Here are some tips to help you navigate your next job fair to help keep anxiety at a minimum and have the best experience possible:
Arrive early. Job fairs tend to get very crowded the later in the day you go, meaning longer lines for popular companies. Also, recruiters are human and get tired at the end of a hectic day of meeting lots of people. Increase your chances of making a quality connection by catching them early on in the day.
Map out your strategy. Figure out before you go which employers are on your must meet list. Research those companies before the big day, so you have a general idea of who they are and what they do. Your time will be limited, so know your goal before you go.
QUICK TIP: Even if you go with a friend, visit employers alone – job fairs are not a plus one event.
Not the time to keep it casual. Dress as you would for any professional interview. Also, carry a notepad and pen/pencil in a briefcase or portfolio. You will want to take notes in between meeting employers – especially if you need to follow up with a company.
Approach company representatives with a smile and a firm handshake. Follow that initial positive impression by exhibiting good eye contact and a positive, confident manner. Be aware of your body language as you are talking to recruiters – no crossed arms during your conversation. Also, even though waiting in line can be boring, keep your cell phone out of sight and do not have it in your hand as you approach an employer.
Present your resume and be ready to discuss your qualifications and accomplishments. Don’t forget to ask relevant questions!
QUICK TIP: Don’t Loot the Booth! Even if the company is giving away lots of cool freebies!
Ask how to apply for openings if they don’t offer this information. Do not be discouraged if they refer you to their website to apply online. Many companies have a process of flagging applications of candidates of interest who were identified at a job fair. The first step is to apply! If they ask you to fill out an application on the spot, don’t be tempted to rush through it with messier than normal handwriting. Messy applications do not impress.
Obtain a business card from each representative.
Ask when you may expect to hear back from the company. If the recruiter either accepts your paper resume or directs you to apply online (or both!), ask what the next step in the process will be. This information is important for appropriate follow-up.
Respect the recruiter’s time. You are not the only person they will be meeting with that day. Be aware of social cues that your time has ended, thank they recruiter, and move on.
Write yourself some notes after each company visit — about your discussion and any follow-up necessary on your part. Be certain to do this each time you talk with a recruiter as by the end of the day, you will have talked to lots of people and it can be difficult to remember it all.