A job fair is the best way to explore careers with several organizations at one time. There are job fairs for specific industries and specialties, as well as fairs bringing together a wide variety of employers filling many positions. These are employers that you know are hiring, or they wouldn’t be spending a day at a career fair. With a little preparation, you can impress potential employers and be on your way to a new position.

Before the Fair

You should get a list of companies that will be attending when you register for the fair. Take note of which ones you are particularly interested in talking with and plan to target them first. You will most likely have a map of where employers will be located at the fair, so use that to plan your strategy. Spend some time researching all the companies that will be attending. Interviewers will be impressed if you can speak intelligently about their organization. Prepare a 30-second speech (sometimes called an “elevator pitch” or “commercial”) highlighting your skills, strengths and the value you bring to an employer. Practice your speech until it is smooth and sounds natural.

At the Fair

Arrive early, you will be able to speak with the interviewers when they are still fresh, before you begin to blend in with all the others they have met. Dress professionally, as you would for an interview—a suit is the best choice for both men and women. Bring more copies of your resume than you think you will need—the worst thing would be to run out before you’ve met with every employer. Carry a portfolio with pens and paper for taking notes.

Follow your plan to meet with your preferred employers first. Greet every interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake and be sure to make plenty of eye contact. Give them your prepared speech and ask how they feel your skills and background may fit in with the organization. Ask as many questions as you can, using them to show that you’ve researched the company as well as learning more about possible openings. Don’t waste time asking if they’re hiring. Ask instead what positions they feel might be right for you. Ask as many questions as you can without wearing out your welcome or monopolizing the recruiter’s time—they have a lot of other people to meet.

Finish by stating your interest in working for the company and indicating that you will be following up. Be sure to get a business card, or at least the interviewer’s name (ask them to spell it) and position. Thank the interviewer for their time and move on, repeating the process at each booth.

After the Fair

Follow up with all companies of interest. Send a letter to the person you met, reiterating your strengths and interest in working for the company. If possible, include information to remind them who you are, for instance, “I was the one who also went to State U.” Include another copy of your resume and ask about the best way to proceed.

Written By: Ben Bontekoe

Posted in Career Enhancement.