There are many routes to finding a job and today we’ll share the secrets of finding your next career move on a job fair.

How to Find a Job at Job Fairs

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We’ll explain what job fairs are all about, the pros and cons of using them, and the preparation you need to do before visiting one. We’ll also introduce you to the best practices at the fair and the things you must do after the event is over.

WHAT ARE JOB FAIRS?

A job fair is an event for companies to advertise their organization and for professionals to find suitable positions and career paths. As well as being a platform for companies, it can also attract recruitment companies operating in the industry.

It’s therefore an event combining different employers, recruiters and educational institutions in order for them to provide information to potential employees, candidates and students.

A job fair can also be referred to as a career fair or a career expo.

Job fairs can be industry specific, such as TechExpo, which is a Technology, Cyber, Engineering and Intelligence focused job fair. They can also target a specific section of the working population. One example of these includes different career fairs held at university campuses, targeting recent graduates. But there are also gender-specific job fairs, such as the events organized by Women for Hire.

Finally, job fairs can target different industries and different types of employees. National Career Fairs, for example, is a major organizer of US-wide career fairs. Another example is the Global Career Fair, which brings employers, recruiters and employees together on a global scale.

THE PROS AND CONS OF JOB FAIRS

A job fair can be a useful tool for conducting job search. Nonetheless, it comes with its specific set of pros and cons.

The advantages of attending job fairs

Attending a job fair will provide you plenty of networking opportunities. While you might be more focused on finding a job immediately, networking is an important part of your career development plan. By creating these connections with companies, you can build relationships that might end up providing you with a better job in the future.

At the event, you will be able to learn more about different companies and the pros and cons of working for them. This can help you make a more informed decision regarding the companies you want to apply for and the organizations that aren’t a good fit.

The information you gain will also help you create better job applications, since you know more about what the companies are looking for. This ensures your job applications aren’t generic, but target the specific company and role.

Finally, job fairs often offer free workshops and tutorials, which can help boost your resume and cover letter writing skills. You can also gain experience in answering interview questions correctly, sometimes in mock interview situations.

The disadvantages of attending job fairs

There are certain drawbacks to job fairs as well. Perhaps the biggest is the fact the events can take quite a bit of time to attend. You also need to prepare well for these events in order to enjoy the above benefits. All of this can be time consuming.

Not only will it swallow a large chunk of your time to travel and attend these multi-day events, the travel can also cost money. Whilst the events themselves are often free to attend, you will need to pay for travel, drinks and food, and stay, if the fair’s not close enough to your home.

Finally, you’ll not only meet a number of employers in these events, you’re also going head to head with plenty of other job seekers. This means you must be able to stand out from the crowd or the employers won’t remember you.

PREPARING FOR A CAREER FAIR

Due to the time and money commitment you need to make, it’s definitely important to do your research before committing to a job fair. You need to be aware of your options, in terms of whether the fair is worth attending or not. You might have limited time available, especially if you can’t stay for the whole day(s), and therefore, you need to be aware of the employers and recruiters you want to meet.

Research the event beforehand

Start by researching the job fair. You should determine the event’s attractiveness by answering the following questions:

  • Is the event free to attend? Consider whether the cost of attending is too high, in case it’s not a free event.
  • Is the career fair open for all? As we’ve mentioned above, some career fairs might not be accessible by the public. For example, university job fairs might require you to attend the institution.
  • Is the fair industry specific? You should only attend job fairs, which include the industry you are hoping to get a career in.
  • Which companies are attending the event? Identify the major employers and recruiters present and consider how they suit your career progression plans.
  • Are there any extra events/workshops/seminars available for attending? If so, how do you sign up for them? Check out the whole program for the job fair and consider if it has a number of extras, you find useful.

By answering the above questions, you’ll be able to decide whether the particular event is worth attending. You’ll also get an idea on what to expect, to ensure you can maximize your job search.

