Below is a tried and true format for achieving success from a career fair.
I have exhibited at hundreds of career fairs over the years. I’ve seen everything in my time at these events. The one thing that stands out the most is the lack of preparation job seekers have when they attend a career fair. Over the years I have coached thousands of individuals to career success. Below is my tried and true format for achieving success from a career fair.
Step 1: Read
When you arrive, or before if possible, read the list of employers who are in attendance and read the job descriptions or positions they have posted on their website. If you are particularly interested in an given employer or a job opportunity, be sure you do research about the company and/or skills required so you can speak intelligently with the recruiter and make a great first impression.
It is best to read the list of companies and job descriptions on the side, out of the main event, if possible. Also, if you read the list before, grab an updated list when you arrive, and re-read the list and job descriptions at the event. Companies may be added or taken off the list for a variety of reasons.
Step 2: Plan
After you have read the list, you know who will be in attendance, and you have an idea of what they are recruiting for, you should plan on how you would like to go around the room. The suggested plan changes based on the setup of the event. Usually, there will be 6-foot tables set up into rows. There is generally one door the coordinator wants you to go in and out.
Most people, when they enter the employers’ room start at the first table, closest to the door. I suggest you go to the opposite side of the room, the last row and begin moving up and down the rows one table at a time. I suggest you stop and talk to everyone, whether they have a posted position you like or not.
I suggest talking to every employer because recruiters have “pocket listings.” These are jobs they know about or have coming up, but have not been advertised yet. Also, recruiters talk to each other. The recruiter you are talking with may not have a job that interests you but does know of a company where you may be a great fit that they can recommend you add to your “prospect list.”
Step 3: Follow-up
After the event, follow up. At the end of each conversation, you should always ask for a business card for the person you spoke with. If they have one, take it. If they don’t, it’s ok, you can always find them on LinkedIn and follow up with a connection request.
If they give you a business card, you should send a follow-up email thanking them for their time at the career fair and asking them to keep you in mind if any suitable positions open, or if they hear of anyone looking to hire within your field.
Follow up is the area that can set you apart, but there is a difference between following up and stalking. If you don’t hear back from the recruiter, we recommend the ‘Rule of 3,’ where you follow up two additional times if they seem like they could be a good partner. For example, you can follow up a few days later, and then perhaps a week or two after that. Try different communication methods too. If you don’t hear back on an email, send them a LinkedIn message!