Job fairs and career fairs are great places to network with potential employers and learn about local job opportunities. It offers you a unique opportunity to speak directly with recruiters and make great first impressions that hopefully lead to a job interview.
However, these events can also be an intimidating experience, especially when you are competing with other potential candidates for the attention of employers. Here are 8 tips you can follow before, during and after job and career fairs to help increase your chances for success.
1. Have a Plan
To maximize the potential for success at the fair, you should always come prepared with a plan of action. Check online to see if there’s a list of participating companies so you know which organizations you want to meet with beforehand. By doing this preparation, you’ll ensure that you’re not wasting time talking to employers you are not interested in or who may not be a good fit for you. Instead, you’ll be able to take your time introducing yourself to your top companies. Make a list of all the prospective employers that interest you the most and work your way downward. This ensures that you have met the companies that were your top picks when you run out of time.
2. Do Research
In addition to creating a plan and listing your top employers, it’s also essential to start researching them ahead of the fair. When you’re doing research, make sure to learn what the company does, its mission statement and values, what interests you about the company, and what sets it apart from other organizations. If you’ve done your research, answering the questions: “Why do you want to work for this company?” or “what do you know about our organization?” should be easy.
3. Prepare List of Questions
Once you’ve learned more about the company, you’ll be better prepared to tailor your questions to each recruiter. You should come to the fair with a list of questions ready to go and, if possible, make sure the questions are tailored to your top picks. Compare it to a job interview situation. If you’re asking questions about the organization, it shows that you’re interested in the company, which can help make an excellent first impression.
Prepare questions so you’re not scrambling on what to say or ask. Some examples of questions you can ask are: “What is one of the job’s biggest challenges?” or “What does an average day on the job look like?”.
4. Create Tailored Resumes
While it may be tempting to mass print the same resume to give to employers at the fair, it is better to tailor each resume to each prospective employer. As mentioned earlier, if you have a list of your top companies and you’ve done your research, it should be easier to customize your resumes.
You can create tailored resumes by looking at specific keywords that each company focuses on and include those in your resume. You should also make sure that your resume is not only tailored but up-to-date, with no grammar or spelling errors.
5. Rehearse Elevator Pitch
Job and career fairs can be an intimidating experience, especially when you’re trying to stand out among hundreds of other participants. One way you can differentiate yourself from the competition is by creating a great elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a quick summary of your background, experience and skills. This short, professional introduction should only last between 20 to 60 seconds.
Prepare your elevator pitch in advance and practice speaking it out loud. You can even get your friends or family to listen to your pitch and receive feedback on areas to improve. Rehearsing in front of other people will allow you to become more comfortable with your pitch and increase your confidence.
6. Professional Clothing
Job and career fairs generally require proper, professional clothing. Dressing appropriately will make for a better first impression. Be sure your outfit is well-fitting and comfortable, especially your shoes, if you’re attending an in-person fair. Also, make sure you’re wearing minimal jewelry and cologne/perfume. Even for virtual fairs, it’s crucial to look professional.
When it comes to bags, don’t bring a bulky briefcase or purse. You want to ensure you’re not struggling with a heavy bag as you’re moving around. You want to have a free hand for handshaking. You’ll only need a small bag or purse and a folder to store your resumes and any flyers or information you pick up at the event. You should also bring business cards and a pen and paper for note-taking.
7. Introduce Yourself with a Smile
Always introduce yourself to recruiters and employers with a smile, even if you feel anxious or nervous. Smiling and staying upbeat conveys a more positive and inviting personality. A simple introduction such as, “Hi, I’m Ann. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” is enough. Don’t forget to make strong eye contact and offer a firm handshake as well.
After introducing yourself, present your elevator pitch and be prepared to answer some questions. When speaking with the recruiter, make sure you’re engaged, actively listening and showing interest in what they have to say. You can also ask about the next steps in the process. Offer your resume and business card, if you have one, and ask for the recruiter’s business card as well. If they don’t have a business card, ask for their contact information. The goal is to obtain the necessary information so you can follow up after the fair.
Be sure not to linger around too long. Once you’ve spoken to the recruiter, made your pitch, asked and answered questions and handed out your resume, quickly move on to the next company.
8. Write Thank-You Notes
Once you’ve met with all the companies on your list, the next step is to send thank-you emails. You can thank them for their time and further express your interest in the company and/or job. Make sure each email is unique and personalized to the company and recruiter. You can send a note roughly 24 to 48 hours after the fair.
Sending these notes is important because recruiters meet so many candidates at these events. Emailing a thank-you note to reiterate why you’re interested in the company, your skills and experience, and why you’re a good candidate can help them remember you and help you stand out.
Job fairs and career fairs are great opportunities that can help with your job search. To maximize your chances for success, you have to make sure you’re prepared to pitch your skills, answer questions and make a great first impression. At Achēv, we can help you explore your career goals, identify training needs and find the right job for you. Our Employment Ontario Services offers a wide range of resources to support your career and employment needs. Our employment centres are located across the Greater Toronto Area, including Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga and North York. Contact us today to register for our free employment services.