How to Succeed at a Job Fair

Job fairs are a valuable part of any job seeker’s toolkit. With dozens of employers in one location, job fairs can be an efficient way to make lots of contacts quickly. Yet, if you’re not careful, you could accidentally make a bad impression on dozens of hiring managers at once. Avoid missteps with our Job Fair Success guide.

How to Prepare for a Job Fair

Research the job fair. Find out what companies will be there and what types of positions they’ll be offering. Decide which companies and positions you’re interested in, which shouldn’t be every single one — lack of focus is unattractive to employers. If possible, go ahead and fill out the online applications for any positions you want.

Create and polish your resume. Make certain that your best, most relevant skills and experience are highly emphasized. Employ strategies to cover any problematic details, such as a gap in your work history. Ensure that your resume is easy to read, consistently formatted, and free of grammatical errors. (If you need help putting together a resume, come to the Career Center for in-person assistance, use our free resume templates, or check out our video tutorials.) Finally, print out many, many copies of your resume.

Prepare your outfit. You should dress for a job fair the exact same way you would dress for a job interview.

Practice your 30-second pitch. You will need to introduce yourself to employers at the job fair, briefly detailing what kind of work you’re looking for and what qualifications you possess. For example, “Hello! My name is John Doe, and I’m interested in becoming a delivery driver with your company. I have three years of professional driving experience as a deliveryman for FedEx, and I think I’d make a great addition to your team.”

Get ready for on-the-spot interviews. Most employers won’t have time for in-depth interviews the day of the job fair, but some will. You should be prepared to answer common interview questions, such as, “Tell us about yourself”, “Why do you want to work for us?”, and “Why should we hire you?” (For more assistance with this, check out our YouTube playlist of how to answer common interview questions.)

The Day of the Job Fair

Make sure that your outfit and appearance are neat, and that you have plenty of copies of your resume. Plan to get there near the beginning of the job fair — don’t wait until the end. Many employers leave long before the job fair is over. Once you arrive, get a map of the layout of the venue and where employers are located (if one is available) and study it to plan the order in which you’ll approach your target companies.

Make a good first impression on employers. When you go up to a booth, you will introduce yourself to the hiring manager using your 30-second pitch and give him or her your resume. Make sure you’re giving off appropriate body language. Be confident and friendly. Ask the hiring manager what the next steps in the process are, and follow them. Don’t forget to get the hiring manager’s business card before you leave. If they have no card, write yourself a note with the recruiter’s name and company.

They might not actually be hiring right now. Some employers at job fairs don’t have current openings. Instead, they’re using the job fair to expand their pool of applicants, network, and publicize their companies. However, you should still take them seriously, and make a good impression on them because they may have openings in the near future. Even employers that do have current openings will rarely hire someone on the spot during a job fair without a background check and in-depth interview. Don’t expect to be offered a job on the day of the fair — recognize that the fair is often just the first step of the process.

After the Job Fair

Follow up with the employers you met. If you haven’t already done so, fill out the online application for any company from the fair that you’re interested in. Then, email the hiring managers to touch base. Make sure you avoid sounding pushy, demanding, or desperate. Simply say something like, “I enjoyed meeting with you at the job fair yesterday. Everything you said about your company makes it seem like it would be a great fit for me. I just finished your online application, and I look forward to hearing from you.” Attach your resume to the email (rather than making them dig through the stack of resumes from the job fair to find you). You should follow up even with the companies that don’t have openings right now. Just let them know how interested you are in the company and how you hope they’ll keep you in mind for future openings.

The Most Common Job Fair Mistakes

  • Wearing casual clothes (jeans, flip-flops, t-shirts, etc.)
  • Looking ill-groomed (unshaven, wild hair, wrinkled clothes)
  • Having visible tattoos and piercings
  • Bringing children to the job fair
  • Having no resume or not enough copies of your resume
  • Going to every single booth and asking, “What are you hiring for?”
  • Saying nothing at all to the hiring manager other than, “Here’s my resume.”
  • Inappropriate body language when meeting employers (slouching, fidgeting, lack of eye contact, lack of smile, bad handshake, etc.)
  • Being unable to answer hiring managers’ questions about qualifications and skills
  • Not following up after the job fair

Written by Lynnette Lee.

Note: This article was originally posted in May 2017, and has been re-posted with updates to reach a new audience.

January 2024 YouTube Video Roundup

As we began this new year, we found ourselves waxing nostalgic for times of yore. Thus, this month, we’re dedicating our roundup to some hidden gems from days gone by. Check out these videos – and more – on our YouTube channel:

From the Professionalism and Business Etiquette Playlist

Reference Ready: Choosing and Presenting Your References

Your references can be the deciding factor in whether an employer chooses you over another candidate. In this video, Career Specialist Case Duckworth tackles the basic questions surrounding providing your references, including: What kind of person makes a good reference? What information needs to go on my reference list? How should I prepare my references?

