Job fairs are only advantageous if you have a game plan. Follow these steps so you don’t squander away your opportunity.
By Karl Rozemeyer
After waiting in lines for nearly four hours, you finally step up to speak with yet another human-resources manager. It’s the 11th company you’ve met with at this job fair. How can you be sure any of these recruiters will remember you among the hundreds of candidates they’ve already met?
Find the openings
Make the best use of your time at a job fair by researching something about the firms attending and targeting first those that have job listings that interest you. Most job fairs put out a list of the attending employers. Kelly Dingee, a sourcing researcher and executive trainer for AIRS, an executive search firm, suggested scanning the list to see which companies have openings right now. Those firms should take priority over companies that may seem like really great work environments but have no openings, she said. “Go to the company that has the actual opening.”
Dress to kill
Frank Risalvato, founder of the recruiting firm IRES Inc., attends job fairs and certain job-networking functions to look for employees for different offices that his company is trying to staff. “I subscribe to the old school adage that you only have one opportunity to make a best first impression. There is no second chance for a first impression. I may be there for 45 minutes to an hour in a room full of people, and one of the first clues I look for is dress. You have got to be dressed appropriately for the event and that is how I start scanning the crowd.” Men, leave your herringbone sports jackets with leather patches at home!
Memorize your elevator pitch
Your time to interview at a job fair is usually very limited. “You need to be able to sum up who you are and what you do in two minutes. It really is about how you present yourself. Even if you have been at that job fair for hours, you still need to walk up to your last interview as fresh as you were in the first,” Dingee said. “Try to keep yourself upbeat and up-tempo. Be as excited to talk to them as you were to talk to the other 25 recruiters you met.”
Interview the company
If you have time, make sure that the interview serves your informational needs. “You should not put yourself at the level of a victim or be filled with desperation,” said actress Deidrie Henry, who equates the job interview process to the rounds of auditions actors undergo. “You are also auditioning them."
“Your mindset should be, ‘Are you also someone I want to work with? Is your company one that I would want to sign on to?’ Recognize that as much as you need them, they need you. So also interview them. You should not necessarily only talk about yourself but be curious about what they are trying to sell you.”
Prepare and bring something that will help the recruiter remember you. Dingee suggests a creative business card, perhaps with an unusual shape or color. “Having something a little gimmicky is not a bad thing, even if it means you have to go to one of these business-card places online to make your own business cards,” she said. Include social-media contacts like your Linkedin and Twitter accounts. It makes you more accessible to them, she said. “Some people may actually be very green thinking, so bring a flash drive with your resume on it instead of a hard-copy resume. Anything that makes you stand out will definitely be helpful.”
Karl Rozemeyer is a general assignment reporter for TheLadders.