Job Fairs: How to Prepare and What to Expect
While it is difficult to generalize about all fairs – I do think they offer value to jobseekers around networking, learning which companies are hiring, practicing your 30 second pitch, and, yes, even getting hired. Very rarely will you go to a job fair and get on offer on the spot – but the benefits of a job fair are still numerous and worth one’s time in my opinion.
Part of your search strategy should be to attend career events on a regular basis to keep your search fresh, and to increase your opportunities to network. Network with other jobseekers: talk to people while you are standing in line to exchange job-hunting ideas, provide support, and even obtain leads.
Here is my advice on job fairs:
- The majority of employers attending career fairs are indeed relying on the events to recruit employees. According to a SHRM/Career Journal Poll Search Tactics Survey, over 70% of human resources departments participating in fairs are expecting to hire qualified candidates.
- Do research to find targeted/niche career fairs. Job fairs have become more specific by industry or affinity group, including diversity fairs and veterans fairs. (Job fairs are often listed on the Citywide Events Calendar.)
- Be strategic before, during, and after the event:
- Research the attending firms ahead of the event. Most job fairs have websites that showcase employers. Use the websites to identify and research which companies you want to approach. You will set yourself apart if you approach an employer and make it clear that you were seeking them out specifically. It’s even better if you look at their websites and have a sense of where their openings exist in their firms.
- First impressions are lasting ones, so treat the career fairs that you are attending like a job interview. Come dressed for success in conservative attire, with a winning attitude, and ready to answer probing questions.
- Be prepared and organized. Don’t forget the basics like a pen, note pad, business cards (if applicable), and a stack of resumes.
- Your resume should be scanable, short and professional on white paper that is free of graphics, photographs, or fancy fonts.
- Arrive early to avoid having to stand in long lines, give yourself time to survey the layout of the fair, and determine the order that you plan to visit with company representatives. Large companies with high profiles will have the longest lines, so if some are on your list, you should visit them first.
- Find out the next steps before you leave. The staff at events usually do not make hiring decisions directly, so close the conversation by asking how you might go about arranging a second interview, how to contact the hiring manager, or what steps should be taken next.
- Say thank you! Make sure to get business cards of every employer you meet and definitely send prompt email thank you notes.
Angie Kamath, who oversees Workforce1 as the Deputy Commissioner of Workforce Development at the NYC Department of Small Business Services, shares her perspective on Workforce1 and the New York City job market in her weekly Jobs in New York City column.
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