Being Successful at Job Fairs

SC&C prepare for job fair“I’m going to the job fair.  Are you coming or not?

“Job fair?  Are you kidding?  No one ever gets a job from a job fair anymore.

Ahem!  Mikey?  Gem?  Sue?

“Aberrations, that’s all.  They didn’t get the jobs they wanted.  They could be spending time online like me trying to find the right job—something permanent.

“Just in case you never noticed  All jobs are temporary!  Besides, what has all your research gotten you?  You’re still unemployed.  At least those guys have something to put on their resumes as well as a lot of knowledge about the recruiters at the job fair.

Will the go-getter convince the researcher?  Let’s look at the arguments.

Make a Good First Impression

Job or career fairs are a great opportunity to make a good first impression with recruiters.  You get to introduce yourself, find out about their company, learn about their corporate culture, and what to expect if you decide to work there.  What an incredible advantage that will be.  Imagine if you could make a great pre-impression.

Most fairs allow you to pre-register.  This, in turn, gives recruiters a chance to scan resumes ahead of time and make a list of people they would like to see.  How great would it be if you walked up to a recruiter and they said, “Oh are you [name] that developed [something]?  I was hoping you would drop by!”

It’s hard to over-emphasize the importance of these face-to-face meetings; you can make personal connections that could grease the wheels when it comes time to apply at your favorite company.

Personal Connection with Hiring Manager

SC&C making personal connectionsWouldn’t you love to walk into an interview and be able to say, “Hey, Shirley great to see you again!  It’s me, Randal.  We met at the Career Fair and talked about <etc.>…”

You’re now about three steps up on any of the competition still waiting to be interviewed because she knows you, and people will pick the familiar over the unknown 9 times out of 10.

Have a Plan or Strategy before Attending Job Fair

To garner the greatest benefit from these fairs you need to have a plan or strategy right from the beginning.

  • Know which companies are going to be there. Don’t go in blind.  You can easily find out who is going to be there, so pick your top eight companies and check out their websites.  It only makes it easier and narrows your search and focus.
  • Decide which attendees you will connect with.
  • Save aimless wandering for after you have accomplished your set goals. Stumbling upon something fascinating is a bonus, to be sure, but finish what you set out to do before you get distracted.
  • Dress appropriately, as if you were headed out for an interview. Shorts and a tank top might be comfortable, but you’ll lose points for having no charisma and standing out like a sore thumb.
  • Look professional to be perceived as professional. Business clothes will place you head and shoulders above the others that thought clothes don’t matter.

William Jones, a director in the Rutgers University Career Services office says, “When you research the organizations that are expected to attend the fair beforehand, you may surprise them with your knowledge, and impress them with the initiative you took to research the company’s mission, purpose, and clients served.”

Remember, these recruiters are meeting hundreds or thousands of people daily, so you have to be prepared to stand out.  Dropping off a resume at each table is going to do next to nothing for you.  You need to smile, shake hands firmly, make solid eye-contact and be enthusiastic.  You’re going to be armed with thought provoking questions that show them that you did your homework.

Prepare to Answer Questions

Most importantly, you’re going to be prepared to answer questions about yourself.  Hemming and hawing will knock you right out of contention.  They’ll say “Tell me about yourself,” and you need to be able to tell them your interests and how they relate to that company – remember to use corporate speak, not military jargon, as some may not relate to that language.

Answer with what you think you could contribute and how you think you could grow there.  Talking about some new aspect of their company that is in the news can impress them, especially if you suggest an interesting angle or offshoot related to it.  That shows them that you can think.

Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, and star of MTV’s “Hired” says job fairs are all about the personal touch. “They get the candidate right in front of the company and, if executed correctly, that can get them far closer than just applying online. Job fairs are also a great way to discover new companies, ask questions, get career advice, and meet other candidates that are also on the job hunt.”

Network with Other Job Seekers

SC&C network with other job seekersRemember to network with fellow job seekers to see if they know of opportunities that might be outside their wheelhouse but well-suited for you.  And don’t forget to eavesdrop while you’re in line to speak with recruiters.  What they say to others can be incorporated into your questions to make you stand out from the crowd.

Apply after the Day Is Over

When you’re done for the day, having collected all the business cards you can, remember to apply online to the companies that interested you, and follow up with an e-mail to the recruiter to let them know that you have done so.  Talking and giving out resumes sets the stage.  Now it’s time to become an actor and walk out upon it and grab a spotlight.

Knowing you followed through is a big plus to recruiters.  You’ll move from the collection of resumes to the “Applied” pile, and you’ll be in their mind when it comes time to see them again.

So hit those fairs, impress the recruiters, and garner the benefits of being a go-getter!

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of senior military and other personnel transition their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200 or visit their LinkedIn page at

Posted in Military Transition and tagged , .