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How to Work a Job Fair

Are you having trouble getting your job search started? Have your leads dried up and you need to rejuvenate your search? Do you struggle with how to contact people? Job fairs may help.

Here's a sampling of what you can accomplish...

  • Job fairs are a great place to practice your "20-second commercial" - a brief statement that describes who you are professionally and captures your top 3 or 4 skills.
  • Get more comfortable with talking about yourself - skills, gifts, accomplishments, goals, career direction and how you add value.
  • Research companies and potential jobs - ask questions about company products, services, growth and also types of positions, training, advancement, and benefits.
  • Interview employment agencies and search firms - they're always there - to see if you might want to sign up with them. Do they seem ethical, helpful, handle type of positions/pay ranges you're looking for, and work with companies that interest you? Do they charge you or the company that hires you - don't assume you know.
  • Networking - Networking - Networking!!! Booths at job fairs are managed by recruiters and sometimes, by hiring managers. If your skills aren't what they're looking for, ask for the name of the recruiter you should be talking to as well as any names of managers you could call directly. Talk to other job seekers - you may be able to help each other.
  • Interviews can happen on the spot. Be prepared. Follow all guidelines from the interviewing workshop - have several resumes, a portfolio to write in, notes and prepared questions. As in any interview, speak openly about your skills and accomplishments, answer questions fully, show how you'll add value, and ask questions. If you're interested, show it, ask about next steps and send a thank you letter.
  • Job fairs don't always result in opportunities and yet, they are at least a good way to get out among employers, hone your self presentation skills, and talk to other people.

Job Fairs

Strategies to help you stand out...

  • Choose appropriate job fairs for your area of skill and interest - find them through the job section in the newspaper, the Internet, your Career Services Job Developer, and other job seekers.
  • Identify what companies will be there (through the career fair website) and thoroughly research them.
  • Prepare your 'commercial' and be ready to express your skills and how you contribute.
  • Bring copies of your standard resume, notebook, pen.
  • Dress professionally - it does make a difference.
  • Arrive early before the crowds and when the recruiters are still fresh.
  • Walk the circuit, gathering information, then sit down and plan who you want to approach, what you want to say, what questions to ask.
  • Establish rapport with each person - smile, eye contact, strong handshake.
  • Listen carefully, get their name and business card, leave a resume if appropriate.
  • Don't monopolize someone's time - come back later if you want to talk more.
  • Ask about next steps in the recruiting process.
  • Thank each person, be gracious, appreciate the time they've given you.

After the event...

  • Send a thank you email to each recruiter you spoke with and attach your resume (Word doc and text).
  • If interested in a position, apply directly on their website mentioning your contact in the cover letter. Email your contact and let them know you've officially applied.
  • Reflect on how you did and what you want to do differently next time.
  • Plan how to best follow up again in about two weeks.
  • Develop a system to track potential leads and recruiters.