Rules of Engagement for Job Fair Attendance
Job Fairs are big business and there are literally hundreds of them held annually across the US. There is a lot of advice out there about preparation, engagement, and success.
There are different schools of thought here and you will see varying styles of dress. Wait for the actual interview to wear the suit and wear business casual to the job fair. Be mindful of tattoos, loud hair color and piercings other than on your ears (one pair only). While a lot of employers are becoming more accepting of the above mentioned, play it safe. You want them to remember your resume, not your appearance.
If given the option, always register in advance. For some job fairs, employers pay to participate and with that they get access to the resumes of all the registered participants. The good news here? If for some reason you can’t make it to the job fair, employers can sometimes still see your resume.
Bring a resume for each company you are interested in. Some companies will take your resume in person and some will direct you to their website. Do not worry about a cover letter at this point. In some instances, you will not know the employers attending in advance. In this case, I would bring 20 to play it safe and have business cards on hand should you run out of resumes. Be sure to also bring a pen and paper for notes. Writing a little note down after each booth will help your remember the employer and conversation.
Do some research on the companies you are interested in. Companies like it when job fair participants have done their homework. Companies want to know why you want to work for them and how you can contribute.
5. What to Say
Engage the employer rather than having them do all of the work. Doing your research will help with this. Let them know what you are looking for and ask them questions. Be careful of using military jargon; assume the other person has never been in the military. Also, treat this like a first date: no politics or religion.
Learn what you can from this. You do not have to do a full on AAR, but be mindful of what you have learned and how it can be used in the future. Keep it moving!
I know this one sounds strange but enjoy this experience. You have worked very hard and sacrificed much to get to here!
Turn the cell phone off!
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Recommendations by Jennifer Liddle, US Army Veterans, Veteran Employment Services Virtual Team Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org