Job fairs can be a very useful tool for both the job seeker and the employer if executed properly. With unemployment numbers high, most employers will attend job fairs to assess talent and make potential offers for employment.
Unfortunately, what generally happens is that a few hundred job seekers show up (or possibly way more) and they are forced to move from table to table like a bunch of cattle and both parties are unable or find it difficult to meet with each other or have meaningful conversation. Therefore, implementing a few simple tactics can assist you to separate yourself from the herd.
You must look your best. Remember that this is an interview so you only have seconds to make your impression. Studies show that people who meet you will form an impression of you within the first 15 seconds. Many times it will be the actual hiring managers or HR staff at the table and it is extremely important not to appear in casual, provocative, or inappropriate clothing. Wearing your “Sunday best” is a good rule of thumb to ensure that you are not under or OVER dressed for the occasion. Avoid perfume, cologne, heavy make-up, or outrageous hair styles/colors.
Sell your personal brand. When you visit each table or employer, you should think of the opportunity as a 20-second commercial. Without being arrogant, too aggressive, or comical; sell yourself with a tagline or extremely brief description of your skills and what makes you unique among the hundreds of other job seekers at the job fair. Practice your “speech” several times before you get there to ensure your confidence when standing in the lime light.
Have copies of your resume and a cover letter ready to leave with each employer. Even if this means printing 50 copies, ensure that you do not run out. Nothing tells an employer more about a job seeker then when they show up to a job fair without enough resume materials to hand out. Having your resume ready and printed on a nice cream or gray resume paper, will assist you in standing apart from the rest.
Research, research, research! Most events or job fairs will have a list of employers available prior to the event. Look at each of the employer’s web sites to see what positions that they have available and determine if there is anything that you would like to apply for. If you find something that you feel that you would be a good fit for, create a customized resume and cover letter specifically for that position and company. While a general resume and cover letter are sufficient, it would be highly beneficial to be able to customize your resume and cover letter prior to the job fair and hand them to the employer in person.