People who are unemployed or simply looking for their next position are often at a loss how to proceed. In many instances, they were never taught how to begin a successful job search, not to mention the nuances of attending and participating in events such as Career Fairs.
My recruiting experience began in 1981 as a contingent recruiter. In 1992, I became a contract recruiter for MCI. We had a great 30-month experience. As a result of my strategy and our teamwork, my hiring managers and I were able to recruit 143 IT professionals to Cedar Rapids, IA in 12 months – not an easy feat! In 1993, I began to recruit at Career Fairs. Since that time I have worked over 100 Career Fairs for clients – and was paid to speak to groups of candidates at many of them on how to successfully work a Career Fair.
What is your attitude as a candidate preparing to attend a Career Fair? If it is anything less than to expect to meet great people and possibly find a job, you are selling your opportunity short. This is a great opportunity to network with these recruiters – and possibly to network to an interview with a company not attending the Career Fair.
How many of you are involved in sales? Not necessarily as a job, but anywhere in your life? Approximately 5% of you will disagree with me, based on my speaking experience. This is Very Important. We all are involved in sales. It may be as simple as trying to convince a child to finish their dinner, go to bed early, or finish homework. It may be asking someone to go on a date (You don’t think that is sales??). It could be trying to convince a fellow employee to perform a task more efficiently.
Therefore, participating in a Career Fair is an important sales opportunity for you. Don’t let that discourage you. On the other side of the table, the recruiters have more of an incentive to Sell You on their opportunities – if they understand their role.
Think about this question. What truly makes you happy? In talking to thousands of candidates, I have heard many answers to that question. Doesn’t it come down to 2 key elements?
1) Am I making a positive, measurable impact? And,
2) Am I having Fun?
If both elements are there, typically money takes care of itself.
Before the Fair
Like all sales opportunities, working a Career Fair requires preparation and practice. Some of the preparation is very simple. Some of the preparation takes more effort and time.
1) Know the type of position that you want to target. This is very important! As a recruiter with a line of potential candidates behind you, one of the last things I want to hear you say is “What jobs do you have?” My thought immediately is, “NEXT!” And I have heard candidates say that hundreds of times.
2) Go to the Career Fair website and see which companies are participating. One or more of your target companies may have booths. Check out their websites and listings of jobs. Remember not all jobs are posted on a company’s Careers posting. Typically, their director and other executive positions are not on the website.
3) Look closely at your targeted companies’ websites. In particular look at their press releases for tidbits of information that you may be able to use during your conversation with the recruiter.
4) Look at the ads in the paper and on the Internet prior to the Career Fair. You may see a pattern of needs that fits your experience and skills. Be prepared to address them in your conversation with the recruiter.
5) Prepare your introduction to them. In my book, RecruiterGuy’s Guide To Finding A Job on Kindle, I call it the “Here I Am” speech. You may have heard it discussed as the “One Minute Commercial”, “Elevator Speech”, or “Tell Me About Yourself”. Practice your introduction prior to the Career Fair.
6) Prepare your Resume. Bring at least 10 more copies than you believe you will need.
7) Dress professionally. This is a sign of respect to the people spending hours working the fair to potentially help you find your dream job.
During one of the Career Fairs that I worked in Iowa, a gentleman came in the door wearing a clown suit. He was overheard saying that companies were so desperate to find workers, he would get a job dressed as a clown. Unfortunately for the clown, he gave his resume to a number of companies who networked with the rest of us to identify him. Not good.
During the Fair
Each Career Fair is organized differently. Some ask for pre-registration with a resume. Others simply look for walk-ins. As a recruiter, I prefer the pre-registration route. You may actually hear from me ahead of the Fair if I see and like your resume.
If the organizers do not print a layout of the booths the night prior to the Fair, ask for one at the door. They will have them for the companies who are participating with booths – or there would be absolute chaos. Try to get there a little early and mark the companies that interest you. I suggest that you mark them as 1, 2, or 3 with most interest as #1.
Here’s a little secret! Just between us. Please do not tell anyone else!
If you have any #1’s furthest from the entrance, go to them first. This is like Disney World! Get away from the crowds. Typically, people herd down the rows front to back. This may give you an opportunity to speak to a top potential before the line forms.
After you have spoken with them, treat the balance of the Fair as you would if you were a professional football general manager. Pick the best available on your list as they are available or their lines are short. Sometimes you just have to wait in line. That is the game. We are simply trying to improve your odds of talking to everyone on your list. At the same time, some company may not have made your list. While you are there look at all of them in passing. A surprise company may attract your attention.
One of my clients was De La Rue. They were a great British based company (still are). They used to print 60% of the world’s currency (could be more or less now). I was working a Career Fair for them with De La Rue all over my booth. A young man began to walk past me. Since there were no candidates in my booth, I asked him what he was looking for. He said that he was looking for an international company!! He was going to walk past me! I sent his resume to London.
At The Company’s Booth
This is important news. Some company recruiters do not know how to properly work a Career Fair. Generally, you can tell who they are. They sit behind a table and look bored. Then they tell candidates to send their resumes online where they also have to complete an application prior to submitting an application. As a recruiter, I love those recruiters because I snag what could be great candidates from them! They do frustrate great candidates.
If you do find a great recruiter, the temptation is to try to interview right there and then because now you are getting a little desperate. Unless they invite you to interview right now (and sometimes I do), let them discuss culture, position, and ask you qualifying questions. If you are interested, let them know. Ask if there is any additional information they need now. If not, let them get on with their afternoon or evening – and you proceed to your next company. But you are not done with them.
Briefly – Give a firm handshake but don’t break fingers. Practice good eye contact but it’s not a staring contest! Be succinct. Don’t just collect giveaways – they make terrible stocking stuffers. Be a good listener – if there is not a match, simply accept that reality and move on.
Collect a manager’s card if she/he will give one to you. Usually it is generic and leads to their online postings.
Before you leave the Fair, circle back to the companies where you had substantive discussions and quickly reiterate your high level of interest. Thank them for their time and leave.
After the Fair
Send hand written Thank You notes to recruiters or managers who spent time with you. Include another copy of your resume. This is called marketing.
Keep good records of your conversations with companies.
Finally, prior to an interview with these companies, research them. Understand their history, their future direction (quarterly calls may give some direction), anticipate any problems they may be experiencing and be prepared to offer potential solutions if the topic arises.
Following these directions will give you the potential to land your job from a Career Fair! Good Luck!
Bill Humbert is available for speaking and training contracts.
©1999-2016 B. Humbert – Provocative Thinking Consulting, Inc. – USA 01-435-714-4425 RecruiterGuy@msn.com The right to reprint is hereby granted, as long as the copyright notice and contact information remain with the article.