How to make the most of a career fair
Attending a career fair can feel a bit like speed dating: You only get a few minutes to make a connection.
The difference is that your career fair experience shouldn’t be as random, says Igor Khayet, director of marketing services for the Phoenix Career Services team. “Recruiters see so many people aimlessly cruising their booths that it’s really powerful for them to meet someone with a plan,” he says. He offers these tips to get the most out of your next career fair:
Do your research.
Go to the websites of participating companies to understand their goods and services, mission and vision, and use what you learn to compose a unique question. “Don’t ever just walk up to a table and ask, ‘So what does your company do?’” Khayet warns. “If you’re not serious about your job search, recruiters won’t be serious about you.”
Prepare your resumé and pitch.
Make sure your resumé is current and that you have plenty of copies. If you’re interested in different types of organizations or jobs, create versions that focus on your strengths or experiences to “show the fit,” Khayet says. Also, remember to practice your “elevator pitch,” a 20- to 30-second introduction that emphasizes what sets you apart from others.
Create a list of the top five companies you want to work for. Prepare a list of “second-tier” companies to visit if time permits. Once you’ve compiled your list, contact recruiters at those companies and send them your resumé in advance. This could lead to an interview on the spot.
Dress to impress.
Business attire — including a tie — is always appropriate. “What you wear and what you say are constantly evaluated by recruiters,” Khayet says. Wear comfortable shoes, however, because you’ll be on your feet.
“Show up super early, when recruiters are fresh,” Khayet recommends. “Later in the day, they’re tired, and you’ll risk becoming forgettable.”
Stay on task.
Keep your top-five list in mind, but “don’t judge a booth by its line,” Khayet says. A lesser-known company might be a great fit for you. “And forget about the freebies,” he warns. “Focus on the most important prize: a new job opportunity.”
Take notes — and recruiters’ business cards.
Rather than grabbing the free pens and key chains, make sure you leave each booth with a name, phone number and email address. Khayet adds that there’s no need to carry personal business cards; your contact information is on your resumé.
Follow up as soon as you get home.
Send thank-you notes that remind each recruiter what you discussed, restate your qualifications and ask for an internal interview.
Stay in touch.
Recruiters need to establish relationships with candidates, too, Khayet notes. So ask for their comments on your resumé and discuss staying in touch. Even if the current opportunity isn’t a fit, something might come up later. Request to connect through the LinkedIn® website, too. “Many recruiters begin their search for new hires from among their LinkedIn connections,” Khayet says. “Just remember to maintain a professional demeanor online.”
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