It’s job fair time once again! Every spring, employers and crowds of job seekers congregate to discuss job opportunities. Job fair events feature a maze of employer stalls with long line-ups and lots of noisy chatter. Presenting your best self at a job fair can be stressful, and there is no guarantee of being hired. So what is the point of a job fair?
A job fair as a way to build a professional network of employers in your field, learn about job openings, workplace culture, and the nature of sector. The few minutes that you interact with an employer gives you a great opportunity to “look” and “sound” like a potential employee. Usually only your resume speaks for you when you apply for jobs. A job fair gives you a rare chance to sell yourself before any formal interviews take place. Some employers even have an on-the-spot interview for certain positions. While job offers don’t typically happen at a job fair, you can make progress towards that offer, or be considered for other opportunities.
For employers, job fairs are a chance to meet face-to-face with candidates before any formal interview. Think of it as an in-person screening process. Candidates can sell their hard and soft skills and employers can quickly evaluate fit. The goal is for employers to identify candidates for interviews.
Finding job fairs and hiring events.
Before the Job Fair
Register for the event.
Sign-up on job fair organizer websites so you receive notices for upcoming events. Look for registration instructions and register, or obtain an entry ticket. Note that some job fairs ask you to submit your resume when you register. Not every job fair requires registration and just show up.
Find the companies attending.
Job fair advertisements include participating companies and the types of positions they are promoting. Visit company websites to understand more about them, who they hire and available positions. Search online for company news and check out their social media posts. Follow the companies you’re most interested in. Take notes about their mission statement, products and services. Consider applying for positions listed on their website and bring a record of the application to show the employer at the job fair.
Be ready to market yourself.
Prepare your elevator pitch to introduce yourself and the skills that would benefit the company. Have an idea of what you would like to emphasize to each company based on your research and the positions they are filling.
Think about what you want to tell the employer about your last job, how it ended (stay positive!), and what you have been doing since. Find a way to tell them how your journey brought you to this company and their jobs.
Make sure you have suitable clothes to wear at the event. Think of it like dressing for an interview, with the exception of wearing comfortable shoes that are still suitable for an interview. You can get a sense of each company’s attire from the photos used on their website.
Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile is up-to-date. Expect employers to look your profile up. Include your LinkedIn profile address on your resume as well. Have multiple copies of your resume to hand out.
Think of questions to ask.
Prepare specific and open-ended questions to understand or clarify details about the company, positions, sector news, etc. Company representatives will remember your conversation if they feel engaged. Job fairs are very busy, so be concise, professional, friendly and mindful of those waiting in line.
At the Job Fair
Present yourself professionally.
Arrive early, neatly dressed, with resume copies, notepaper and questions in a folder. Make sure you have a pen. Speak and act professionally. Offer a firm handshake when you meet company representatives and make eye contact. Silence your cell phone. Avoid asking about salary or benefits at this stage. Job fairs are busy, noisy and fast paced so don’t go into too much detail and be aware of time restrictions.
Take care of yourself while you’re at the event. Bring water and snacks. Take short breaks. Stay focused and calm.
Schedule a follow-up appointment, if possible.
Some companies prefer making an appointment following the job fair; this is an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with the employer, which is difficult to do at larger events. If the conversations went well, considering asking to meet with the employer after the event to continue the discussion. If they refuse, this may not be their protocol during job fairs.
Gather business cards of employers.
Follow-up is important. After each conversation or meeting with a company representative, take notes and ask for a business card. If this is not available, get the person’s name, company, job title, and email address. Ask permission to connect with them on LinkedIn.
After the Job Fair
Write a brief email to the employers you met to show appreciation for their time and emphasize your interest in the company.
Lastly, job fairs are an extraordinary opportunity to meet employers who can offer you your next career move. Taking the best effort you can during a job fair will increase your professional network and lead to positive opportunities in the future.