Quintessential Careers:
Career and Job Fair Do's and Don'ts

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

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  • Here are the keys to successfully navigating a career or job fair. Follow these simple rules and you should achieve success in this important strategic tool of job-hunting.

    • Do have a specific strategy for maximizing your time at the event. And don't bother spending time with recruiters from companies that do not interest you.

    • Do pre-register for the event, and do attempt to get the list of attending companies before the career fair.

    • Don't eliminate companies because they are recruiting for positions outside your field; take the time to network with the recruiter and get the name of a hiring manager for your particular career field.

    • Do attempt to research basic information about each company you hope to interview with at the job fair. A common career fair question from recruiters is, "Why do you want to work for our company?"

    • Don't just drop your resume on the recruiter's table and walk off.

    • Do prepare a one-minute "commercial" that focuses on the unique benefits you can offer the employer - your unique selling proposition. And do be prepared for common interview questions.

    • Do be prepared to talk about your work experiences, skills, and abilities. And for college students, do be prepared for a question about your GPA by some recruiters. (And do use the GPA -- overall, college, major -- that makes you look the strongest.)

    • Don't be afraid or intimidated by the recruiter; he or she is there to do a job -- to meet and screen potential candidates.

    • Do have a few questions prepared for each recruiter, but don't ask questions that any good job-seeker should already know, such as "What does your company do?" Do check out these Questions to Ask at Career and Job Fairs.

    • Do say the recruiter's name several times during your conversation, even if you have to keep glancing at the recruiter's nametag. And do get a business card (or at least contact information) from each recruiter.

    • Don't forget to eliminate such bad habits as playing with your hair, chewing gum, fidgeting, rocking from side-to-side, acting distracted, rubbing your nose, etc.

    • Do remember all the keys to successful interviewing, including a firm handshake, a warm smile, eye contact, and a strong voice.
    • Don't use filler words such as "um", "like", "you know."

    • Do bring enough copies of your resume to the career fair. And do bring different versions of your resume if you are searching for different types of jobs.

    • Do take advantage of the time you have to build rapport with each recruiter, but don't monopolize their time.

    • Don't ever just walk up to a booth and interrupt a current conversation; wait your turn and be polite.

    • Do dress professionally -- conservative is always the safe choice. (Do read our article, When Job-Hunting: Dress for Success.) And do wear comfortable shoes.

    • Don't waste the opportunity to network, not only with the recruiters, but with fellow job-seekers and other professionals in attendance at the career fair.

    • Don't ever say anything negative to the recruiter about your college or previous jobs, companies, or supervisors.

    • Do be sure to ask about the hiring process of each company, but don't ask too many questions about salaries, vacation time, and other benefits.

    • Do take the initiative and ask about the next step in the process. And do be prepared to follow-up all job leads.

    • Do be sure to follow-up with each recruiter. Some experts say to call and leave a message on their voicemail right after the job fair, but at a minimum you should send each recruiter a thank you letter. (Do read this sample career fair thank you letter.)

    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.

    QuintCareers.com Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com.

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