Create a list of the employers you want to meet

During research, you should have identified the employers attending the event. You now want to create a list of the top three employers you want to meet. In essence, you’ll be creating a priority list of employers.

You might be wondering why just three employers? The job fair can be quite intimidating and finding your way around will take time. While you won’t be spending your whole time talking to these three employers, you want to ensure you make the most effort with the employers you want to hire you.

The three employers isn’t a number set in stone. After talking to all three, don’t just leave. But by talking to the three, you’ve targeted your ideal employers and roles and you’ll be able leave later with task accomplished. Naturally, once you are done talking with your ideal employers, you can move on in the priority list.

When researching the companies, you should also come up with questions to ask from the employer. These highlight your understanding of the industry and the company, your passion towards working there and your initiative to learn more.

Example questions to ask include:

  • What kind of employees are you looking for?
  • What skills do you value the most?
  • What do you like about working for this company?
  • What is the current job market like and what are the trends you are experiencing in terms of hiring?

You’ll also want to highlight that you’ve done your research and ask questions based on what you found. For instance, about a recent product launch the company did or a specific approach they use in sales.

Prepare your resume

Sort out your resume and ensure it’s up to date and completely error free. If you are targeting specific roles and companies, you definitely want to ensure you tailor your resume for these roles.

Target your resume with the keywords – meaning skills and qualifications – preferred by the employer. For example, the job description for the role you want might emphasize experience, negotiating skills, organizational skills and determination. It’s helpful to ensure you highlight these skills in your resume through experience and achievements.

Since you will be talking to a number of different employers, you might want to have a few different resumes prepared. For example, if you are focusing on sales roles with some employers, with the emphasis on sales, and more marketing-focused sales roles with other employers, you should create two separate resumes highlighting the required skills.

Whether you print out a few different resumes or a single resume, the key is to have plenty of them ready. So, don’t be shy with printing them out, as you want to hand them out to as many people as possible. In some instances, it might be helpful to have a simple USB stick with your resume on it with you. This ensures you can upload your resume digitally into the employer’s database.

Prepare a 30 second introduction

You also need to prepare your own elevator pitch for the job fair. The speech is to introduce yourself to the representative, let them know what you are looking for and why the company would be a good match, and to provide an outlook of your skills. In essence, you give the speech to sell yourself.

Don’t learn a scripted speech that turns you into a robot as soon as you start giving it. But have an inkling of what you want to say, as it creates a more professional impression of you. You won’t have much time to talk to the recruiters and representatives. Therefore, you want to quickly get your skills, passion and knowledge across.

For example, your elevator pitch could be along the lines of, “Hi, I’m Kara Smith, a graduate in Business and Marketing Studies from UCLA. I’m looking for jobs in digital marketing and have been impressed by (company name)’s marketing department, especially the campaign with (company name). I’ve worked with (previous or current employer) on similar projects and gained skills I think would relate well for these roles. I’d be interested finding out a bit more about the opportunities available for me.

Furthermore, it’s important you don’t just prepare to give the talk and then listen to the representatives. The recruiters and representatives are likely to ask questions about you and you should prepare for those. It’s easy to be thrown back by simple questions, if you haven’t prepared for them.

Example questions representatives often ask include:

  • What interests you?
  • What are you good at?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What’s your current employment status? Why’d you want to leave?

Dress for the occasion

Finally, you should sort out your wardrobe before the event. Each fair can have a different approach to dress code. You should check the website if there are any specific requirements to ensure you aren’t turned away from the door.

Overall, a business casual tends to be required and if the website has no mention of dress code, dress with business casual in mind. This means you don’t need to show up in a full suit, but still leave the shorts and t-shirts at home.

You can find great styling tips and learn more about different style choices from the below video:

HOW TO MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION DURING THE FAIR?

The above preparation will ensure you attend the fair with confidence and knowledge. You’ll know where you are going, who you are talking to and how to ensure you get your message across.

