Latest update: December 31st, 2012
Career Fairs are usually held in large rooms, and there can be a lot of noise and commotion. For some there will be a map with a list of each employer’s location; others may be set up less formally. It is a good idea to walk around and take note of the employers in which you are interested before approaching your first table.
You must be on your best professional behavior at all times, even when you are not in line or talking to an employer. Most events have break areas set up for employers, and they do share their perspective on candidates when talking to one another.
Many employers hand out small promotional items at the Career Fair. You are better served not walking around the room carrying a bunch of these things in your pockets. If you do find a cool item, put it away immediately (you certainly don’t want to be seen as the yo-yo playing with the promotional yo-yo).
It is a good idea to approach an employer in which you are slightly less interested at first to get the feel for how the fair works and get some practice answering questions. If you employ that strategy, remember that this is not just practice. Every employer will be judging you, irrespective of your interest in a particular company, and you must remain professional throughout.
It is also a good idea to speak to employers outside of your specific career area. Many companies have in-house marketing, graphic design, accounting, IT and human resources departments, even if that is not their specialty. Make sure to let the interviewer know that you are aware of the employer’s specialty, but that you are looking for opportunities in other departments.
When approaching a table, let the interviewer take the lead. S/he will likely ask for your resume and invite you to sit down. Let him/her direct the questions. Any interview question is fair game at a Fair, but we have found that employers like to ask why applicants are specifically interested in their company. Be prepared to convincingly answer that question.
Employers usually view these events as “quick screen” opportunities. They are making their determination as to whether you are a viable candidate in 2 or 3 minutes, so first impressions are everything. View every moment of the interview as a precious opportunity to convince the employer that you would make a great employee.
You may notice the interviewer writing something on your resume. Many employers use a grading system and mark each resume accordingly. This is because they may meet a hundreds of applicants, and this grade is the only reminder they have about each applicant.
Make sure to get each interviewer’s business card as it is imperative to send an individually-tailored thank you e-mail. We often advise students to take brief notes immediately after an interview so that the thank you e-mail can refer directly to the positive aspect of the interview and affirm their fit and interest in continuing in the application process. If you have a professional LinkedIn Profile, sending individual personal invitations to all interviewers is a great idea.
Ask each interviewer how they would like you to follow-up. This may yield valuable information on their hiring timetable and when you can expect a response. It can take employers several weeks to make decisions, and knowing that can set you at ease while waiting. It also provides you the opportunity to be proactive. If the employer does not get back to you in the expected time frame, you may not be in their top tier of candidates, but you can seize the opportunity and reach out and keep yourself on their radar.
Even if you think you really aced the interview, and the second interview and a job offer is a guarantee, keep looking for other opportunities. You can always decline an offer if there are better ones on the table, but until you have a firm job offer, you do not have a firm job offer!
Career Fairs can be daunting, but they are an opportunity to make a positive, professional impression on a large number of employers in a short time. Seizing the moment and coming prepared can make all the difference between securing a number of job interviews and months of continued searching. Hatzlacha!Ron Ansel
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