I’m going to a JVS Toronto Job Fair next week. As a recent university graduate, I am looking for work as a customer service representative and/or sales position. It would be my first time attending a job fair. Please could you give me some suggestions as to how to prepare in advance to be successful at this event.
Signed: Job Fair First-timer (JFF)
Job fairs are a fantastic tool to build your professional network. You can meet employers in your field, secure job interviews and learn as much as you can about the local labour market (i.e. the job openings available, the workplace culture, and the sector). Sometimes, job seekers can even have an interview on the spot. Though it is unlikely that you will get an actual job offer at the job fair, you can make progress toward getting that job offer, if you do it properly.
So here’s how I would prepare for our job fair and any other career fair that you attend.
Before the Job Fair:
1. Gather information about employers.
Do a Google search and use social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) to dig a little deeper for information on employers that you’d like to work for. Look for current job opportunities posted on their site and consider applying to the positions you are interested in. You can bring a record of the application to share with the employer at the job fair.
2. Prepare your questions.
Recruiters will remember your conversation if they feel engaged. Show that you are interested in working for their company by asking about current opportunities, the company’s work culture, and other open-ended questions. You can also request tips for getting hired with the company, or discuss some recent positive news they’ve featured. Avoid asking about salary or benefits.
3. Be prepared to market yourself.
Prepare a personal statement — also known as an elevator pitch. This short introduction is a way to express your suitability for working at the company. Have an idea of different things to emphasize with different recruiters.
4. Prepare your resume(s).
Make sure your resume is up to date, including your LinkedIn profile. Prepare a cover letter to accompany the resume. If you know which companies you are targeting specifically, you can prepare different versions of your resume (and cover letter) to emphasize different skills.
At the Job Fair:
1. Dress and act professionally.
Even if there isn’t a dress code, take care with your appearance and make sure that you appear well-groomed. At the very least, dress business casual. While you may not need to be in a full suit, slacks and a button up shirt and tie (for men) can go a long way toward projecting a professional image.
Speak and act professionally! Offer a firm handshake when you meet the recruiter and make appropriate eye contact. Silence your cell phone and don’t let it interfere with your conversation with employers.
2. Schedule a follow-up appointment, if you can.
At some job fairs, companies prefer making an appointment to speak with a representative following the event. This is an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with the employer – something that is really difficult to do at larger events!
As one of our employment counsellors warns, “… if your sole purpose in attending a large job fair is to get quality time to discuss your application with a recruiter, you will probably be disappointed!”
Find out from the job fair organizer whether appointment slots are available, and arrange to meet recruiters during or after the event.
If you are making multiple appointments, make sure you schedule adequate time between your interviews so that you are not late to a meeting.
3. Gather business cards or contact details of employers.
Follow-up is key. After each conversation or meeting with a recruiter, take notes and ask for a business card. If this is not available, get the person’s name, company, job title, and email. Ask permission to connect with the recruiter on LinkedIn and find out whether you can send a follow-up email after the event.
Following these guidelines will guarantee that you stand out at any job fair, and increase the chances of getting hired after attending one.
Good luck with the job fair!