Job fairs are popular in the Spring, when many job candidates come home from college. A job fair is a great opportunity for candidates to meet many employers looking to hire.
According to a recent SHRM/Career Journal Poll Search Tactics Survey, over 70 percent of human resources departments participating rely on job fairs to recruit employees. They are not only great events for identifying employment opportunities, but also a place for job candidates to expand their network, hone interview skills, learn industry information, gather information about companies, and collect business cards and contact information.
While many job candidates earnestly seek to obtain employment by attending these events, the truth is not all of them know how to go about it successfully. Some are less prepared and walk away from them without interviews with their targeted companies, feeling let down.
By developing a strategic plan, job candidates can significantly increase their success at identifying employment opportunities, making an impression and obtaining second interviews.
The following tips are designed to help job fair participants create a strategy that will result in job leads and interviews.
· The most important thing is for a job candidate to do their homework. This means knowing the list organizations that will be present at the job fair, and which ones are the best match. Thanks to the Internet, there is so much information available to assist in the research process. It doesn't take much effort to check out a corporate website, especially since the pay-off can be quite significant.
· Being well versed in a company's background, environment and mission may very well go a long way in demonstrating enthusiasm to a recruiter. Likewise, knowing nothing about a company and having no idea how individual strengths and interests match up with that company is a prescription for disaster.
· Looking, speaking and acting professionally help to make a terrific first impression. Something as simple as a smile, especially after waiting in a long line for what seemed like forever, can go a long way.
· Time spent at a career fair may not be very valuable or helpful if it is not followed up on effectively. Even though proper follow-up procedures usually vary among interviewers and companies, there are a few universally acceptable things to keep in mind.
· If the company is a large and bureaucratic firm, the recruiter would probably appreciate a note within one week. An email is just as acceptable as a written note, especially if the recruiter gave out their email address. At the end of any interview or even a mini discussion, be sure to ask what the next steps are. Ask if the interviewer a follow up by phone or email and try to establish a time frame in which to do so.
· Keep in mind that all is not lost if a job doesn't materialize immediately. Job fairs also offer great practice in perfecting networking and interviewing skills. Talk to as many people as possible, and never underestimate the value of face time with recruiters from leading companies. Just as important, listen to them, too. Pay attention to the questions asked and to the kind of information they're offering. It's impossible to leave without something of value.
· Dress professionally; handle this as you would a regular interview.
· Bring a large supply of resumes to hand out to the companies.
· Take a portfolio/briefcase to hold resumes and corporate literature.
· Prepare a one minute elevator speech about strong points, relevant skills, goals, and potential geographic work sites.
· Always network, especially while waiting in line. Be assertive and show initiative when you reach the table. Be enthusiastic and optimistic.