Get the most out of attending job fairs

Posted December 29, 2014

If you're looking for a job, career fairs can be very beneficial. You can learn about openings, network, and most importantly get your name, face and qualifications in front of the right people. Here's how to get the most out of the next job fair you attend:

  1. Dress Appropriately
    This doesn't mean you have to wear a suit and tie—unless that's standard dress in the industries where you're hoping to get hired. Sometimes a pair of dress pants and a button-down shirt or a skirt and conservative blouse are enough. Sometimes khakis and a polo shirt are all you need. Plan your attire carefully, and make sure it's clean and pressed. And never wear sneakers or flip flops.
  2. Know How to Communicate Your Value
    Have you ever heard of a positioning statement, or elevator speech? It's basically a 30-second introduction and career overview that tells the employer what you bring to the table and what kind of job you're looking for. Include:
    • What kind of work you do
    • How many years of experience you have and in what industry(ies)
    • Where your expertise and skills lie
    • What kind of job you hope to find
  3. Do Your Research on Target Companies
    Before you go, find out which companies will be attending the job fair and do some advance research on the companies that interest you most. At the least, know what product or service they provide, what customers they serve and what kinds of positions exist within the company. Focus on those employers that are the best match for your skills and experience.
  4. Make a Plan
    Because you probably won't have the time or opportunity to talk to everyone, decide which companies you most want to target. Narrow it down to 5 or 6. Then visit them in reverse order—start with number 6 and work your way up, which will give you time to work off your nervousness and get really fluent with your positioning statement.
  5. Bring Your Resume
    Bring several copies of your resume to leave with any employers you meet with. Make sure it's targeted to the kind of job you're seeking, and don't fold it or place it in an envelope.
  6. Be Proactive
    You're not there just to pass out resumes. You're there to gather information. Ask questions! Find out what employers are looking for in an employee, what are some of the current challenges they're facing and what kinds of positions exist within their company. You're not there to get a job offer; you're there to find out where you can best fit in.
  7. Mind Your Manners
    Remember, from the moment you walk in the door at the job fair, you’re being observed. Be professional! Don’t smoke or chew gum. Shake hands firmly and confidently, smile and make eye contact. Don’t monopolize any one employer’s time, and turn off your cell phone.
  8. Collect Information
    Ask for the business card of everyone you speak with, especially if you are interested in following up. After walking away, jot down notes regarding what you discussed with that person and what follow-up actions you want to take.