Maximizing your opportunities at a job fair

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One of the best ways that you can get out there and have a feel of the job market is to attend a job fair. You will meet possible employers, get job leads, learn job requirements and get a chance to talk to experts and representatives of participating companies. Some job fairs also offer workshops and lectures where you can get more tips on how to succeed in your job search and in your career in general.

Getting a job right then and there is not really your goal when you go to a job fair (although it has been known to happen). The real value of the event is to network and to make yourself visible to employers.

Here are some tips that will help you make the most out of jobs fairs:

Prepare

Know what to expect

Check the list of participating companies and the schedule of activities. See if you need to register or if you need to buy tickets. You will learn details from the job fair’s online event page, announcement or poster. Read it thoroughly to have a good idea of what to expect and prepare for. If there are details that are not on the page or poster that you need to know (for example exact location or parking), call the organizer.

Set your objectives

Be clear about what you want to get out of the event and the kind of opportunities you are looking for. Which field are you interested in? Are you open to learning about jobs in other fields? Are you more interested about academic or training opportunities? Or you would just like to grow your network? The point of setting objectives is to have a direction once you’re there. This will maximize your time and prevent you from wandering around aimlessly.

Do prior research

Are there participating companies you are interested to work for? Check their websites to know more about them (read How to research a prospective employer before an interview). This will help you get an idea about job openings and the type of employees they are looking for. Knowing more about the company will help you formulate more thoughtful questions to ask when you approach their booth.

Prepare your resume and business card

Freshen up your resume (follow guidelines on how to make a Canadian style resume). Print several copies to bring. Check the job fair webpage if it has a section for accepting resumes prior to the event. Some organizers do this so that participating companies can already shortlist some people who fit their requirements. You may get calls even prior to the job fair. Some companies may not accept resumes at the job fair (like when they do not have openings at the moment). This is why it is important to have a business card. Exchange business cards with company representatives. These contacts will come in handy when you have questions or if you want to follow up on an application at a later time.

Consider creating a portfolio

A portfolio is composed of a copy of your resume, list of references and samples of your best work. This will help make you a stronger candidate.

Make a plan

To maximize your time at the fair, remember your objectives. If your goal is to connect with specific companies, perhaps you can come early before the event gets too crowded. You will be able to ask your questions before they get too busy. Make a list of questions or even a script to introduce yourself to the people in the booth (these will help if you are nervous about your English). Prepare your elevator speech as well as answers to most common interview questions in case the recruiter decides to interview you right then and there. You should stand out in person in a way that you might not on your resume. Be ready with short anecdotes showing work situations where you were successful in practising your soft skills.

At the career fair

Dress professionally

Dress conservatively. This means wearing a business attire or business casual. Make sure that you look neat and polished. Wear comfortable shoes. You will need to mill around and do a lot of walking or standing in line. For more tips read: How to dress for a job interview.

Be confident

Make eye contact, have a firm handshake ready, and smile! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s what they are there for. But make your questions thoughtful. Don’t ask details that are already on their brochure or poster. This is where your prior research will come in.

Always be tactful, polite and pleasant. Never interrupt a current conversation. You’ll get your turn. Don’t forget to listen. Be genuinely interested in what they do. If they ask you about your work, be ready with your elevator speech. Present your resume or portfolio when they ask for more details.

Network

Not only with employers but with your fellow jobseekers as well. You can share job leads and other information with each other even after the job fair. Don’t forget to connect with other organizations there such as service providers, professional associations, speakers at the seminars, or employment agencies. These are great connections that will help you grow in your field.

Take down notes

It will be hard to remember everyone you meet at a job fair. Writing short notes on the business cards you have collected can remind you of what you have talked about and other details that will help you remember. You can also use a small notebook for this. These details may come in handy when you send a follow-up email.

Follow-up

Send a follow-up email to the representatives you have spoken to at the event. Make it short, pleasant and straight to the point. A simple thank you email to a recruiter is a great opportunity to reiterate your interest in the company and help make you stand out from all the other prospects.

Sources: How to prepare before the career fair, Wetfeet; Job Fair Check-List, Jobs Canada Fair; Tips for getting the most out of a job fair, Alison Doyle, the balance. All accessed March 9, 2018.

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