5 TIPS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF JOB FAIRS
Thousands of people attend job fairs and they can be great or a frustrating waste of time. Nonetheless, they should be a part of your job search strategy. Here’s how to maximize the value of job fairs.
How Job Fairs Work
The first thing you should know is that only companies with multiple openings attend job fairs so it is a good sign that they are growing .
The second thing to note is that the decision maker does not attend the job fair. It is typically staffed by Human Resources and administrative personnel whose job is to quickly appraise your dress, demeanor, communication skills, and experience level, and then sort you into a Yes, No, or Maybe pile.
Your goal is simply to get into the Yes pile.
1. Prepare Yourself Before the Job Fair
The worst thing you can do is walk up to a booth and say something like, “So what are you looking for?”
The person who captures their interest and the subsequent interview is the one who makes an impression by communicating how your experience and talents can benefit their organization.
To do this, you need to know something about them. Start by looking at what employers are attending, and then identify the 5-10 firms that interest you.
Look them up on LinkedIn to identify the decision-maker and their staff. See if they have participated in LinkedIn discussions and if there are topics that identify a particular interest. Now do the same in Twitter (their Twitter handle is available through LinkedIn).
Example: Joan got her job by noticing that the sales manager was asking questions about the Miller Heiman Strategic Selling Methodology on LinkedIn. When she went to the job fair, one of the things she stressed was that she was experienced in using that methodology in her sales career.
2. Send your resume before the career fair
It’s a good idea to mail and email your resume to the decision-maker and the HR designee, and tell them you will be attending the job fair so you can get on their radar screen. (Of course, this assumes you have a great resume.)
3. Practice your presentation
You have 120 seconds to make a favorable impression, so practice your handshake (women tend to overgrip), your smile, and your conversation with friends and family so you are ready and comfortable. Write down some insightful questions that you will ask each firm that will show them you did your homework.
4. At the Job Fair
First make sure you have copies of your resume and your business card. If you have a networking business card (for job seekers), even better.
Tip: Network with other people while you are on line because you never know who might be able to help you. So, engage with those around you.
Now make sure you convey a positive impression.
- Shake hands, SMILE and introduce yourself.
- Be enthusiastic, and do not interrupt.
- Ask open-ended questions to engage them and build rapport.
- Don’t be afraid to take notes.
Tip: The best question to ask is “What challenges would someone in this position face in the first 6 months?”
This is a sales technique to “uncover their pain,” and if you can find this out, you can focus your conversation on how you can eliminate their “pain.”
Finally, make sure you get their business card and ask them if you can call them if you have any additional questions (a great follow-up technique to build rapport and make sure you are on their mind).
5. Following Up
After the job fair, send a personalized Thank You note by email and mail to the company representatives you met. It’s professional, appreciated, and the repetition makes sure they remember you. If you did your homework, you can also stress the experience you have in relation to the position they are seeking.
Then, if you haven’t heard anything after one week, call (do not email) the people you spoke to and use the opportunity to showcase your interest and ability.
DO NOT just ask where they are in the search process as this just makes you a nudge. Instead say something like, “I noticed that your firm just acquired a new company and was wondering if integrating the new firm into your existing accounting system would be an important part of this job.” Then you can tell them how you have done similar things in the past. Again, another opportunity to get yourself known.
Handled correctly, job fairs can be a great way to uncover opportunities.