But what are the other things you need to remember to focus on at the job fairs?

Keep an open mind

While you should have the list of the companies you are targeting, don’t walk around with shutters over your eyes. Keep an open mind and look for opportunities and interesting employers to talk to, especially after you’re done with your ‘top-3’.

Don’t dismiss any organization before you’ve talked with them, unless they clearly have nothing interesting to offer to you. You shouldn’t also just talk with employers you’ve heard about. Newer and smaller organizations might have just as good roles on offer as the big corporations.

Don’t rush

You need to make a lasting impression and succeeding with it is harder if you are rushing through your ‘talk’. You do want to meet a number of different representatives, but you need to spend enough time with them to guarantee they remember you.

But how to decide whether to cut the discussion a bit shorter or whether to keep talking? If the employer has opportunities currently available and they match your career ambitions, it’s definitely worth talking. If you match the qualifications well, then you should spend a bit more time crafting a relationship. Furthermore, you want to talk to employers that match your career goals and your values. Even if there are not many opportunities available right now, creating a relationship with the right organization can help in the future.

On the other hand, if the employer’s roles don’t match your current skillset closely, they don’t seem too interested in what you offer (they don’t ask questions, for instance), and the business culture seems alien to you, don’t waste time talking with them for too long.

When talking with the representatives stay attentive, ask questions and answer questions with short, but informative answers. Highlight your passion towards the role and sound enthusiastic when talking about it. Build rapport with the representative by also asking something about them. For example:

  • How did you start working for the company?
  • What do you like the most working for them?

You should also remember to respect the representative’s time and not waste the spell you have with them to pointless questions and chitchat too much. Even though you want to be inquisitive, don’t ask questions which you should have found out about online. Questions such as “What does your company do?” are unprofessional and annoying.

Stay confident and professional

Overall, trust the research you’ve done, stay calm and maintain composure. Take unexpected questions and events as they come. Don’t rush, but take a deep breath and configure an answer. If you’ve prepared well, you can’t be stopped!

The key is to know your skills and qualification inside out and have different ways to bring these up. In conversations, you can drop mentions of your past accomplishments and be proud of what you’ve achieved

For example, if the representative talks about communication skills, you can mention how you’ve worked in a customer service department and had to develop better phone communication due to the nature of the job. If you are talking about research, you can mention volunteering for the technology department at your university to label their research files.

As a final tip for coming across more confident and professional, we’d like to mention how going alone is more worth it than walking around in a group. You’ll come across as independent and professional.

Make notes

Have a notebook or a smartphone’s notebook app at hand and don’t be afraid to make notes. A good idea is to make a short note of the employer after you’ve spoken to them. You can mention things like:

  • Did you like them? What didn’t you like about them?
  • What do you feel you could bring to the company?
  • Where to find out more? Did you get a business card?

These will be useful later, if you are applying for positions online after the event. You might even have information available, which you can use in an interview later on.

AFTER THE EVENT

Finally, it’s important to understand you can enhance your chances of landing a job on job fairs by doing a few short things at the end of the event.

Depending on the recruiters and companies, you might not actually be able to apply for any job openings at the job fair. Sometimes, you’ll need to go through the application process later on. But don’t think this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend time with this organization at the fair. Handing out your resume is still a good way to create a positive impression. If you can, reference the earlier meeting at the fair when applying for the job.

Furthermore, you should drop a line or give a call to the recruiters and representatives you met at the event. This can just be a friendly thank you note about the chat and a mention that you’ve applied for the position. For example, you could say, “Hi, I wanted to say thanks for the chat at last week’s careers fair. The resources and tips you provided me with were helpful. I’ve just finished applying for the role of Market Analyst on the website. I hope you have a productive week! Best, Katie

In addition, don’t just stay in touch with the recruiters and company representatives. If you made connections with other job seekers at the event, you should follow-up with them as well. This is a powerful way to grow your network, and a single connection might turn into a lucrative career one day.

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