Q: What takes place at a job fair?
A: Job fairs are a great place to learn about who is hiring in your community. They provide an opportunity for you to get through to a live person at the company to make an impression that can lead to employment and to ask any questions you may have about the company and the jobs they have available.
Typically, multiple employers are set up at individual tables in one room. Each table is manned by at least one employee of the company (usually a recruiter or human resources representative), who receives resumes and meets potential candidates. Often times, employers come to job fairs looking to hire for specific vacancies and may come equipped with a list of those. Prospective candidates, dressed to interview and armed with resumes file into the room and approach the tables of employers they are interested in. What employers have available at their tables vary by company. Some may have recruiting videos playing for candidates to view as they wait their turn to speak with someone. Some offer snacks and other “freebies” to job seekers (pens, post-its, highlighters, carry-all bags, brochures, flyers, etc.) as a way of reminding prospective candidates about their company.
The most important thing to remember about a job fair, though, is that it is an prime opportunity to network. The people you will see in the room have knowledge you need on your job search and are prepared to be questioned. These are the people who can tell you how to get on board with the company of your dreams and give you insight into what the company (and industry as a whole) is seeking in an ideal employee and how you might plan out your career path. These are also the best people to obtain feedback from on the efforts you have taken to achieve your career goals (your resume, work history, etc.).
To best prepare yourself for a career fair:
- Find out in advance which companies are planning to attend and what positions they are recruiting for.
- Complete online applications or download paper applications and complete them, so that this step is already done when you meet with the employers.
- Update your “Linked in” profile (if applicable) so that any employer searching for you finds fresh and consistent information on you.
- Remember to come dressed for an interview, however, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and avoid carrying anything that will weigh you down as you walk around the room.
- Eat before you arrive at the job fair, or bring snacks so that hunger does not force you to leave the area prematurely.
- Bring along ample proofread resumes (no less than 25, depending on the size of the job fair) a copy of your work history, including supervisors’ and references’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails, in the event that you are asked to apply on the spot.
- Bring a prepared list of questions to ask and talking points about yourself to maximize your face time with employers.
- Have a great attitude.
- Remember to make eye contact, speak clearly, shake hands, and smile.
- Collect business cards for follow up after the job fair.