How to get ready for a career fair
To make the most of your face time with potential employers, have a plan of attack
Choose the right fair
Every state has job fairs throughout the year. Some fairs target specific groups, such as recent college grads, veterans or active duty military. Make sure you find the right fair for you. Job fairs that target the military are usually sponsored by either nonprofit groups or government agencies. That’s good news for you because those sponsors are actively trying to get you a job. Browse the Web for job fairs in your area, keeping in mind that you may have to travel.
Treat a career fair like a mission. Develop a strategic plan, identifying which companies you want to target, and then gather as much information about those companies as you can. Career fairs usually have a website for job seekers and employers to register. Browse the list of companies that plan to attend and see what interests you, then gather research about each one. Check out various websites such as glassdoor.com to find reviews about the culture at the companies, though keep in mind that they each represent individual perspectives. Visit the companies’ websites or search online for recent news. Find out as much as you can—their mission statements, any recent work or awards, the number of employees, etc. At the fair, show the employers you have done your homework. Have a few good questions ready. This shows you are dedicated and committed to the company, and that’s extremely important to hiring managers.
Have your resume ready
Employers will expect to see your resume to review your experience and education, as well as to gather contact information. Prepare your resume by catering to the interests you discovered while doing research. If you’re looking at multiple job fields, be sure to make different versions of your resume. Also, make sure your resume is up-to-date, and take a few copies for every employer who you plan to visit at the fair. Ask for a business card after giving a resume to a potential employer so you can follow up with a phone call or email. And bring supplies such as pens, a notebook or a smartphone. You don’t want to have to ask an employer for something to write with.
Dress to impress
First impressions are key, so try to look the part. Neatness and good hygiene are a must. It seems obvious, but you’ll be surprised by what you see when you look around at job seekers at a career fair. It’s OK to overdress for a fair, but never underdress. Men: A neat haircut is just as important as what you wear. Try to wear a conservative suit and tie, a neutral dress shirt, dark socks, and dress shoes. Limit your jewelry to a watch. Also, go easy on the aftershave. Women: Try to wear a neat hairstyle and limited makeup. Aim to wear a conservative dress or suit, a coordinated blouse, light-colored leggings, and dress shoes. Some jewelry is OK, but don’t overdo it.
Practice your speech
You’ll impress potential employers by knowing what you plan to say before you say it. These employers will have a number of job candidates to speak with, so be short and get to the point. The elevator speech is one useful approach to say a lot in a limited amount of time—it’s what you can communicate to someone during a short elevator ride. Your speech should mirror your resume. Summarize your career objective, experience, education and any other skills you may have. But the key is to be succinct. Give employers enough to spark their interest, but leave them wanting more. Leave them wanting to call you in for an interview. Practice, practice, practice your speech. Then practice it some more. Do it in front of family or friends until you’re not at all embarrassed or hesitant. Practice until you can get through your speech with a relaxed smile on your face. Then you’ll be ready for the career fair. Last thing: Be sure to show up early.
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