Leveraging Job Fairs to Stand Out From the Herd

The season of job fairs is upon us again.  You have your professional outfit prepped.  Shoes polished - check.  50 copies of your resume – check. Your lucky pen -  check. Your portfolio – check.  GPS’d the location – check.  Extra money for parking  – check.  Your “elevator speech” polished – check.  Good to go!?!  Well, yes but…

As a professional, you know to leverage your time and resources for maximum effect.  That’s what all that pre-planning and prep was about.  Nonetheless, the nature of job fairs has changed dramatically.  The reality is that very few “hires” occur at these types of events anymore due to the intricacies of the hiring process, not to mention the legalities.  So how do you make the best use of all these employers in one place in your own backyard?

Job Fair Preparations to Set Yourself Apart

Review the Employers.  First, identify the employers that will be attending, visit their websites or Indeed.com and look at the positions that they have posted.  Do not get discouraged if you see your dream job, but it is open on the other side of the country.  The larger the company, the likelier a similar position will be open in your area soon.

Apply on Line.  Apply online for those positions that you are willing to accept.  Be sure to have the position number and your applicant number (if applicable) with you when you communicate with the company and representatives.  Where possible apply on the company website.  If it is a small company and positions are only available on a job board such as Indeed or Monster, apply there.

Research the Decision Makers.  Using LinkedIn, the company’s website, and their social media sites try to identify the decision makers for hiring.  Look for their bios and professional information.  Additionally, do your best to identify who will be representing the company at the job fair.  Research them via professional listings and your network.  The intent here is to put a face on the employer and to send the message that you have done your homework.

Pre-Job Fair Communication.  While this is not always possible with large companies, if you are able to, communicate with the company that you are excited about their being at the job fair and the opportunity to meet them there.  Make a point to reach out to any of your contacts within that company about your interest and availability during the job fair.  Attempt to arrange an informational interview with the representative about the organizational culture and work climate while the staff is there either before or after the event.

On-Site.  Visit the representative at the company booth(s) to introduce yourself in person so that they have a face and personality to match with the application.  Do have extra copies of your resume for them to have access to when meeting with the representative as a courtesy (Wi-Fi is not always accessible or available to them).  Do not be surprised if the representative requests that you send the resume digitally. 

Be Strategic and Open.  While these preparations will help you focus your time and energy on high-potential employers, there may be other employers present that you don’t know.  Take the time to explore.  Consider less traditional employers and think beyond job titles to skill sets.  Open your lens to the opportunities that may be out there.

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Article by Charlie Livings, Regional Director, East Alabama/Columbus GA clivings@ssv.org