Job fairs may seem obsolete, but they offer unique opportunities to impress an employer in ways that LinkedIn and other online mediums can’t. You should never miss an opportunity to attend a job fair, especially if you’re actively searching for a job.
To help you prepare for job fairs, we’ve put together a list of the best tips that will help you wow employers.
1. Get a List of the Companies Participating
Employers want you to be prepared when you speak to them and to do that you need to know who you’ll be speaking to. Make sure you ask for a list of participants.
We also strongly recommend that you develop a game plan based on where each employer’s booth is located. Figure out who’d you’d like to speak to first and who you can leave until the end.
You shouldn’t leave your employer of choice until you’ve warmed up; job fairs usually have hundreds, if not thousands of attendees which means that you’ll get delayed and slowed down more than you think.
2. Research Each Company You’re Interested In
Researching each company you’re interested in speaking with can go a long way in helping you come up with a list of points you’d like to discuss with each employer.
Look at their websites and find out everything you can about the companies, including, but not limited to their needs and vision. This will allow you to ask more targeted questions which can make you more memorable.
I’d advise that you don’t just target companies with current vacancies in your field as this will limit your opportunities.
3. Be Enthusiastic
One of the reasons companies continue to invest in job fairs is because unlike online recruitment, it gives hiring managers a chance to meet potential candidates, speak to them and get a better understanding of their personalities.
You should be enthusiastic about having the opportunity to speak to them. Be professional, show them that you’ve thoroughly researched the company, but also make sure to showcase your enthusiasm about the opportunity to work with them.
Being enthusiastic won’t just help you create a more positive impression, it will also allow you to create a more lasting impression, something which is crucial when you are attending a fair with hundreds of other potential candidates.
4. Practice Your Elevator Pitch
If there was ever a reason for you to create the perfect elevator pitch, it’s a job fair. Job fairs involve a lot of networking; you need to be able to introduce yourself in an efficient and effective manner and this means that you need to be able to talk about your goals, achievements and skills in a short span of time to attract the attention of the person you’re conversing with.
Try not to turn your elevator pitch into a speech as this can be counter-productive, but rather have a few pointers of things you’d like to mention and try to tailor your pitch as much as possible to the person you’re talking to.
You’d do well to practice your pitch before the fair so that you can polish it and make it to the point as possible. Remember, embellishments and being too self-centered will always hurt your chances.
5. Get the Names of the People You Talk With
It may not occur to you to ask for the name of the person you’re talking with, especially if it’s too busy or noisy, but knowing the name of the person you were introduced to can make your life a lot easier.
Following up is an essential next step to every fair and knowing the name of your point of contact for each company can help you follow up with a much more targeted email which, in turn, can help you create much better opportunities for yourself.
It’s always a good idea to remind them of who you are by referring to something specific you talked about because this makes you look like you were paying attention and listening; two skills that are always necessary.
6. Follow Up
As we discussed earlier, following up is a necessary next step to attending a job fair. Many hiring managers like to take the time and reflect upon all the candidates they met before they are ready to make an offer, rather than make an offer on the spot.
To help turn the scales in your favour you need to follow up. You can do so by sending a copy of your CV, even if you’ve already given one to the employer as they may have misplaced it. You should also write a powerful cover letter reminding them of who you are and what you talked about. Your cover letter should also list your achievements and refer to your skills.
7. Carry Your Business Cards With You
Even if you’re a recent graduate and think that a business card is not essential, having a business card can help you look more professional. To make your card more powerful make sure you include a link to your personal work or portfolio where the hiring managers can look at samples of your work.
It’s important to have a card that’s professional, so keep the design simple and clean. There are lots of websites that offer templates for business cards which are customisable, so if you don’t want or can’t spend a lot of money, I highly recommend using one of these websites.
8. Bring Copies of Your CV
Apart from your business cards, a few pens and a notepad for taking notes you should also bring your CV with you. Most hiring managers will want something to remember you by when reviewing potential candidates and a well-structured CV is the best tool for the job.
Although we generally advise jobseekers to tailor their CV to the position for which they are applying, it won’t be possible to do so for the job fair. What you should do instead is to list your skills in a clear and concise manner, while you should make sure you’ve quantified your achievements as well.
Try to refer to your CV when speaking to hiring managers as this will urge them to take a look at it. Also, make sure to use the same kind of jargon and language used in your CV when talking to company representatives as this will make you more memorable when reviewing applications.
9. Dress Professionally
Dressing professionally means that you should dress as if you were going to a job interview. Avoid overdressing - unless it’s demanded by your industry - but be smart and elegant.
Making a great first impression should be your goal and every little thing helps so pick an outfit that makes you seem professional, but that you are also comfortable in and feel free to be yourself in. An outfit is only complementary to a person’s character after all and you shouldn’t let it overshadow you.
10. Talk About What You Can Offer and What You Want
The reason job fairs are so popular is because they allow candidates and hiring managers to get acquainted. This essentially means that the hiring manager is interested to find out more about your personality and, you shouldn’t shy away from discussing your professional aspirations and goals.
But, you should also be careful not to focus on yourself too much. You also need to talk about what you can offer the company. So, talk about your skills and what hiring you could mean for the company.
11. Ask the Right Questions
Asking questions shows engagement which helps create a positive impression. As such, asking clever questions at a job fair is a must.
Avoid asking questions which can be answered through the company’s website as that will only make you seem lazy, so questions like ‘what vacancies are available’ or ‘what is the company’s mission’ are off limits.
What you should do is come up with genuinely clever questions you’d like answered. For example, ‘what does a typical day at the office look like’ or ‘what makes you want to go to work every morning’ will provide you with more information, and also helps you create a more positive first impression.
12. Take Notes On Other People’s Business Cards
If you’ve ever been to a networking event, you’ve probably noticed people scribble on business cards. Keeping notes on the person you just talked to can help you create a more powerful follow up which could benefit you.
Most hiring managers will ask you specific questions so it’s important to keep track of areas they seem interested in. If someone was interested to find out more about your year abroad volunteering you can make a note of that and mention it in your follow up.
You may also come across hiring managers who’ll tell you that they expect to have a vacancy for the type of role you’re interested in in a few months’ time. It’s important that you note that down so that you remember to send them an email closer to the date.
13. Find Your USP
It’s becoming more and more obvious that the labour market requires jobseekers to market themselves. Having a personal brand which you can support through various social media channels and websites is a crucial aspect of succeeding in the professional world.
Finding your USP is also important, especially at a job fair where a hiring manager is expected to meet hundreds of people interested in the role. Finding your unique selling point can help put you ahead of the competition and also make you more memorable.
14. Avoid Monopolising an Employer’s Time
You probably think that the longer you spend at an employer’s booth, the better your chances are, but the truth is that you need to be concise and efficient. No matter how good an impression you make, hiring managers will want to speak to other people as well.
So, rather than focusing on staying around the employer’s booth the longest, you should focus on making a lasting impression.
15. Arrive Early
Job fairs are very popular, and there are often queues with people waiting to speak to hiring managers, so to avoid having to talk to the employer when they are tired get to the fair as early as possible.
It will give you time to speak with them before the crowds start swarming in and you’ll also get to make a more positive impression.
Job fairs can lead to job offers so it’s very important to put your best self forward and try to impress the hiring manager the same way you would if you were attending a job interview.
Do you think job fairs are an effective strategy? Or do you think that other job search strategies are more useful? Let me know in the comment section below.