How to benefit from job and career fairs

GALE BROWN SANDLER, GRIFFIN RESUME SERVICE ::: 

January is the start of many job fairs and career fairs that are available and might be a good place to find your next job.  How do you find them?  How do you prepare for a job fair and make it work for you?

I did a Google search online and found a couple of sites I liked that gave me great information.  Here are some websites for you to check:  http://www.dol.state.ga.us,  MetroAtlantaJobs.com, womenforhire.com/online-career-fairs.  In addition to the job fairs you attend in person, there are some online career fairs with jobs you can apply for.

One of the biggest benefits of attending a job or career fair is that when you register you will be given a list of businesses that will be there.  Spend some time researching these companies.  Use this opportunity to find out more about these businesses, the types of jobs they have available, the kinds of people they are looking for and what skills are needed.

Do not assume you will be talking to the hiring manager at these events, but be ready with plenty of resumes on good quality paper stock and do something that others will not.  Stand out from the crowd by printing yourself a business card.  It can include a sentence from your “elevator speech” that highlights who you are and what you do and should include all contact info:  name, address, phone, email, website (if you have one) and even your LinkedIn address.  You may have references and endorsements you’d like an employer to see on your LinkedIn profile.  If you are in sales, you might even want to include a photo on this card and attach it to your resume.  Don’t want to print your own card?  Go online to companies like VistaPrint and get some inexpensive cards to attach to your resume.

Make sure you have specific info with you in case you are handed an application to fill out at the event.  The application form usually includes information you don’t have on your resume like specific dates of employment, supervisor, supervisor’s contact info, starting and ending salary and questions about why you left the position.  Having this information already prepared will save lots of time should the hiring manager be at the event and want to talk to you there.

Once you’ve gone through the list of businesses that will be there, narrow it down to only those companies you want to talk to, where their booth or table will be and develop a list of questions to ask the company representative.  Do your homework and check them out online so you don’t ask a question like, “What does your company do?”  Know that info in advance.  Be ready to ask questions about the department where you want to work.  You might even be thinking in advance of what you can tell them about yourself, your interest in their company and how your skills and interests match what they do.

Don’t be in a hurry to head to the next booth.  Have a firm handshake, make eye contact, maintain that eye contact and show your interest in their company by having some knowledge ahead of time.  Employers want to hire people who show genuine interest in them.  Be sure to pick up any brochures, business cards or literature the company has available and use the opportunity to find out the hiring manager’s name for the department where you want to work.

It should go without saying that you will dress for success.  But it always amazes me when I see prospects show up in jeans and T-shirts.  Men should wear a nice sports coat and slacks that are clean and pressed and even have a distinctive or memorable tie.  Women should wear a nice suit with skirt or pants with a tailored blouse and perhaps an interesting scarf tied in a unique and memorable fashion.  Leave the jewelry at home and remember that neutral colors are best with navy being a color that seems to leave the best impression.

Follow up your visit to their booth with a personally written thank you note.  It will let the person you spoke to know that you paid attention, you’re serious about the job and that you are the right person for it.  Best of luck to you at your next job fair. Ω

Gale Brown Sandler is the founder of Griffin Resume Service and can be reached at galerbrown@gmail.com. 

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