If you’re in a job search, you may be wondering if attending a career fair or job fair is a good move, or a waste of time. The answer is: “it depends.”
On the negative side, job fairs can be mob scenes—crowded, stressful, and often not very fruitful. You may find it hard to stand out among so many other job seekers. Introverts can have an especially difficult time at these, and may not be able to show their best selves.
On the positive side, job fairs are in fact filled with employers looking for people to hire, and you do get a chance to put a personal touch on submitting your resume. Instead of emailing it or submitting it online, you actually get to meet the person you’re giving it to, and get valuable practice delivering your elevator pitch. Job seekers do get calls for interviews from job fairs.
You never know if the person you will speak to would actually be a potential boss or interviewer, so it’s worth it to make the best first impression you can. (The employer may even make a note about you on your resume based on their first impression to refer to later.) Dress as if you were going to an interview: be conservative and wear a suit. It will be especially important to wear comfortable (but professional) shoes. Limping from blisters on your feet takes a lot away from a professional appearance.
This way you will have more than enough to hand out.
You should have a list of what companies will be attending. Find out as much as you can ahead of time—don’t wait to ask questions when you get there. Many job seekers won’t bother to do this, so you will really stand out. If you can speak intelligently about the company and ask a few good questions, you will make a very good impression on them.
This is the ideal time to have a short (less than a minute) explanation of who you are and what you can do. Rehearse it before you go so you are comfortable saying it.
A positive attitude is important. These days are grueling for everyone involved, so do your part to be pleasant and make a positive impression.
As you hand out your resume, ask for the card of the person you’re speaking with. You might even use the back of it to jot down a few notes you will need to remember later. You may also bring a notebook for the same purpose.
The very next day, send an email to everyone you spoke to (using the email listed on the business card you collected). Express your enthusiasm for meeting them, remind them of a little of what you talked about, and talk about what you can bring to their company. Attach your resume to the email. (Yes, you gave them a copy, but it doesn’t hurt to email another. You want to make it easy for them to find your information.)
Personally, I wouldn’t spend all my time at job fairs—you’ll get more interviews by contacting hiring managers directly (through email), to uncover hidden jobs. However, job fairs do have a few advantages…so if you go, follow these tips for success.