People who are out of work will often use every means at their disposal to find employment. Career Fairs are a popular way for employees and employers to meet on a large scale. Instead of (or more likely, in addition to) sending endless resumes, a Career Fair allows the job seeker to meet with multiple employers in a short time frame.
However, the fairs can be overwhelming. Imagine multiplying the stress and nervousness of a job interview by 20 times, as each employer represents a new opportunity to make that lasting impression that leads to a job.
Luckily, there is a method to the madness, and there are strategies that can be employed to help ensure you make the most out of the experience.
First, it is important to understand what a Career Fair is and is not. It is an opportunity for prepared candidates to meet with employers looking for new employees. Job offers are rarely made at Career Fairs. The goal is to make enough of an impression so you will be called back for an in-depth interview.
There are different kinds of Career Fairs. At Touro we offer two every year for our students and alumni where the focus is generally on internships and entry-level positions.
Many fairs, including most held by politicians and communal organizations, are open to a large cross-section of people, with job opportunities for varied levels of expertise and experience. Others are specific to an area of expertise; an actuarial one for example. Make sure to research the fair you plan to attend to make sure that it is right for you and that the kinds of jobs you seek are offered.
To be most successful, you will need to prepare well in advance. You do not want to just “show up” and hope for the best. It is more than just wasting a great opportunity, employers will judge you based on your performance; therefore, participating when you are not prepared may adversely affect your applications submitted via other means.
First and foremost, dress professionally – business casual is not acceptable. Quintessential Careers, an outstanding career-oriented website, provides excellent professional wardrobe advice at www.quintcareers.com/dress_for_success.html. In addition, a professional portfolio to hold your resumes is a great accessory to have. It is preferable not to shlep around a large briefcase. If you need to bring one, check it in the coatroom.
Your professional persona is very important. Make sure your clothes are clean, tailored properly and freshly pressed; shoes need to be shined. Pay close attention to all areas of hygiene. Men should be freshly shaved or have their beards neatly trimmed (unless prohibited for religious reasons). Women who choose to use perfume should make sure that the scent is subtle. Breath mints are always a good idea.
There is no point in showing up without a resume; employers expect to be handed one at the beginning of your interview. Approaching an employer and handing them your business card is a waste of paper; it will most likely end up with the trash.
You need to have a winning resume, and it takes time to create one –and it should be printed on a laser printer on professional resume paper. Make sure to bring more resumes than you think you will need because unexpected opportunities do appear. Trying to produce new professional copies at the event is stressful and wastes valuable time.
Many Career Fairs will publish a list of participating employers in advance. This is a great opportunity to research each employer so you can intelligently discuss why you would be an asset to them. Why you are interested in their particular company is a common question, and you certainly do not want to be asking the interviewer what the company does.
Company websites are powerful tools for research. While some sites are overwhelming, the ”about us” or “mission/values” sections will normally give you a good idea of how the companies want to be perceived. Also, listen to the short videos, if available, of what the CEO and other employees have to say. If you know someone in the company, by all means tap into their knowledge about the company. In addition, Google the name of the company and familiarize yourself with the latest news and online conversations (focus on the positives).