Today, I’ll be reviewing resumes at a job fair; this is the second month I’ve done this and, while it’s exciting to help job seekers present themselves more effectively to a potential employer, it also saddens me when I see how people don’t properly prepare to do so.
It seems that they think they can just show up and get hired, without any pause or thought as to how they will present themselves in a way that a company representative will say ‘Tell me more!” Job fairs are your first ‘interview’ so you want to make it a good impression.
Here are 8 tips for how to properly prepare for a job fair (which applies to any situation):
- Be sure you are mentally prepared to network with potential employers, meaning you feel confident in your skills and what you can do for them. You are smiling and extending a handshake as this sets the tone for an interaction and can lead to them spending time with you. It could lead to getting asked for an interview.
- Take time to prepare – when you come in to a job fair, you are given a directory of employers and the layout of the room, so take some time to map out a strategy for who you will target and their location. This will streamline your efforts so you’re not walking from one end of the room to the other.
- Have a way for you to introduce yourself, i.e. your elevator speech. Say your name and what industry or position you’re experienced in; you can then ask them if they are hiring for such a position or, if you did your homework and looked at the directory as it will list what types of positions they are looking for, let them know of your interest. Make it easy for the employer to make a connection with you so they will want to spend time speaking with you and then inviting you to either apply or to schedule an interview.
- Have some questions you want to ask them, as you are also interviewing them to see if the position is a ‘fit’ – what is a typical day like for someone in this position; describe an ideal candidate and the skills that would make someone successful; what is the hiring process from here on; when might you be calling candidates for an interview. These are just some examples but you want to let them know your interest in the job and how they hire. Some jobs may not close for another week or two, so you don’t feel they left you hanging.
- Dress the part – make sure you dress professionally. Shorts or tee shirts are not appropriate for a job fair. You want to present yourself in the best way and dress is interpreted that you are serious about working for them. Past behaviors indicate future and you don’t want them to have the wrong impression of you.
- Have realistic expectations – it’s important to realize that, most likely, you will not be walking out with a job. Some employers will interview on the spot; some will be taking applications that day; while others are there to talk but will direct you to apply on their website. Recognizing this won’t frustrate you or leave a bad taste in your mouth.
- Take advantage of resources there – if they have resume reviews, give yours the once-over to see if there is anything that needs improved or to validate your presentation. Resume reviewers also have other resources or can direct you to an employer to streamline your search.
- Be patient – there will be a lot of other job seekers there and some employers may have lines of candidates at their tables so be prepared to wait; if you planned, you can come back later when less crowded, such as at the end of the day. Plan to be there for the whole fair; you could find employers who are less busy but will have more time to get to know you, which could lead to an opportunity.
Job fairs are meant to get you in front of employers that you won’t normally get the opportunity of doing. Having a plan and being confident in your skills and abilities will make them more successful. If anything, they give you practice in your job search as you move forward so you continue on until the right job comes along.
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