Making Conversations Count at a Career Fair
Career Fairs provide the opportunity to connect face-to-face with recruiters who make hiring decisions and can help you network for other positions within a company. A bit of preparation for your recruiter conversations will help you maximize your time, feel confident, and make a good impression at the event.
Your preparation for the career fair will also help you in any situation related to your job search from a casual meeting that turns to talk of looking for a job to an interview.
- Research the companies. By doing so you'll know what business the company is in and a bit about the culture and current events. By knowing more about the company you'll be able to communicate in a clear and knowledgeable fashion and present yourself in a way that relates to the needs of the company.
- Practice introducing yourself with family or friends to get your handshake and delivery to its best point. Smile, look the recruiter in the eye, shake hands and say "Hello my name is Jamie Smith and I am very interested in learning more about your open positions." Update and review your resume - you want an error-free document that highlights your skills and experiences in a broad manner that can apply to many positions.
- Jot down questions you plan to ask and review them the night before the event.
- Think of questions you may be asked and what your answers will be. For example, "Why would you like to work at ABC Company?" or "How does your experience relate to sales management at XYZ Industries?" or "Tell me a bit about your background and experience."
- Prepare a 30 second marketing pitch about yourself and when the recruiter asks about your qualifications you'll be able to answer in a confident, self-assured manner.
- Speak clearly and do not interrupt.
- Ask open-ended questions that help you gather information- "What types of positions in addition to sales do you typically recruit for?" "What type of background and experience do you find to be most successful in the management training program?"
- Stay focused on the topics of the company, open jobs, and your potential fit.
- Once you answer a question give the employer time to reflect on what you said and to follow up with another question or statement.
- Don't be hesitant to talk to an employer just because the booth is next to a recruiter with whom you've just spoken- this is expected at a Career Fair. Professional recruiters expect you to get as much out of the fair as you can and by doing so; you need to meet with as many people as possible.
Closing Your Conversation
You've shown the recruiters that you're serious about finding a new career. You dressed professionally for the event, prepared your questions, and you were enthusiastic and polite. Remember that there are many people at the event, so you need to be sensitive to the time spent with each recruiter. Once you've delivered your message, answered questions, and established your interest in the position it is time to thank the recruiter, get a business card and state that you will follow up.
For the positions where you have genuine interest and saw a fit with your skills and experience send a follow up email to the recruiter saying that you enjoyed meeting them and learning more about their company and would like the opportunity to move the process forward. If there were companies that did not have a job that was right for you but you have interest in other positions in the company you can follow up and ask the recruiter for another contact in the organization.
Every Meeting is an Opportunity
Each event is an opportunity to make connections: for an open job, to another recruiter in the company that handles your area of expertise, or even with other people attending the event. You've made the effort to get out there, so make the most of each meeting and it may become your next career.