We’ve updated our take on career fairs. You know, the thing some hiring pros think are a waste of time? Here at Corridor Careers, our team still feel that job fairs are a valuable way for job seekers and hiring professionals to interact – especially if the job seeker does some prep-work first.
Whether you’re actively seeking employment or just starting to think about switching jobs, time spent at a local career fair can be worth it. Check out our upcoming career fair in Cedar Rapids October 12th, 2017.
It’s tricky figuring out how to stand out of a crowd of applicants, but the simple approach often works best: don’t try too hard, and keep it professional. If you’re looking to land at a startup, you might dress a bit more casually, but it doesn’t hurt to keep your interview clothes boring, modest and neutral. For men, a jacket and golf shirt and slacks will be fine, for women, a pencil skirt or slacks paired with a neutral top and a jacket will serve you well. And keep in mind, this is the midwest, not L.A. or NYC.
Job Opening Details
The best benefit job seekers can enjoy at a career fair is learning about all the details of job opportunities in your area. Company representatives in attendance will be able to give insights on all their current job openings as well as the business’ hiring process.
Pro Tip: Copies of your resume might not be accepted as more companies utilize electronic record systems for applicants – but make sure you can talk articulately about your past experience and merits. Some fairs will have kiosks where you can apply online for positions right then and there.
Networking – Advertising Yourself
Even if your choice employer isn’t attending the fair, career fairs are a great opportunity to practice your networking skills and make valuable professional connections. Practice introducing yourself to a few people prior to the fair. Keep it simple, “Hi, I’m [insert name]. I’m interested in opportunities in X industry.” These professional connections can lead to many things like a new mentor, peer and maybe even a future job opportunity.
Pro Tip: Be ready to talk (with strangers!) Listen, respond and be conversational and ask questions so the conversation is two-sided and not just about you.
A career fair can be like months of interviewing crammed into one evening. It’s great practice for you to hone down your interview skills in a casual setting. You’ll have plenty of chances to practice your handshake, answer the types of questions employers ask and get information about local businesses and industries.
Pro Tip: Listen carefully to the questions employers are asking. Take note of the repeat questions and try to make your answer better every time. These are questions they likely ask during interviews for job openings.
Examples from a prepared job seeker:
Think of a quick 30 second “pitch” conversation for companies you have a strong interest in. Start out with introducing yourself followed by one quick question either specific to the company or a generic question involving the company culture. Then proceed to talk about yourself very BRIEFLY noting a relevant experience you’ve had or something that might click with the interviewer (think speed dating). Conclude by asking for the person’s card and offer to follow up with them after.
Send follow-up emails after the career fair thanking the person for their time and mentioning a topic you discussed in your conversation. I then end the email with a tidbit about an upcoming event the company is having or an application that you have with the company.
Lastly, another benefit of attending a career fair is simply learning about different industries and businesses in your region. Career fairs are an open invitation to learn more about the industry you want to work in as well as other industries that may interest you.
Pro Tip: Bring a pen (or two), a notepad and something to stuff your papers in. Pick up fliers and pamphlets from businesses you’re interested in to learn about any requirements, certifications, education and training opportunities.
Career fairs have a slew of benefits for jobseekers, no matter what stage of the hunt you’re in. Check out our free template for making the most out of your career fair experience.