Is your dance card ready? Have you selected your partners or will you remain on the wall?
In the near future, the bigger job fairs (National Job Fair, NAPP Canada and Canada Job Expo) will be held at different locations across the Greater Toronto Area. Each event has strengths and weaknesses, when it comes to dance partners. The trick is to find the ones that cha-cha to the same beat as you and to learn a few tango steps so you hold your own with an unknown partner.
So, you have done all of your preparation as mentioned our earlier blog – Making Job Fairs work for you — tips for making the best of a great opportunity. You’re dressed the part, resume in hand and pitch in memory. You get up to the employer, give it your all only to be told “Please apply online”. What?????
I have witnessed this employer trend of deflection a couple of times over the last few years at different job fairs. I’m hoping that it is a practice limited to few employers. You can see the defeat and frustration in the eyes of the job seeker as they walk away. They have made the effort to be at the job fair, prepared their resume, researched the company and dressed the part only to be told they could have done this from home. It sucks royally. But if you watched and saw this before you interact with the employer you can change your approach giving you a better result.
I have been consistently attending these job fairs in different roles (Job Developer, Recruiter and job seeker) over the last 5 years. I go to these fairs to network with employers, gather sector information and see current trends. But, the most important thing I do is watch and listen:
I watch how job seekers interact with employers.
I watch how employers interact with job seekers.
I watch for the booths that have the most traffic.
I listen to what the job seekers say to the employers.
I listen to how the employers respond to the job seekers.
You can gather so much information by taking a few minutes to scout out the booths that you have already decided on visiting. By watching how the two parties (job seeker and employer) dance you can plan on how you will present yourself. It’s almost like watching nature program on National Geographic. I can hear the narrator now – “See the job seeker approach the employer in the nest. The job seeker, resplendent in his vivid colours of the hiring season, seeks to get the attention of the employer. With resume in hand, the job seeker makes eye contact, proceeds with his elevator speech hoping to be invited into the nest. But what’s this? The employer has asked for the job seeker to just apply online. The job seeker is stunned and doesn’t know how to react. He nods his head and then backs away.” All kidding aside, it is a dance of the fittest.
I understand why employers ask for applicants to apply online, as it is easier to review information keyed into their own database and it saves them time from having their own staff do it. I do think, though, that if that is the case, then they should do us all a favour and not book a booth. But, I’ve seen only a few employers doing this, so I don’t believe that job seekers should be discouraged. There are several fantastic employers at these fairs that take the time to chat with you, give advice and are genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say. Having this knowledge before you make your pitch allows you to pick the song you want to dance to and you get to lead.
But, what if you find that your employer of choice is deflecting job seekers to their website? Time to tango. You should still approach the employer, as you can still gather some valuable information. You know you will have to apply online so handing in your resume is kind of useless; instead, ask a few questions that may help get your resume noticed or, at least, directed to the right person.
- “I’m interested in the ABC area of your company. Is there someone you can refer me to in that department that I can talk to about specific roles?”
- “I understand from the information I have found online that your company does XYZ role but I don’t see any current opportunities for it. Do you know if any will be coming up? Is there someone I can talk to in that area about future opportunities?”
- “I have noticed that you are asking job seekers to apply online instead of taking resumes. Once I apply, is there someone I can follow-up with to make sure my resume is received?”
- “I saw your profile on LinkedIn. Do you recruit for all areas of the company? Who recruits for the ABC area of your company? Can you refer me to them? Can I send you an invite to connect on LinkedIn? ” (This one is really slick but takes some confidence and heavy prep before the job fair. Check out the company on LinkedIn before and look up the employees listed under HR, Recruiter, Talent job titles. Make a list of them and check it out before you approach the booth. When you introduce yourself they will most likely give their name. If it is one on your list then go into the above question. Not only could you get some good information you may also net yourself a LinkedIn connection).
So, it’s your choice if you want to be on TV on Dancing with the Stars, or stuck in your high school gym by yourself, listening to Stairway to Heaven. Taking the time to understand how your targeted employer is recruiting increases your odds of making a good impression. Look at it this way – an employer wouldn’t waste their money on a booth if they didn’t have jobs, so the jobs are there. You need to show that you are a great candidate for current or future positions. By showing that you are prepared for their deflection, you can show yourself to look like a stronger candidate. Making a possible inside connection gives you a definite advantage over folks who are simply applying online.
Now, if dancing isn’t your thing, then be the disc jockey and decide what song will be played.
I hope this information helps you in some way. Good luck in your job search.