people standing in line waiting. Don’t be shy and make sure you make an impression within the 5 minutes that you have.

Tip#4: Dress as if you are already within the organization. Show the representative that you would fit well within their company. Let them visualize you walking through the halls and working with other employees. If you’ve done your homework, you can probably find out if they are suit and tie, business casual, or slacks and polo companies. If you don’t have that information, dress professional.

Tip#5: Stay hydrated and carry mints. You’ll be talking to a lot of people in close quarters. If you stay hydrated and utilizing fresh mints before every conversation, your presentation will be pleasant. Don’t find yourself dehydrated with bad breath—representatives will quickly dismiss you as unprofessional and you could loose your opportunity.

Tip#6: Don’t drag along your children or anyone else who isn’t job seeking. If your wife or husband is also looking, make sure you each have your own game plan. Some hiring managers and recruiters don’t have time to be introduced to your family members. They are normally at the event all day and will have to spend time with other candidates.  Also, make sure you schedule childcare for that day. Bringing your children to an adult event could send off the wrong signal. It’s unprofessional and will hurt you chances of being taken seriously.

In my experience, I’ve hired candidates on the spot when working job fairs. In fact, I’ve found some of the best candidates in the larger events. That’s why I recommend attending them because you increase your exposure to the organization and you can get some important feedback on their hiring cycle.

As mentioned above, practice makes perfect. Attending several career fairs will give you more confidence and allow you to improve your “on the feet” skills. You’ll also develop better questions to ask in the short time allotted to close the deal.  Look at it as a business opportunity. If you have the right skills, appearance, and presentation—you’ll seem like a good partner for the employer.

By keeping these important tips and having a true strategy, you should be able to make the most out a career fair. These tips may increase your chances of walking away from a career fair with a new job. Worst case, you’ll make new connections and have a stronger understanding of how to get hired within your target market.

If you are someone who needs coaching, or looking for a mentor to help you develop a rock solid strategy for the next career fair, let us know. Our team of coaches and recruiting experts can help you build your brand, provide mock interviews, and help you establish key questions that will help you be more confident and potentially get hired!

If that’s you, click here and sign up for a strategy call. Of you can sign up for our Facebook Page (Coachable Moments) and look for other career based strategies that may be able to help you improve you employment search efforts.

In either case—always “Dominate the Day!”

Scott A. Coulter, CLC, LSSYB, CCC, MTi
APSi & Coaching