How to Work the Job Fair
By Olivia Thetgyi
March 18, 2009
How to work the job fair.
Posting your resume online should be part of your job search strategy but only one part. Face-to-face interaction is still very important. And there’s no better way to see lots of faces from different companies than a job fair.
“Students can get in contact with and talk to many people from their field, give out resumes and practice interview skills,” says Jean Riordan, career counselor at the University of Chicago. Brief informational interviews—where YOU interview the recruiter—can help you learn more about what you want to do.
If the thought of meeting a room full of eager recruiters terrifies you, relax. You’ll never have an easier time during your job hunt. “Students feel like [a job fair] has all the pressure of an interview, but it’s probably one of the least stressful job searching activities you can do,” Riordan says. “For the most part, recruiters are nice perky people who want to talk to you and have good people come into their organizations.”
A job fair contact can lead to an offer right away. In addition, many companies are also looking to hire part-time workers during the school year. Northwestern University graduate Julie Piotrowski landed a three-year part-time job at University Wire after meeting the recruiter at a job fair in her freshman year.
Convinced? Then try some of these tips:
- Make a game plan. Find out what companies are attending and choose the ones you want to speak with. Prepare questions for each.
- Do your homework. Find out who the company is and what it does by checking their Web site. Knowing about the company will give you an edge over students who’ve never heard of it.
- Doublecheck your resume. Reread your resume for typos and make sure all the information is current.
- Know who you are. Rehearse two or three sentences to sum up who you are, what experience you have and what kind of job you want. “I’m not interested in what they want to do five years from now, but I want to know if [the students are] interested in a specific area,” says Miles Merwin, recruiter for publishing company Gruner & Jahr.
At the Job Fair
- Dress to impress. Dress as if you were going to an interview. “Don’t wear or do anything that represents a radical personal style,” Riordan says. Leave the tongue ring at home.
- Go early. “If the job fair ends at 4:00, by 3:00 some of the employers are starting to pack up,” she says. So start early and consider revisiting some recruiters later in the day to remind them of who you are.
- Bring lots of resumes. Give your resume out whenever possible, even if you’re not interested in that particular company. Spreading the word can lead to future contacts.
- Use your body language. A firm handshake, ready smile and steady eye contact make a better impression than sidling up to a recruiter looking anxious.
- Keep it short. On average, students spend five to 10 minutes with each recruiter. The less you stumble through your introduction, the better.
- Talk to as many people as possible. “You’ll never know what opportunities are out there unless you open up,” Piotrowski says. “Sometimes a company will create a position for you if they like you.”
- Eavesdrop. If you hear a recruiter describing a company’s work culture to another student, follow up with a question about hiring policies instead of asking the same question.
After the job fair, send thank-you letters with copies of your resume to all the recruiters you met. List a permanent address in case an employer decides to contact you a year or two down the road.
Relax, do some pre-fair prepwork and put your name out for companies to see. In a few weeks, those handshakes and handed-out resumes might come back as job offers.
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