Top Tips for Successfully Navigating a Jobs Fair

Jobs & Careers

Top Tips for Successfully Navigating a Jobs Fair

By Victoria Loeb     Apr 3, 2018

Top Tips for Successfully Navigating a Jobs Fair

This article is part of the guide: EdSurge’s Guide to Landing a Job (or Finding the Perfect Candidate) .

You’re wearing your best business casual; your resume is printed; your business cards are ready to go. You walk into a room lined with company banners and hiring managers ready to give out free pens and candy to attract their perfect candidate. How do you make the most of those two hours? How do you set yourself apart from 300 other job seekers? As one of the leaders of EdSurge's Jobs Team, I've been on both sides and yes, I'm here to give you the skinny to help you get as much as possible from those two hours.

Be Ready! How to Prepare

Take a few minutes to check out this piece about how to make your resume stand out. Then do it! Before you head to a jobs fair, it's worth taking the time to make sure your resume, LinkedIn profile and business cards are all up-to-date. Hiring managers will wind up with a stack of resumes by the end of the fair. That means they'll scan each resume for a few seconds before deciding whether or not to read on. Make sure to put your best foot forward. Hiring managers will also often look you up on LinkedIn, so it's well-worth ensuring you are presenting your best self online as well.

Prep your elevator pitch: Jobs fairs are like speed-dating. You have only a few minutes to make yourself memorable. Hiring managers may speak to 50 or more qualified candidates in a single event so you want them to remember you when they look at your resume later. Condense your career story into relevant highlights, finishing with the goal of filling one of their open roles and practice saying it. Can you do it in less than a minute? Follow up with a short question–for example, “What are you looking for in this role?”

Know your sh*t: When you walk up to a table, you should know everything about the company that is searchable on the Internet. This will show hiring managers that you made an effort to prepare for the few minutes that you’ll spend with them and that you’re serious about the job opening you’re inquiring about. The goal here is to make a great first impression.

What to Do at the Fair

Prioritize your list: You’re going to a two-hour event where there are 30 companies. You want to meet with all of them. But prioritize your top five. You’ll want to factor in time to wait for the hiring manager to finish up a conversation (or a few if they’re popular!). You will also want to give yourself a little time to regroup after you’ve talked to a few hiring managers.

Keep it brief: You’re halfway through your life story and the hiring manager is smiling and looking at the line forming behind you. They are no longer concentrating on how great you could be in the role. (Did you condense your life story into a minute?) Remember this is about first impressions, not sealing the deal. If a hiring manager wants to engage in a longer conversation, follow their lead. But keep your intro to your career highlights and the goal that you prepped ahead of the fair short!

Get their deets: Here's a big hint: What happens after the jobs fair matters almost as much as what happens at the fair. Following up right after the fair ties together everything that is valuable about a jobs fair. You’ve made a great first impression in-person that is still fresh in their mind. Cement that first impression by following up and asking about next steps. This requires getting their business card or email address. Even if the hiring manager directs you to a general email like careers @ companynamedotcom, ask for their card or email. In your follow-up email, remind them of a unique detail that you two shared in your brief conversation, include your resume (again) and your reason for following up.

The value of jobs fairs is the human element. Instead of sending in an impersonal resume and then waiting to see if you will score an in-person interview, you have the opportunity to make a first impression live and connect with a real person. Don’t let the crowds intimidate you—this is your time to shine!

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