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How to Prepare for a Job Fair

If you stay on the lookout, you’ll start to see announcements about career fairs near Worcester start to pop up. Graduates are starting to plan ahead and lock in that job upon completing schooling. Those who are unemployed are garnering up strength to hit that resolution and find a job this year. And those who are stuck in an unhappy career path are finally getting up strength to go after something new.

Our “Top Ten” Pieces of Advice for Career Fair Attendees

You might think it strange to receive advice from us on a career fair, but lets just say we’ve attended our fair share of them. Sure, we are employers to some skilled in nursing and lab work. However, even more importantly we are people-watchers at these fairs. We often attend job fairs with the original purpose of pre-screening possible employees for drugs & alcohol. However, while we’re not working with a business to test future employees, we’re watching job seekers and taking notes. And here’s what we see:

1. Dress Nice at a Job Fair

First impressions always count. Sure, it will matter on a date. But even more, it matters at a career fair. Dress nice. Go for the nice suit and tie. Or the pantsuit with the silk scarf. Iron your clothes. Look polished. Comb your hair.

2. Take Business Cards

It’s a great idea to exchange business cards with anyone who you spoke with at a job fair. A business card is a nice way to leave your contact information with a future employer – in a way that’s not your resume. Even if you’re a full-time student, create a business card listing your name, contact info and area of interest, or your major. If you’re a professional, list your specialty. There are some great websites like Vista Print or Overnight Prints that will offer a special, or even free, cards.

3. Don’t Be Shy

Even if you tend to be quiet, a career fair is not the place for this. A career fair is full of the go-getters. Recruiters and HR professionals are out to snag the company’s best new hire. And in order for them to do that, they’re going to have to be impressed with you. So staying quiet and stand-offish won’t fair well at these events. Be assertive. Be confident. Know who you are. And initiate conversations. Just think – it won’t last forever and once you have the job you can go back to being shy and hiding in your cubicle.

4. Brush Your Teeth

You might think this goes with the “look nice” advice – but this is a whole separate ballgame. Especially with what we’ve seen. For one, have nice breath. Don’t eat onions or garlic before you go to a career fair. Common sense, right? However – another thing to consider is what’s on your breath. Are you a smoker? Drinker? This will be a turn-off to your employer, especially those who require drug testing and random drug screening at work. So before you attend, brush your teeth and don’t come in with smoke on your breath if you smoke. And if you really want to make a lasting impression, get a plan in place to quit.

5. Have Resumes & Copies

You want to make sure not to forget your resume at home the day you attend a career fair. This will be what you want to leave with recruiters you speak with. It will also serve as a vehicle of conversation. Don’t just take one copy either – go ahead and buy a box of nice resume paper and make at least 30 copies or so.

6. Know your Schedule

You might meet a recruiter who wants to go ahead and schedule an interview with you at the career fair. Don’t be left standing there with a blank look on your face, holding off making plans until you have your calendar with you. Take your planner or have access to your calendar. That way that coveted interview spot can be filled by you, and not the dude you’re bumping into as you head out to the car to check your planner.

7. Have A “Cheat Sheet” for Applications

Some employers might have applications at the career fair. If you desire to apply “on the spot” for a position, have all of your employment background information handy. Often you’ll be asked to list your past three to five employers, salary, address and manager’s name. You’ll also be asked about your skills and schooling. Instead of digging through your purse or bag, or making dozens of calls, come prepared with this information.

8. Track Who You Spoke With

A great key to a successful career fair is follow-up. An easy way to do this is start with a map, if one is provided by the organization hosting a job fair. Circle the names or booths that you visit, and make sure to get a business card of each recruiter you speak with. After the fair, send a thank you note to those employers who you’re very interested in working with, being specific about the conversation. This will help them recall who you are and keep your name at the top of their minds.

9. Come with a List of Questions

Employers like it when you come with open-ended questions for them. I mean don’t we all like to be asked questions about ourselves? So, prepare to ask questions to the recruiter, and not just have them ask you all of the questions. Inquire about the company, the available positions, what they like about working for the company and any policies or perks you’re interested in and more.

10. Don’t Waste Your Time

Unless you’re a certain personality type, these career fairs can be overwhelming and draining. Especially because there is so much rejection tied up into job hunting. What we recommend for anyone job hunting at a career fair is to know who you want to talk to. Try to get a list of employers who will be attending, and visit with those in which you have an interest in working for. Don’t waste your time talking to the electric company if your heart is set on working in retail. Know what you’re going for, and your interests, and stick with employers who might offer an opportunity in the type of field you are looking for.

  1. February 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm

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