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Career Fair Success Strategies for Job-Seekers
by Maureen Crawford Hentz
Career Fairs can occasionally be intimidating. As a job-seeker, you must distinguish yourself from hundreds or even thousands of other job applicants. The following are a few simple strategies to help you stand out from the crowd.
- Find a Fair. Many career fairs are free, but some require a registration
and/or fee. The first place to look for a career fair is your alma mater. Colleges
and universities routinely hold career fairs for students and alumni. Call your
college's career service office and find out if you need to register and what the
general format of the fair will be.
- Choose the Right Fair. You probably don't want to waste your time at a medical-technology fair if you are looking for a position in education. Do your research. If possible, get the names of companies that will be recruiting at the fair. Hosting agencies often post an abridged list to attract job-seekers like you.
- Arrive Early. As a career-fair recruiting veteran, I can confidently attest that my ability to remember names, faces, and details of candidates waned as the day went on. Rolling my materials into each career fair, I set up my table in eager anticipation of the fabulous candidates I would find. As the fair picked up, while my eagerness never diminished, my ability to remember candidate details did. Go early to ensure quality time with the recruiters.
- Do a Reconnaissance Circuit First. When you get to the fair, don't go into a frenzy of resume dropping-off. Sit down with the program and decide on the order in which you will talk to recruiters. Many career fair veterans agree that beginning in the back of the room and working your way to the front is the way to go -- you are seeing recruiters fresh, while people who started in the front may be starting to lose energy. While you are getting the lay of the land, pick up information from the tables. Information, as well as freebies such as pens, magnets, and stress balls, are there for the taking. Gather information on companies of particular interest and sit down in the candidate lounge. Information may include company annual reports, brochures, and a list of open positions. Review the materials so that you have a starting point for conversation with each recruiter.
- Have a Booth Speech. Too many times I would see candidates going down a row of tables asking the dreaded question "Can you tell me a little bit about your company?" As a recruiter, no matter how much you like to talk to people, this question becomes old quickly. Better to have a booth speech that you give to the recruiter. "Hello Aurora, I wanted to introduce myself to you. My name is Janet Ridge. I am an Asian-studies trainer with six years of experience, and I wanted to talk to you about the Training Specialist vacancy at XYZ Company." [Editor's note: See our article, The Elevator Speech is the Swiss Army Knife of Job-Search Tools.]
- Hone In. As you begin talking, the recruiter then may ask
you questions about yourself or tell you about the position. Ensure that
you make eye contact and listen carefully for tidbits that are not mentioned
in the written materials. If you are interested in the company or a position
therein, ask for the recruiter's business card and leave a resume.
- Don't be a Booth Buffoon. Recruiters are there to find
many good candidates -- not just one. Don't monopolize a recruiter by
taking all his/her time. If a line develops behind you, be sensitive to that.
Say something like "Thank you so much for speaking with me. I see you
have quite a line, and I don't want to monopolize your time." Then, get
out of the way. If you are particularly interested in making another
contact, it is fine to come back again when the line has died down.
- After the Fair. Follow-up is extremely important.
Recruiters will collect hundreds or thousands of resumes at a large
career fair. If you are interested in applying for a specific position, go to
the company Web site and apply directly using the company's preferred
format. Open your cover letter by indicating that you discovered the
position at theAsiaAlive! Career Fair and in speaking with recruiter
Aurora Crawford, you became convinced that this was the position
for you. You may also want to follow up with an email to the recruiter
directly, if that information is on the business card.
Career Fairs don't have to be intimidating. Remember that the recruiters are there to find you. Recruiters' success is determined by sourcing appropriate candidates and funneling them toward the company. Remember that you are what they are looking for. Employing these success strategies is sure to make a difference in the kind, quantity and quality of your career-fair interactions.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Regular QuintZine contributor Maureen Crawford Hentz is manager of talent acquisition, development and compliance for OSRAM SYLVANIA Inc., a Siemens company. She is a nationally recognized expert on social networking and new media recruiting. With more than15 years of experience in the recruiting, consulting and employment areas, her interests include college student recruiting, disabilities in the workplace, business etiquette, and GLBT issues. Crawford Hentz has been quoted by The New York Times, NewsDay, The Boston Globe, and National Public Radio, among others. In addition to her work for QuintZine, she is a contributor to the Boston.com HR blog. She conducts workshops, keynotes and conference sessions nationally. Crawford Hentz holds a master of arts degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, and a bachelor of arts degree in international studies from The American University, Washington, DC. She lives outside Boston, MA.
Review all our career fair tools and resources in the Job Expo and Career Fair Resources section of Quintessential Careers.
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