Career Fair Success Strategies

Career Fairs can occasionally be intimidating. As a job-seeker, you must distinguish yourself from hundreds or even thousands of other job applicants. The following are a few simple strategies to help you stand out from the crowd.

Find a Fair. Many career fairs are free, but some require a registration. The first place to look for a career fair is your alma mater. Colleges and universities routinely hold career fairs for students and alumni. Call your college’s career service office and find out if you need to register and what the general format of the fair will be.

Professional organizations also often sponsor large career fairs at their national and regional conferences. Many organizations require membership for admission to the conference and career fair, but some sell day-long “placement-only” admission. Look in a business or employment specialized local publication. Many career fairs are listed in their conferences and exhibitions section.

.Choose the Right Fair. You probably don’t want to waste your time at a medical-technology fair if you are looking for a position in education. Do your research. If possible, get the names of companies that will be recruiting at the fair. Hosting agencies often post an abridged list to attract job-seekers like you.

Arrive Early. Any career-fair recruiting veteran can confidently attest that his ability to remember names, faces, and details of candidates, wanes as the day goes on. Go early to ensure quality time with the recruiters.

Do a Reconnaissance Circuit First. When you get to the fair, don’t go into a frenzy of resume dropping-off. Sit down with the program and decide on the order in which you will talk to recruiters. Many career fair veterans agree that beginning in the back of the room and working your way to the front is the way to go – you are seeing recruiters fresh, while people who started in the front may be starting to lose energy. While you are getting the lay of the land, pick up information from the tables. Information, as well as freebies such as pens, magnets, and stress balls, are there for the taking. Gather information on companies of particular interest and sit down in the candidate lounge. Information may include company annual reports, brochures, and a list of open positions. Review the materials so that you have a starting point for conversation with each recruiter.

.Have a Booth Speech. Too many times you would see candidates going down a row of tables asking the dreaded question “Can you tell me a little bit about your company?” As a recruiter, no matter how much you like to talk to people, this question becomes old quickly. Better to have a booth speech that you give to the recruiter. “Hello Anita, I wanted to introduce myself to you. My name is John. I am a Training Specialist with six years of experience, and I wanted to talk to you about the Training Specialist vacancy at XYZ Company.”
.Hone In. As you begin talking, the recruiter then may ask you questions about yourself or tell you about the position. Ensure that you make eye contact and listen carefully for tidbits that are not mentioned in the written materials. If you are interested in the company or a position therein, ask for the recruiter’s business card and leave a resume.

In addition, go back to the candidate lounge and write a short note to the employer. Attach it to your resume and redeposit into the employer’s resume box. Your note should be brief and professional and reference your conversation. “Dear Anita, thank you for spending time with me today at the Recruiting Fair. I appreciate your making time to explain the detailed requirements of the Training Specialist position, as well as the history of the position. Please do feel free to contact me directly if you need additional information.” This note can be handwritten but should be stapled directly to your resume. At the end of the fair (or sometimes during it), recruiters go through the resumes making notes on impressive candidates. Attaching a note to the resume is a way to distinguish yourself from other candidates who don’t bother with this step.

.Don’t be a Booth Buffoon. Recruiters are there to find many good candidates – not just one. Don’t monopolize a recruiter by taking all his/her time. If a line develops behind you, be sensitive to that. Say something like “Thank you so much for speaking with me. I see you have quite a line, and I don’t want to monopolize your time.” Then, get out of the way. If you are particularly interested in making another contact, it is fine to come again when the line has died down.

If a recruiter is speaking generally to another candidate, it is perfectly acceptable to join the conversation, make eye contact, and ask questions. It is not necessary to wait in a line for individual one-on-one attention, particularly if you plan to ask a similar question.

.After the Fair. Follow-up is extremely important. Recruiters will collect hundreds or thousands of resumes at a large career fair. If you are interested in applying for a specific position, go to the company Web site and apply directly using the company’s preferred format. Open your cover letter by indicating that you discovered the position at the Career Fair and in speaking with recruiter Anita, you became convinced that this was the position for you. You may also want to follow up with an email to the recruiter directly.

Final Thoughts
Career Fairs don’t have to be intimidating. Remember that the recruiters are there to find you. Recruiters’ success is determined by sourcing appropriate candidates and funneling them toward the company. Remember that you are what they are looking for. Employing these success strategies is sure to make a difference in the kind, quantity and quality of your career-fair interactions.

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