By Silas Grant –
The job fair concept needs a jump start. The same format has been in place for far too long. The representatives from the companies aren’t normally the decision makers. The job fair attendees are beginning to be less and less prepared for the opportunity. The conversations between the representatives and the attendees can be dry. No one seems to be there to get anything accomplished. The attendee was told to go by a friend or family member who has no idea of what it means to be unemployed in today’s world. Then the attendee feels a need to go back to that person and report that there were no good leads on opportunities at the job fair. The representatives are forced to attend on behalf of their companies. And their report is that there aren’t any great applicants. It’s a sad reality in a world where there are thousands of jobs available, yet the skill set and approach of the applicants don’t match.
In the midst of this dilemma, what should a job fair attendee do? Here are a few things that could help and improve your job fair experience:
– How did you find out about the job fair?
This is an important component to begin with. If you receive an email or a flier about a job fair, your first step is to verify that the job fair is actually taking place. Call or email the contact person on the flier/email to verify the details. Details change and in some instances, job fair notifications turn into “chain letters”. People continue to forward the information, yet no one is verifying the details. If you’re unemployed, chances are that friend or family member who doesn’t understand your trials will just dump information on your lap with no investigation. Also, it is important to determine if the job fair will have “on the spot” hiring. Requirements such as registration and items needed on site are important to find out as well.
– Are you prepared?
Sometimes you are simply not prepared for a job fair. Someone sends you a flier at 6 pm today and the job fair is tomorrow at 9 am, are you able to update your resume and cover letter? If you aren’t prepared, admit it. If you can get prepared, do so. If not, still get moving and gear up for the next opportunity. What’s that old saying: “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready”. The fact is that job fairs are competitive. If you aren’t ready, then you aren’t ready to compete. Simply showing up is not enough.
– Have you researched the companies that will be there?
“Google is your friend”. Go online and look at some of the companies that are sponsors of the job fair. Take a look at their “careers” section on their website. That may give insight about your ability to qualify for the job openings that they have. Researching companies also gives you a chance to have intelligent conversations with the representatives at the booths.
– Dress for success
Take the opportunity seriously. If you’re unemployed or under-employed, keep a suit and shirt dry-cleaned and ready to go. For those that have financial issues, organizations in your city/region can and will donate dress clothing for you. Here is one example.
– LinkedIn and Vizify and business cards
The paper resume is virtually dead. Anyone can put together anything on a resume and submit it. And employers are beginning to catch on. LinkedIn and Vizify are good resources to give life to your resume and job experience. We will talk about this in detail later, but putting a face with a resume is becoming important. The key is to be remembered. Here comes the need for business cards. Having a basic business card that has your LinkedIn and/or Vizify address allows hiring managers to see your resume and profile. Let’s face it; it’s more than a piece of paper that’s going to determine if you get hired. LinkedIn and Vizify provide a deeper look into who you are as a professional. It’s also a way to save on paper. In your day to day travels, in the event that you run into someone with a job opportunity and you’re not near your resume, you can hand them the business card and the address to view your resume online is listed on the card. Again, you’re unemployed, so every opportunity must be seized.
Check out my Vizify page here.
(note: Vizify is not compatible with Internet Explorer at this time. Google Chrome is the best platform to view the site.)
What to do while attending the job fair
– Target employers based on your research
Don’t roam the room without an aim. Mike Powell, Vice President of PCG, is a leader in Organizational Development and Training. As a friend, his advice to me has always been “Enter the room with intention”. As mentioned in the previous section, do research on the companies ahead of time. If the company doesn’t appeal to your needs and preferences, don’t make interacting with their representatives the top priority. If you insist on engaging with these types of companies, use it as a test prior to reaching out to the companies at the event that you have a desire to engage with.
– What’s their story?
The representatives that are passionate about their companies are the ones that you want to talk to as well as listen to. Find a way to trigger their emotions about the company. Ask them if they remember the day that they applied for a job there. Ask them what’s the nicest thing that the company has done for them. When you trigger emotions, you tend to hear the truth. Also the representatives may get into a story of how they developed and grew within the company. That gives you a path to start on if/when you get the job.
– Take breaks
At job fairs, people are mostly “all in” or “all fear”. Some walk around avoiding deep engagement with company representatives. Others talk too much. It’s ok to plan a break. But, use the break wisely. Review materials that have been given to you. Sometimes it’s good to grab materials while the representative is tied up with another attendee. You can sneak in and get their reading materials, sit down and review it and come back to engage the representative. Remember, you can talk when you’re ready. That gives you the best chance to leave a lasting impression.
– Talk to other attendees
Don’t limit your engagement and interaction to employers. Survey the room. Look at other people who are job hunting. Find out a little about them. You can learn presentation skills and requirements from them. Maybe he/she has a nice suit. Maybe their resume paper is a little more presentable than yours. Asking someone where they bought their briefcase or resume paper from isn’t off limits. Talking to someone and asking if you can see a copy of their resume isn’t a bad idea either. You can learn a lot about what is required of you by observing and engaging other attendees.
– Take notes
If you had a great conversation with a representative, once you step away, jot down any key things that you learned. Also jot down anything that you said that caused an interest from the representative. Later we will talk about follow-up and this can be useful for that.
Imagine that you’ve done your research, you have a great conversation with the representative, you hand them a resume (hard copy) as well as a business card. You’ve done well. But maybe something else could take you over the top. How about a gift to them? At job fairs, the employers are normally the ones with giveaways. But that doesn’t stop you from returning the favor. I did an online search for “$1 gifts” and I found a lot of results. Here is one example. Those are neon sunglasses for $1. At a quantity of 150, you can purchase them for less than $1 per pair. Now, I fully understand that under-employed or unemployed people may not be able to afford this unnecessary gesture. But, in the event that you can, it’s a good way to stand out and be remembered.
– Thank you
Thank the person who sent you the information about the event. Also give them a recap. Life is like basketball, it takes an extra step to “travel”. It’s about getting ahead. You want people who take time out of their life to inform you about opportunities to know that you care. And those people will continue to assist you if you show appreciation.
Some job fairs have on-site interviews. Write down questions that confused or stumped you. Do you need to improve on public/professional speaking? How do you think you did at the job fair overall? Stop and assess yourself.
– Emails to representatives
You asked the right questions, you responded with the right answers. You slipped in a joke when appropriate. You smiled and your personality lit up the room. You even gave the neon sunglasses as an additional gesture. Now you can follow-up with a thank you email to the representative. Remember to include the LinkedIn/Vizify address at the end of your email. These resume-based sites have options for you to upload profile pictures. This is where they can put a face with the resume. That will bring you back to their memory. It’s all about standing out.
– What’s the goal?
Finding a job is tough. You have to keep the faith. Sometimes you can zoom in on trying to find the job and lose out on experiences such as job fairs. They offer opportunities for jobs, but they also allow you to understand what’s required of you. Take it all in. Your future is bright. You may very well need to save a pair of those neon sunglasses for yourself.