While most professionals write off career fairs as a means of finding a job, according to the 2001 SHRM/Career Journal Poll Search Tactics Survey, over 70% of human resources
departments participating rely on job fairs to recruit employees. They are not only great events for identifying employment opportunities, but also for expanding your network, honing your interview skills, learning industry information, gathering information about companies, and collecting business cards.
“Career fairs are good job seeking tools because you are able to make more contacts through employers and candidates just by being around forty or fifty companies and talking to your peers,” Lew Shomer, President/CEO of the NAACP Diversity Career Fair.
“They are opportunities to network, resource contacts, get information on new products and services and determine your individual worth in the market by just asking a few key questions.“
In recent years, niche career fairs have grown in popularity. Not only can you find events for people in your specific career specialty, but also in your specific industry. A great resource for these types of events, are professional association conferences. Most of these events prominently feature career fairs.
”Corporations look at these career fairs and national associations that host them, like National Black MBA Association to bring to them marketplace in a cost efficient manner,” Antoinette M. Malveaux, National Black MBA Association President & CEO. The minority professional who does attend these events is missing a great opportunity to connect with a number of corporations."
As the ethnic make-up of the US population becomes increasingly diverse, employers find it important to have a staff that reflects the diversity of our society. To accommodate this demand, diversity career fairs have become increasingly popular.
While many job seekers earnestly seek to obtain employment by attending these events, few know how to go about it successfully. Many are ill prepared and walk away from them without interviews with their targeted companies and feeling let down. By developing a strategic plan, you can significantly increase your success at identifying employment opportunities, making and impression and obtaining second interviews. The following tips are designed to help you create a strategy that will have you walking away from these events with job leads and interviews.
Tracey’s 20 Top Career Fair Success Strategies
- Most job fairs now have web sites that showcase participating employers. Use the web sites to identify which companies that you want to approach. Use the available information to determine the location of the employers that you wish to talk to and the order that you want to see them.
- You should also gather information about these employers from the site so you will be prepared to converse knowledgably about the company with its representatives. Cut, past, and print out some of the company information you collect to create a cheat sheet that you can refer to throughout the event.
- First impressions are lasting ones, so treat the career fairs that you are attending like a job interview. Come dressed for success in conservative attire, with a winning attitude, and ready to answer probing questions.
- Periodically attend these events even when you are not necessarily looking for a job to see what opportunities are out there, and to gain a perspective on where you fit in the job marketplace.
- Be prepared by bringing the following: a pen, note pad and stack of resumes. You should also bring a portfolio or carryall that has easily accessible storage areas. Wear comfortable, professional-looking shoes designed for standing long periods of time.
- Your resume should be scannable, short and professional on white paper that is free of graphics, photographs or fancy print styles, but also containing larger margins for interviewer notes.
- Bring more resumes than you anticipate distributing. There may be companies that you decide to see at the last minute that are not on your list of targeted companies.
- If they distribute nametags at the conference or job fair, by all means use them. If you are able to write on it, include your title and/or specialty, and location. Nametags are useful in putting a name to a familiar face and identifying people with similar interests. If you are writing your name yourself, make sure you print large and bold so people and read it.
- Arrive early to avoid having to stand in long lines, give yourself time to survey the layout of the fair, and determine the order that you plan to visit with company representatives. Large companies with high profiles will have the longest lines, so if some are on your list, you should visit them first.
- If you are unfortunate enough to end up in a long line, which is likely during these economically difficult times, use the time to review your cheat sheet to refresh your memory about company facts and how you will sell yourself to that particular company.
- Network with other jobseekers. Talk to others while you are standing in line to exchange job-hunting ideas, provide support, and even obtain leads.
- Do accept every gift or handout or you could find yourself not only weighted down, but also unable to pack everything on your return trip.
- Be prepared to assertively introduce yourself, giving your best handshake, showing enthusiasm and making eye contact with the interviewer. Be concise, polite and direct, as you only have brief period of time to obtain the information that you need and to make an impression.
- Recruiters will want you to be prepared to talk about your career objectives, strengths, willingness to relocate, interests, relevant skills, the kind of job you are looking for, why you want to work for their organization, and why you would be an asset. Be prepared to answer commonly asked questions and tailor them to the company’s needs.
- The people at these events usually do not make hiring decisions, so close of the conversation by asking how you might go about arranging a second interview, how to contact the hiring manager, or what steps should be taken next.
- If a recruiter is not accepting resumes, find out about their application process.
- Use career fairs to polish your interviewing skills. Pay close attention to the popular questions that you may not have anticipated and prepare answers to those questions for future interviews.
- Finding out about position needs, company culture and diversity. These questions will help you figure out if the company is a good match for you. Use the information that you obtain from your company research, and the questions that you ask to sell your skills that address their needs.
- After talking to each recruiter, use the back of his or her business card to record notes about the encounter to help you remember important details and follow-up instructions. If no card is available, record their contact information and your comments in your notepad.
- Follow up as soon as possible with thank you notes that address the companies’ hiring needs, your qualifications, and express your desire for a second interview.
Don’t forget to check out our Career Fair Calendar! It has over 140 career fairs and features a special section containing diversity career fairs.