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How to Get the Most Out of Job Fairs

With the new year almost here, many people start planning for a job search and many employers begin planning for their staffing needs.  Consequently, this is the time of year I like to do a brief refresher on how to work job fairs, as these can be an important component of any job search.

In my job fair posts from last year, I covered all the basics.  Rather than repeating all of that, I’d like to focus on the single biggest thing I saw people stumble on the most in the job fairs I’ve worked over the past year:  company research.

For some reason, a lack of company research seems particularly prevalent at job fairs.  I believe this may be because many people believe that the purpose of job fairs is to visit the booths to find out more about the companies in attendance.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

In the minds of employers, the purpose of job fairs is to find candidates for their current openings who are qualified enough to call in for an interview.  Yet, I estimate that over two thirds of the people who come by my booth at job fairs ask me what my company does – because they actually don’t know – and ask what kind of openings I have.  In other words, they’ve done zero research.

They give me a generic resume that has nothing to do with my company or my job openings and ask me to contact them if I have any jobs for which they are qualified.  Their attendance at the job fair was pretty much a waste of their time, as I seldom give further consideration to this type of approach.

Remember, job fairs list all the employers who will be attending in advance and many times will also list the job openings for each employer.  I recommend you pick the top three in which you’re interested (and for which you have the necessary qualifications) and thoroughly research them in advance.  Go to their web sites, review their current job postings and tailor a version of your resume for each of the companies, focusing on the single opening at each one for which you are the most qualified.

Then, take this one step further and prepare a 15–30 second elevator story about yourself that is customized for each of your three chosen employers.  This should be designed to tell in a few well-chosen sentences why you like their company and why you’re an excellent candidate for one of their specific openings.

This way, when you stop by their booth at the job fair, you’re prepared to tell them exactly why you’re a good fit for their company and you can leave them a resume that proves it.  You can do all this in less than one minute, shake their hand and move on.

Once the recruiter recovers from their jaw dropping open, you have an excellent chance of your resume being placed in the “call for an interview” stack!

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