The Workplace Survival Guide

“I think I do my job well, so why do I always have trouble with the people I work with?” If that sounds familiar, check out this video. Career Specialist Lynnette Lee discusses the best ways to get along with co-workers and make good impressions on bosses, focusing on communication skills, the unspoken rules of the workplace, and common scenarios.

From the Enrichment and Skills Training Playlist

Advance Your Career with MOOCs

It’s not always necessary to go back to college in order to learn new job skills. MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – are a wonderful resource for free or low-cost online learning. In this video, Career Specialist Rick Wright discusses 4 of the most popular MOOCs: Coursera, EdX, Udacity, and Udemy.

Written by Lynnette Lee

Book Review: Women of Color in Tech

Introduction

Women of Color in Tech by Susanne Tedrick is a groundbreaking book that seeks to empower women of color by providing them with valuable insights into the technology field. Tedrick’s mission is to debunk misconceptions, address barriers, offer practical advice, share inspirational stories, and shed light on the reasons behind the underrepresentation of women of color in tech. Additionally, the book delves into various technology areas like AI, blockchain, and cloud computing in an easily digestible format. It also offers indispensable guidance on finding a tech career, including networking, resume building, and job offer negotiation. This book is essential reading for women of color, those working with them, and anyone eager to grasp the challenges they face while exploring various tech topics.

Why Are There Not More Women of Color in Technology?

“The number of Black women in technical professions declined by 13 percent over a 12-year period.” So, why is this happening? Tedrick believes this decline can be attributed to various factors, including early learning experiences and the lack of diversity and inclusion in tech workplaces. Historically, societal norms have pushed young girls toward gender-normative activities, and expressing interest in more traditionally “male” activities often leads to a lack of support or even shaming. Research shows that a child’s learning experiences and the support they receive directly influence their confidence in pursuing specific careers. When girls with an interest in technology enter college, they encounter additional barriers like the high cost of education, biases from professors, lack of peer and familial support, and a low percentage of those who enter college actually graduating with a 4-year technology degree.

Clearing Up Misconceptions About Working in Tech

Despite the challenges, Tedrick emphasizes why women of color should still pursue tech careers. The tech field is steadily improving, thanks in part to organizations like AnitaB.org and Black in AI that provide support. It’s a rapidly growing industry with high earning potential and can be fulfilling for those passionate about technology and innovation. Moreover, women of color in tech can serve as positive role models for young girls of color, helping them envision themselves in various tech roles and dispelling misconceptions about the field.

Tedrick’s book aims to dispel myths and misconceptions that dissuade individuals from pursuing tech careers. For instance, the belief that “all tech careers require a 4-year degree” is debunked, as many positions value professional experience gained through internships, apprenticeships, boot camps, and more. Another critical misconception addressed is the notion that “tech careers exist only at top tech companies.” In reality, tech roles are essential across all industries. Tedrick also discusses the qualities she considers essential for tech careers, emphasizing traits like confidence, perseverance, and patience.

A Wide Variety of Tech Careers

Tedrick provides detailed insights into a wide range of tech career options, from business analysis to web design and consulting. Each career is explored in terms of its responsibilities, required skills, educational prerequisites, typical job roles, titles, and average salaries. After this comprehensive overview, Tedrick offers resources to help individuals identify their strengths, weaknesses, and core work values, assisting them in determining their ideal fit within the tech industry. Additionally, the book explores tech opportunities outside traditional tech companies, such as in the government, education, healthcare, and emerging fields like 3D printing and online banking.

The book covers various emerging technologies like AI, virtual reality, blockchain, and cloud computing in a straightforward and understandable manner. It breaks down complex topics, making them accessible to a broader audience. Tedrick highlights the significance of staying informed about these technologies to remain competitive in the ever-evolving tech industry.

Finding, Landing, and Thriving at Tech Jobs

Tedrick offers invaluable advice on building a professional network, finding mentors, and enhancing one’s skills to secure a tech career. The process begins with a skill gap analysis and explores various educational pathways, including formal education, trade schools, and boot camps. Additionally, the book addresses financing options for these educational pursuits. Tedrick guides readers through crafting a tech-focused resume, optimizing their LinkedIn profiles, and provides essential interview tips.

Even after you have found that dream tech job, Tedrick continues to provide detailed guidance on evaluating job offers, understanding compensation structures, and negotiating effectively. The step-by-step process of how a job offer works is explained, highlighting key points for evaluation and negotiation.

The book acknowledges that workplace challenges may persist even after securing a tech job. Tedrick offers advice on dealing with issues such as imposter syndrome, bias, lack of support, bullying, and tokenism. These are common experiences for people of color, especially those who have achieved career advancements but still feel inadequate or face discrimination.

