Keys To The Career Fair Kingdom
July 11, 2012 • comment(s)
A career fair can be a great place to explore opportunities with several different organizations and meet face-to-face with potential employers. In today’s tough job market, it is imperative that you do everything possible to differentiate yourself from the competition and market yourself as the best suited candidate for the job. I recently attended a career fair as an employer and realized that there are common mistakes that many job seekers make. However, these mistakes can be easily remedied by focusing on these keys to the career fair kingdom.
Key#1 – Do your research. Know which companies will be at the career fair and focus on the ones you are interested in. Research their websites and have a working knowledge of who they are and what they do. If there are jobs you are interested in, apply to them before you come and notate the requisition ID#’s so you can share that information with the representative at the booth. Take it from me – you will be the exception, not the rule. It is so refreshing when a candidate approaches my table and tells me why they are interested in my company and the specific jobs they have already applied for. Those are the candidates I will remember and make a concerted effort to help them get connected with the appropriate person in my company.
Key#2 – You have one chance to make a great first impression. As cliché as this sounds, first impressions are extremely important. Dress as if you are going to a job interview – keep it formal, professional and appropriate. Offer a firm handshake with your introduction. Don’t chew gum or carry food/drinks with you (although a having a mint before you walk up to the table is probably a good idea).
Key#3 – Have a 30 second “elevator speech” prepared. It should be focused on your value proposition, i.e. the value that you create for other people through your work. Know yourself, your strengths, your skill sets, what sets you apart and what your career goals and interests are – and how that translates into the type of work the company does or the positions you are interested in applying for. You want to give enough specific information to intrigue them into asking “tell me more” or “how do you do that.” If you aren’t sure exactly what your value statement is; ask your clients and colleagues or peers.
Key#4 – Follow up after the fair is over. Similar to the follow up you would do after a networking event, you also want to follow up with the employer post career fair. If you got a card from the individual you met (which is somewhat unlikely as most representatives do not give out business cards at a career fair) follow up with an email. If you were not offered a business card, you should take note of their name and connect with them via LinkedIn. There you will be able to add them to your network (they are likely to have many connections within their company, so even if they cannot assist you, they can recommend that you connect with one of their colleagues) and send a message to show interest in the company and the positions you’ve applied for. If possible, include information in your email to remind them about who you are. For example, “I was the one who went to the same university you did.” Key #5 – Questions to avoid asking at a career fair:
- What does your company do? Asking this makes it seem like you are not interested enough in the company to have done any prior research. It does not make for a great first impression. Most career fairs provide you with at least a high level overview about every company that will be at the fair, so at minimum you should read that information before approaching their table.
- Are you hiring? Presumably, if a company has paid money to be at a career fair, they are hiring for at least one position. There may be times where this isn’t the case and they are just in attendance to promote the company brand, but the majority of the time, this is an unnecessary question to ask. You should research the company and their open requisitions prior to arrival at the job fair so you will already know exactly which positions they are hiring for.
- What kind of people are you looking for? Most company’s websites highlight their culture, values and mission statement. Research that information and tell them why you are a good fit for their organization instead of asking about what they are looking for.
Key #6 – Questions you should ask at a career fair:
- I’ve applied online already for job#____, what is the next step or how should I go about setting myself apart from other job seekers?
- What do you like about working for the company?
- I recently read an article that mentioned _____ about your company… can you tell me what impact that news will have on hiring, growth, etc?
- What are some new initiatives that your company is implementing for the coming year?
- What does the company growth (or even downsizing) look like for the coming year?
In this day and age the job search process has become increasingly impersonal and electronic. A career fair offers job seekers the unique opportunity to get face-to-face with an employer and make a pertinent connection. Utilizing these keys will ensure you are prepared to take full advantage of your next career fair experience.
Rachael Del Pino has significant experience in recruiting and talent management for Fortune 100 companies, as well as a master’s degree in Management with an HR concentration from the University of Central Florida. She also owns Accendo Careers, a career development and coaching company. She has an innate passion for helping people reach their highest career potential.