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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Making the Most of a Job Fair

College recruiting season is well under way, and that means that job fairs are happening across the country as we speak, including at the over 135 colleges that we will be recruiting at this year. I've been to a lot of job fairs in my career. A lot. I've spoken to thousands of students and have collected thousands of resumes over the years, and as a result I've seen many great candidates, and I've seen many that have made me shake my head.

If you are preparing to attend a job fair (on-campus or even experienced-level job fairs), here's a few tips that should help you, and in my experience, help to separate the best from the rest:
  1. Do Your Homework - As soon as you can identify which employers will be attending the job fair, learn as much as you can about them. Job fair guides usually have brief descriptions of the attending companies, but go the extra mile and visit the company's website to learn even more. The last thing that recruiters want to hear when you visit their booth is 'I don't know anything about you'. They will be impressed if show that you have taken some time to learn something about them.
  2. Keep an Open Mind - Don't just limit yourself to visiting the name brand companies that you are familiar with. Find a few additional companies that you are not so familiar with and visit them as well. The best jobs are not always with the companies with the most recognizable names. Also, be open to what the recruiters tell you in regards to where they see you possibly fitting within their organization. You may have a specific career in mind already, but your skills and education may fit well in other careers you haven't considered yet too.
  3. Always Be Prepared - Do you have an elevator speech? If not, you need one. Have it prepared, memorized, and ready to share with anyone at a moment's notice. Also keep your resumes within easy access. If you are planning on visiting a booth, you should even have it ready to hand to the recruiter as soon as you meet them. I've seen too many job seekers arrive at a booth not ready to say anything about themselves, or fumble through their bag for a copy of their resume, wasting the time of the recruiter and everyone else in line. If you have multi-page resumes, have them be one-sided, and have some stapled and some not stapled. Different companies have different preferences (if they prefer that you submit a resume online as many do today, understand that is the company's process for a good reason, and be willing to follow that process).

  4. Don't be a 'swag' collector - Never visit a company's booth just to collect the shiny giveaway that they have to offer. It's tacky for one, and second, companies bring their branded pens, stress balls, water bottles, etc. to share with you after they have spoken with you and collected a resume. You are at the job fair to make a great impression, not to collect branded trinkets.

  5. Good hygiene is a must - Dress professionally and comfortably. You will be on your feet for a long time and you will probably be nervous, so make sure that your attire looks sharp, but won't make you perspire excessively. Avoid heavy perfume/cologne as some people are overly sensitive to those scents. Take along some breath mints as well, bad breath does not make a good first impression.

The more prepared you are, the more professional you will appear, and the more you will separate yourself from the rest. Remember that a job fair is just the first of many steps at most organizations. Hopefully these tips will give you the edge that you need to succeed and be considered by the companies that have the best opportunities for you.

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