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How to Work a Job Fair

by Miranda Marquit

With the employment picture still somewhat bleak, many of us are brushing up on our job hunting skills, updating our resumes, and preparing for job fairs. Indeed, job and career fairs are places where you can go to look for work, as well as make connections and do a little networking. However, with the job market what it is, and with many qualified candidates jockeying for position, you will have to be prepared to make the right impression at the job fair.

Before You Go to a Job Fair

It’s best to be prepared for a job or career fair. Before you go, prepare yourself to impress, and have an idea of what companies you want to talk to. As get ready to go, consider taking these actions:

  1. Know who will be there: You can usually find a list of employers attending a career fair. Peruse this list, and identify companies you are most interested in working for. Do some research so that you know what openings are available in the company, what solutions they may need, and the goals the company has. Figure out how you might fit in.
  2. Be ready to sell yourself: Before you go, work on your personal statement (your elevator pitch). Know what you will say about yourself, your skills and what you can bring to the company.
  3. Prepare your resume: Update your resume, and make sure that it highlights the skills you want it to. You might also prepare targeted cover letters addressed to specific companies. You can leave these documents with recruiters at the job fair. Try to tailor your information to company needs. It might mean that you label each resume with a sticky note so that it goes to the right recruiter.
  4. Practice open-ended questions: You can demonstrate your knowledge by asking good questions. Think of open-ended questions to ask at the career fair. You can ask about tips for getting hired at the company, or ask about a position you are interested in. Also, be prepared to ask about what the recruiter looks for an employee. It is important to note that asking about salary and benefits is probably not the best idea at a career fair.

Attending the Career Fair

When you attend a job fair, you want to look the part. Make sure that you are well groomed, and that you are dressed appropriately. While you may not want to go in full business attire, business casual is a must. You would do well to ask the job fair sponsor for information about the dress code so that you are prepared to impress.

While at the job fair, consider networking with other job seekers. Try not to treat them as competition; you never know when a contact made at a job fair can turn into a job offer down the road. Now is a good time to network with new people. You should also show patience. Lines are common, and you should be patient as you wait. Respect the privacy of others’ at the fair. Standing in line offers you a good chance to network.

When speaking with recruiters, be brief. Ask about items of interest, and share your personal statement. Leave a business card, or have your contact information prominent on your resume. Ask for the recruiters contact information, and ask if you can follow up in a few days. Consider sending a thank you email, and expressing your appreciation for the time the recruiter took to speak with you.

Do you have any other tips for successfully working a job fair?


Published or updated November 11, 2010.
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