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.