Thursday, November 6, 2008

Job Fair Tips

Recently, I had a chance to speak with a group of students before they made their merry way to a job fair. Many of them were graduating and truly looking for potential opportunities, others were not yet graduating and were going to see what all the buzz was about. I was asked to speak to some of the tips/tricks of successfully navigating a job fair. (Great topic but I only had 20 minutes) So I was brief but told the group that I would write it up as a post for future reference. Assuming that each attendee had a terrific resume, here are my recommendations.

1. Before you walk into a job fair, do your homework. Know the companies represented and have done your research, even briefly. Know what they do, what they make, what they supply - even at a very basic level. If you can get your hands on a map of the fair and the location of the presenters, chart your course to target those companies of interest.

2. Keep in mind a couple of things about recruiting. Not all positions are advertised (depending on company/business/union requirements). When you are talking to company representatives remember that they may be other positions open now or down the road. Don't be afraid to ask what other openings the company may anticipate.

3. For those who were not looking for a position, this was a terrific opportunity. This exercise was practice and heaven knows that we can all use it. Along with opportunities for internships, it's a great way to observe what happens at these fairs and observe how some people successfully navigate them.

4. Those looking needed a 30 second intro of their education, experience and interests. This is an effort in conciseness and brevity. Recruiters appreciate that, along with the requisite resume and intro letter.

5. Your job at the job fair is to see as many people as possible. Don't dally. Collect business cards of those you meet, write a brief note on the business card with the content of your discussion, potential opportunities and follow up and save it. When you write your thank you notes, it will come in very handy.

6. If you are talking to a recruiter or company representative, don't monopolize the person's time. The recruiter or company rep has the same goal that you do - to see as many people as possible.

7. Also, make sure to connect with your friends and class mates. This isn't the time for meekness - it's a time for shameless self-promotion. Ask if anyone heard anything that could be of interest to you. I had one person share that she heard of an opening that was out of her area of interest, but passed it on to a classmate.

8. When you get done, write thank you letters. Reference briefly the context of your conversation with the recruiter/company rep, thank him or her for the time and reiterate your interest in the company, the position or potential openings. Some job seekers include a resume with the cover letter, others do not - your call.

It's all in the networking. Good luck!

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