What’s Next?

In conclusion, Tedrick encourages those in the tech field to give back to the community through volunteering and community service, serving as role models or mentors, and supporting initiatives that empower underrepresented individuals in tech. This call to action aims to address the challenges highlighted at the beginning of the book and create a brighter future for women of color in technology.

You may check out Women of Color in Tech by Suzanne Tedrick from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.

Written by Kathryn Cusimano

The Job Interview: Body Language

Savvy job seekers know that, in order to be prepared for job interviews, they need to formulate and practice answers to common interview questions. Yet even the most polished answers will get you nowhere if your body language is problematic. Studies estimate that about 65% of all communication is nonverbal – which means that hiring managers are evaluating you on much more than the content of your answers. Make sure that your body is projecting the same message as your words with these tips.

A tall confident posture

Do not slouch. A slumped-over posture sends one of two messages; it says either “I’m scared” or “I’m bored.” These are not ideas you want to evoke during your interview! Your stance should project confidence and enthusiasm. Stand and sit tall, with your chest out, shoulders back, and head held high. Pretend that there is a broomstick taped to your spine. (Some people also find it helpful to make sure that their backs never touch the backs of their chairs.) For most people, this will not come naturally or feel comfortable at first, so practice it until you become used to it.

Practicing good posture will not only make you look more confident, but it will also actually make you feel more confident. Holding a tall powerful stance for as little as two minutes can cause a spike in your body’s testosterone level and a drop in your body’s cortisol (the stress hormone) level. Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on power poses for more information on this phenomenon.

A pleasant facial expression

One of your major goals in the interview should be to make the interviewers like you. After all, they will have to work daily with whomever they hire — so why would they hire someone unlikeable? One of the easiest ways to be seen as friendly and approachable is to have a pleasant facial expression. Smile a lot. Look enthusiastic and happy to be there. Keep a friendly light in your eyes at all times. This is harder than it sounds — after all, an interview is a high-pressure environment in which you’ll be concentrating intensely. In these circumstances, people tend to frown or scowl. Be aware of this issue, and practice with a mirror if you’re having trouble maintaining that pleasant face.

Steady eye contact

The eyes are the windows to your soul — and if your interviewers can’t see yours, they’re not going to feel any connection to you. Even more troubling is the fact that by avoiding eye contact, you come across as not confident or even untrustworthy. No one will believe what you have to say if you can’t meet their eyes while saying it. From your perspective, maintaining good eye contact may seem difficult and uncomfortable because you may feel shy bragging about yourself to strangers. Overcome this tendency by practicing with a friend or with a mirror. Make sure that you can maintain good eye contact both while listening (to show that you’re paying attention) and while speaking (to project confidence). Additionally, if you are interviewed by multiple people, try to divide your eye contact evenly between them.

However, this can be carried too far. If you stare down your interviewers while barely blinking, you will come across as intimidating or creepy. Find a good balance.

Clear vocal tone and enunciation

It sounds simple, but many people forget that your answers don’t count for anything if the interviewers can’t hear or understand you. Make sure that you speak loudly, precisely, and slowly enough to be clearly understood. Do not allow your nerves to make you whisper, mumble, or yammer.

Proper placement of arms and legs

When you sit, your feet should either be placed firmly on the ground in front of you or crossed at the ankle (not the knee). Anything else looks too casual. Make sure that your arms show an open stance — not crossed or closing off your body in a way that would indicate hostility, boredom, or fear. Your hands may be placed in your lap, on the armrests of your chair, or on the table in front of you.

A good handshake

Don’t let yourself go to either extreme in terms of pressure — a “limp fish” handshake looks unconfident, but an “arm wrestler” handshake is too aggressive. If possible, try to make sure that your hands are not clammy, sweaty, sticky, or freezing.

No fidgeting

You can use your hands to gesture and emphasize (within reason — don’t look like a choir conductor). However, you should endeavor not to make any mindless, purposeless movements. No jiggling of your leg, tapping your pen, swinging in your chair, etc. In addition to making you look nervous, these types of movements are very distracting and can be annoying to others. If you tend to fidget, plan accordingly and remove temptation as much as possible. Keep your hair pulled back so you can’t twirl it. Paint your nails so you won’t bite them. Don’t wear jewelry, bring a click pen, or have gum in your mouth for the interview. And practice sitting absolutely still for several minutes at a time.

Further Review

Below are some of the relevant items from the library’s collection that are available for check out. You can check availability and place a hold via the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s online catalog.

  • Body Language for Dummies by Elizabeth Kuhnke
  • Understanding Body Language: How to Decode Nonverbal Communication by Scott Rouse
  • Digital Body Language: Build Trust & Connection No Matter the Distance by Erica Dhawan
  • The Body Language Handbook: Read Everyone’s Hidden Thoughts & Intentions by Gregory Hartley

Written by Lynnette Lee.

