Attending a job fair as a candidate can be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. After all, most of us don’t like going up to complete strangers and talking about ourselves. When you add in the pressure of making a good impression on a prospective employer, it’s no wonder that some people get sweaty palms just thinking about these types of events!
The good news is, you can successfully prepare for a job fair, and you can come across as confident and professional. Trust me: I’ve been on both sides, and I know what it takes to make a splash (in a good way)!
I recently participated in the Denver Startup Week Job Fair, and I want to share with you some best practices I observed among the candidates (and a few I’ve gleaned from my own experience). Plus, I’ll give you a handy list of questions for a prospective employer that will make you look good. Let’s dig in!
How to Prepare for the Job Fair
1. Register for the Job Fair
First things first. You need to register (or pre-register) for the job fair as far in advance as possible. Hopefully, once you register, you’ll be able to access the list of companies that plan to participate in the event. And once you get that list, you’ll be able to…
2. Do Some Digging
Try to find out the answers to questions like:
- How many employers will be participating in the job fair?
- Which industries and companies in particular will be represented?
- Will it be worth my time to attend this job fair?
If you determine that attending this job fair would be a good move, your next step is to research any employers that you’re interested in. Many recruiters will ask: “Why do you want to work for our company?” If you understand some basics about the company’s history, its culture, and its core values, then you’ll be in a good position to give a satisfactory answer to that question.
3. Make Sure Your “Candidate Profile” is in Order
What do I mean by “candidate profile?” Essentially, the information about yourself that you want a potential employer to see. Obviously, this would include your resume (make sure that it’s up-to-date, and bring plenty of copies!), as well as your social media profiles (for example, LinkedIn and Facebook).
As you go through your social media accounts, make sure there are no embarrassing posts or pictures that could surface during a recruiter’s search and damage your reputation. Remember, in today’s plugged-in world most recruiters will examine a candidate’s social media account along with their resume and portfolio.
4. Work on Your Elevator Pitch
When you attend the job fair, you’re going to visit several employer booths. You’ll be vying for attention with a number of other candidates. For that reason, you need to have your elevator pitch down pat. In other words, you should be able to explain to an employer why they should consider you for an open position, in a minute or less.
5. Dress for Success
Growing up, I always heard that you shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover.” The truth is, most recruiters absolutely will form an opinion of you based on your dress and grooming. With that in mind, be sure to wear attire that’s appropriate for the job fair, and you will leave a favorable impression on prospective employers. Traditional business casual is usually a safe bet. Don’t forget to arrange your hairstyle for a professional appearance, and always practice good hygiene. (Plenty of breath mints never hurt, either!)
6. Know Your Goals as a Candidate
Of course, it’s likely that your main goal in attending the fair is to land a job with a good company. However, do you have any secondary goals in mind? For example, can you build up your professional network while attending the event? Can you obtain feedback on your resume or portfolio from experienced recruiters? Having a clearly defined set of goals will help you to be more productive at the job fair – and have more fun, too!
7. Develop and Implement a Follow-up Plan
After the job fair ends, you’ll likely have a ton of contacts, leads, and business cards to sort through. What’s your plan of action for following up? It’s usually a good idea to leave a simple voicemail for each recruiter you spoke with a day or two later. At the very least, send each contact you made a brief thank-you note.
In addition, see if you can connect with your contacts on LinkedIn. As the largest professional network in the world, it’s no surprise that LinkedIn is regularly used by a whopping 87 percent of recruiters, according to one study. The point is, you want to keep yourself top-of-mind for these recruiters, and position yourself as a highly motivated candidate (trust me, recruiters love highly motivated candidates).
Sample Questions to Ask a Recruiter
If you have a list of prepared questions to ask each recruiter, not only will you be a more attractive candidate, but you’ll also be a lot less nervous! Here are some suggestions you may want to include in your list:
- What is your company’s mission statement and its core values?
- What is your company culture like?
- Do you have a flow chart to help new hires understand which supervisors to report to?
- Do you offer flexible work options (work from home, hybrid)?
- What does a typical work week look like for someone in this role?
- Can you describe your hiring process? How long does it typically take?
- Do you have training or mentoring programs in place to help new hires succeed?
- Can you describe the characteristics you are looking for in a new hire for this position?
- What makes your best employees successful?
- What do you personally enjoy most about working at this company?
- Are there any challenges you’ve faced at this company? How were they resolved?
- May we exchange contact information?
If you prepare well for the next job fair on your calendar, you may still be a little nervous. But you’ll be a lot more relaxed, confident, and attractive to potential employers. And who knows? You may even land your dream job!
For more help with your job search, contact the recruitment team at The Doyle Group.