Navigating Job Fairs
Job fairs are a great way to meet with a variety of prospective employers in a
small amount of time. They are also fast-paced, crowded, and have the potential
to be overwhelming. You can maximize your experience and minimize your stress if
you prepare in advance.
Let's be candid - employers pay a great deal of money to attend job fairs. This
means they need to meet with many candidates throughout the day(s). They're not
simply being nice when they invite you so speak with them, they really do want
to meet with you. And you want them to meet you at your professional best.
Set Your Goals Before Attending
It is helpful to know why you are attending a job fair. Is your goal to
"connect" with prospective employers and sell them on your candidacy with hopes
that you will be invited on site for an interview? Is your goal to "collect"
information from them so you can expand your understanding of the field, the
position, and/or their company? Depending upon specific employers in attendance,
you may employ a combination of the two strategies.
Our career counselors will be glad to help you prepare your job fair strategy.
To schedule an appointment, stop by Craig-Lee 054 or call 401-456-8031.
Connect with prospective employers
You need to find a way to stand out from all the other enthusiastic, qualified
candidates they will meet that day. In advance of the fair, identify which
companies will be in attendance and for which position(s) they are recruiting.
The organization coordinating the job fair generally makes this information
easily accessible. Highly motivated candidates might even choose to send a
resume and cover letter to participating organizations in advance of the fair.
That way they can introduce themselves and let the organization know that they
look forward to meeting with them in-person at the fair.
Do your homework. Research the company starting
with their website. Check local media sites to determine if and why they have
been in the news recently. Now you are ready to develop your personal
"commercial" - that 60-second introduction that lets them know who you are, why
you are interested in them, and why you believe there is a match between your
abilities and their organizational needs.
Practice - your commercial as well as your handshake and eye contact.
Develop questions - ask questions that reflect your understanding of their needs.
Leave a resume - if you want to really make a powerful impression, a targeted cover letter.
Collect business cards - as well as organizational literature so you can "reconnect" shortly after the fair.
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Collect information about prospective employers
You may choose to attend a job fair to get a better understanding of different
organizations and the types of positions available in your career field(s) of
interest. If this is your goal, your strategy will be very different than if you
are there to "connect."
You will still need to develop a personal "commercial," in which you
introduce yourself and your career interests. Then develop questions that will
help further your understanding of the organization or industry. This strategy
will help you make good career decisions while simultaneously helping you
develop good job search skills.
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Collect then connect
There may be an organization in attendance at the job fair you did not know
would be there. You think you may be interested in them, but aren't as well
prepared as you ideally would like to be. Alternatively, while your initial
purpose for attending the fair was to "collect" only, you may find that you
don't want to miss the opportunity to "connect" face-to-face with an
organization of interest.
We encourage you to minimize interaction with organization representatives until
you can prepare more. Collect literature from the table, find a quiet place to
review it, develop your "connect" strategy, and return to the table. Let them
know that you've had the opportunity to acquaint yourself with their
organization and you believe there's a fit between their needs and your goals
and qualifications. Don't forget to collect business cards so you can
"reconnect" with them after the fair.
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Reconnecting after the job fair
Your ability to use the job fair as a job search tool doesn't end when you
leave the fair. In fact, that is simply the beginning.
Remember how hectic the experience felt to you? It was even more hectic for
the employer who now has to try to put together multiple faces, impressions and
resumes. Make it easy for them to remember you by "reconnecting." Follow-up with
a cover letter and resume (even if you left one with them at the job fair).
This cover letter will begin by expressing your appreciation for the time
they spent with you at the fair discussing their organization and opportunities.
You will then go on to leverage what you learned at the fair and highlight your
interests and qualifications as they match the organization's needs - just like
any other cover letter you write.
This resume may be a revised version of your "standard" resume targeted to this
particular organization. Again, leverage the information you learned at the fair
to determine what if any strategic changes you might want to make. These changes
- adjusted order to highlight the skills they most desire in a candidate
- modified language to match that of organization
- deleted items that don't fit their needs
- added items that don't fit most employers but are unique to this position
If you are not actively pursuing a position at this point in time and had
attended the fair to collect information, we recommend that you write a thank
you letter anyway. It is good business etiquette and it helps to solidify a
positive impression of you should you decide to apply for a job there in the
future. Additionally, it helps to hone your job search letter writing
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