Note: This article was originally posted in April 2017, and has been re-posted with updates to reach a new audience.

December 2023 YouTube Video Roundup

Happy New Year! If the start of a fresh new year has you invigorated to make a fresh new start on your job search, the Career Center is here to help. Check out these and other videos on our YouTube channel for inspiration:

From the Job Search Mastery Playlist

The ADA and the Job Search Part 2: Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protections for jobseekers with disabilities, including accommodations during the job search, testing, and interviewing process. In this video, Career Specialist Kathryn Cusimano discusses what types of accommodations might be available, as well as when and how you can request accommodations.

From the Common Job Application Tutorials Playlist

How to Apply for a Job at Pizza Hut

In this video, Career Specialist Cynthia Payton demonstrates the process of completing the online job application for restaurant chain Pizza Hut.

From the Vaults: This Month’s Golden Oldies Spotlight
From the Job Search Mastery Playlist

Career Planning Resources: Website Walkthrough

Need help choosing a career path? Learning a new skill? Finding out about different career options? Our website can help with all of that. There’s so much good stuff on there, in fact, that it can be a little overwhelming. In this video, Career Specialist Lynnette Lee walks you through all the different career-planning features so you can choose the most helpful resources for your situation.

Written by Lynnette Lee

The Job Interview: “Tell Me About a Conflict with a Coworker.”

This job interview question is tricky for two reasons: 1) it asks for a specific story from your past work history, and 2) it asks you to talk about a negative or unpleasant situation. Here are some tips for avoiding the most common mistakes and crafting a good answer:

mistake #1

“I can’t say I’ve ever really had a conflict with a coworker. I get along well with everyone.”

How this hurts you: This might seem at first like a great answer – you get along well with people, that’s awesome! But you dodged the question. Employers ask this question because they want to know how you’ll handle conflict in the workplace when it eventually does come up. . . which it almost certainly will. Even if it’s only a minor disagreement or misunderstanding, conflict of some sort is inevitable. And employers want reassurance that you will handle such things professionally. This answer does not provide that reassurance.

mistake #2

“At my last job, I had one coworker who absolutely hated me. I don’t know what her problem was; I think I’m a pretty nice person, but apparently she didn’t, because she decided that I was her enemy. She kept trying to undermine me and get me into trouble. If I was 3 minutes late clocking in, she couldn’t wait to go tell the boss. Never mind that she spent 45 minutes a day on personal phone calls, she decided that I needed to be reported for checking my personal email at work once. I genuinely don’t understand what her problem was; I never did anything to her.”

How this hurts you: Yikes, how could this NOT hurt? This answer breaks the unwritten rule of the job interview: Never say anything negative about a current or previous boss, coworker, organization, etc. This answer is full of negativity, and it reflects poorly not only on the coworker, but on you too. Anger and bitterness are unprofessional, and blaming everything on other people instead of taking responsibility yourself indicates a lack of maturity.

mistake #3

“I had a conflict where I wasn’t getting along well with a coworker, so I went to my boss and asked for him to intervene. My boss talked to each of us separately to get our individual sides, and then talked to both of us together. He laid out a new set of rules for us and separated our duties so that we wouldn’t need to work so closely together anymore. I didn’t see the coworker much after that, and things went much more smoothly.”

How this hurts you: While there is some excellent conflict-resolution work being done in this story. . .none of it is being done by you. It’s all being done by your boss. This story paints a picture of an employee who doesn’t have the ability to resolve conflict themselves, and who will go running to the boss to solve everything, creating more work for the boss.

so how do you answer this question?

Tell a story that showcases your conflict resolution skills: a story in which you took the initiative to talk things over with the other person, reach a compromise, smooth over any misunderstanding, and resolve the conflict. Use the STAR formula to keep your story organized and well-structured. Avoid negativity, badmouthing, and judgmental terms. Take responsibility for your own role in contributing to the conflict. Above all, remember to frame the conflict not as “me vs. the coworker,” but as “me and the coworker together vs. the problem.”

winning example

“At my last job, there was a coworker that I didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault; it was simply a case of different personalities. We tried to work around it, but at some point, we realized that it was causing tension. So, I pulled her aside and broached the idea that this was something we needed to work on. It was a very awkward conversation at first. But she did open up eventually about certain things that I was doing that annoyed her, and I had had no idea! So, once I started changing those things, and once I was able to understand where she was coming from, we had a much better relationship after that. I wouldn’t say we ever became best friends, but we became good colleagues.”

 

If you need any help preparing for a job interview, you may call 225-231-3733 to schedule a practice interview with one of our career specialists.

Written by Lynnette Lee