There is a job fair next week that you want to attend.  You will dress up professionally, take multiple copies of your resume, and walk up to each table to hand the company’s representative your resume.  You shake hands, answer any questions asked with confidence and then depart with a smile.  You will say to yourself, “An introduction well done!”  This is one way to work a job fair.

A job fair is a two way street, it is as much for your benefit as it is for the employer.  You not only want the employer to see you, you want to examine the employer as well.  To do anything right in life, in most cases, you must plan and prepare.  When attending a job fair learn to be prepared, know the right answers and practice, attend as many as possible. 

The information contained here can guide you to experiencing a more successful job fair.  There will always be several key pieces of information to hunt for.  You are there trying to scope out your next employment opportunity, you need keen senses and great people skills in order to do this successfully.  I want to share with you some very important pre-fair preparation activities, as well as the execution of said activities at a job fair.  Take notes accordingly.

Things to do before the job fair:

  • Go to the website or flyer advertising the job fair and make a list of companies that will be in attendance, this will be a list of companies to research.

  • Go to the websites of the companies that are of interest to you and do the following: give a brief once over to the website, then see if there are any press releases, and/or organizational charts (any data on management).  Learn about the company and who is in charge, this could take 10-60 minutes depending on how much interest you have and how much information is actually available. Also, search outside of company’s website for more information. Make yourself a few notes on details you would like to have readily available at the actual fair.

  • Have some form to transport professionally your resume, notes and any other must haves while at the fair, there are many inexpensive options available. I use a plastic binder that also has pockets inside so I can separate or categorize all the content.

  • Be sure to have plenty of resumes with you, I always take 20 more than businesses attending If there are going to be 50 companies, I take 70 resumes.

  • Prepare your attire the night before, you don’t need to be. Dress like you are going to a job interview, sneakers and tee shirts have no place at a job fair, I don’t care what kind of job you are applying for.

Things to do at the Job Fair:

  • Attire is very important, dress like you are going to a job interview to impress the employer. Sneakers and tee shirts have no place at a job fair, nor does poor hygiene. Make sure your clothes are clean, and hair and teeth brushed. You should feel comfortable in what you are wearing, especially shoes, as you may be on your feet for up to 3 hours depending on how many employers you are interested in.

  • Be sure to have plenty of resumes with you, I always take 20 more than businesses present. If there are going to be 50 companies, I take 70 resumes.

  • Cover letters can also be used if you have one, and you should have one.  If you researched the companies you are most interested in you can personalize some of those cover letters.

  • Make it possible to be armed with business cards (yes, you can have a business card even if you don’t have a business) your full name, contact number and email address should be the pieces of information on it

  • Your cover letter, resume and business cards should be laid out in the same format, like a stationary set.

  • Have notebook in hand, you are going to a place where the acquiring of information is the mission; you don’t want to be caught digging through a pocket book or wallet for a scrap of paper to write on, looks really unprofessional.  Also, be sure to bring with you any notes you made on the businesses that interested you.

  • Always shake hands when introducing yourself, always smile, and always make eye contact

  • Be genuine, also be honest about your skills, don’t claim to know something you don’t know.

  • Rarely will a real decision maker be present at a job fair, or even the head of HR. Normally your encounter will be with an HR assistant at some level, maybe even a student doing their internship.  Make friends with this individual and ask the right questions. Be friendly and straightforward, initially some closed ended questions are useful in declaring an interest in the individual personally- What is your name? How are you today? How long have you worked for the company?  Do you enjoy working for them? At this point, if you didn’t sound like your were reading off of a piece of paper, you should have created enough rapport to go in for the kill: So can you tell me what will happen with my resume once I leave it with you? Can you tell me who will be in charge of reviewing the resumes to see if there are suitable candidates for interviews? -> You really want to try to get a name and an email address for any key individual connected to your resume, most times there is more than one key person. Who will ultimately make the decision of hiring?  

Things to do after the job fair:

Later, once you are home, you need to begin composing an “I left you my resume at the job fair” letter and get it on out there as quickly as possible to the correct contact person. So long as the employer has not advertised “don’t call us, we’ll call you” go ahead and make that contact, you lose nothing, but you could gain all the attention. We are trying to get the employer’s attention, that is the purpose of going to a job fair.  You don’t want to be part of a multitude, you want to be part of the minority that stands out.

 Take time to review the new contacts made.  Consider the things you tried in this job fair that you had never done before. Take notes about what you’ve learned, consider if there are any ways that you can tweak your job fair plan to “up the level” of your game for your next fair.

 Good luck to you!