Career Fairs—Your Shortcut to Job Interviews

By, Deborah Walker, CCMC

In many cities and local communities, spring is career fair season. While these events often prove disappointing, job-seekers who understand how “work” career fairs use these events as powerful networking sessions leading to interviews with future employers. If you are considering attending a job fair soon, you’ll get more out of the event by following these three rules.

Rule #1: Plan ahead.

Know ahead of time which companies will attend the event. Decide which employers you are interested in contacting. Visit their websites to read their open job positions. For employers of primary interest, do extra research to acquaint yourself with them. The basics are enough: local, national or global; headquarters, branch or subsidiary; industry lifecycle (growing or declining) and how many employees locally. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll feel much more confident during the event to speak intelligently with company reps. Take an employer list with you to make sure you don’t miss any important connections.

Rule #2: Prepare your 30-second presentation.

Since you know which employers you’re interested in and their job openings, prepared to communicate your qualifications in a 30-second presentation, or “elevator speech.” It shouldn’t sound canned or contrived, but it should include a few selling points that catch the rep’s attention for a few minutes.

A 30-second presentation is not difficult to develop. Here’s what I advise my clients. Reduce your resume to selling points that fit on a 3X5 card. Use that information to answer the all-important question—“why should I be interested in considering you a candidate for a position with my company?” Now, role play your speech with a friend, or by yourself while driving, or in front of a mirror until your “speech” sounds and feels natural.

Your objective is to secure an after-event interview time before you leave the booth. Don’t be afraid to ask for the interview.

Weather you’ve secured an interview or not, don’t leave the booth without speaking with someone and picking up their business card. After the event use the business cards to re-establish contact and suggest an interview where appropriate. This is no time to be shy. Follow-up contact will put you on top of the candidate pile

Rule #3: Avoid the crowd.

Arrive early or late, but avoid the noon-to-4:00 crowd. If possible, come early before reps are bored, tired and hungry. Another reason to avoid peak times: crowds can be intimidating. It’s much easier to talk yourself out of approaching important employer contacts when they are surrounded by other job seekers.

Last word—make sure your resume is in top-notch condition. Does it grab the reader’s attention? Does it communicate your best accomplishments? Does it sell you as a top candidate? Have several persons proof read it. Most employers will want to store your resume in a computerized data base. Since you’ll be distributing your resume in hard copy, make sure it is in scannable form. No fancy fonts, graphics or elaborate bullets.

It’s a fact that the best jobs go to those with the best job-search skills. Knowing how to make the most out of career fairs is a valuable skill that can cut weeks, event months off your job search. What does that equate in potential earnings for you?

Deborah Walker, CCMC
Resume Writer - Career Coach
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