How to Turn a Job Fair into a Job Opportunity

Three professionals working together
When you’re hungry, a snack will do. If you have the time, a gourmet five-course meal can be a thing of beauty. But if you’re really hungry? A trip to the buffet is your best bet.

Job fairs can be the employment equivalent of buffet dining — but instead of “all you can eat,” it’s all you can meet. We asked Aerotek recruiting experts for their advice on how to make sure your next job fair delivers a full plate of job opportunities.

Read the menu
Just as you’d look at reviews or browse the menu before visiting a new restaurant, get as much information as you can about the employers who’ll be a job fair.

Aerotek Senior Professional Account Recruiting Manager Terrence Weaver says, “Research which companies are going to be at the career fair, and know going in what you like about each company and how it matches up with your values.” Weaver adds, “Then, when talking to employers, you can reference your research and talk about how you see the company lining up with your abilities.”

But don’t stop at research. Aerotek Recruiter Sally Schmidt suggests filling out an application — any application — in the field you’re interested in. “This will give you a gauge on what positions you’re applying for, and what particular skill sets are considered most valuable. If you already know your own basic application information, you’ll be as prepared as possible for the job fair.” 

Set the table
If you brought your own fork, knife, spoon and napkin to a restaurant, you might get a few sideways glances from other patrons. At a job fair, however, bringing your own materials is encouraged. 

Aerotek Senior Professional Account Recruiting Manager Jane Champion recommends, “Bring your resume, a basic cover letter, current business cards if you have them, and reference names and numbers to hand out.” 

Don’t worry about bringing too much; it’s better than not bringing enough. Sally Schmidt says, “Bring over 30 copies of your resume and a notepad for notes.” 

“Don’t be afraid to go over one page on your resume,” adds Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Bethany Jordan. “Make sure to show relevant experience. And if you push a skill on your resume, be prepared to speak about what you’ve done with that skill.” 

Terrence Weaver has spent his fair share of time on the other side of the table at job fairs, and according to him, having your resume with you shows you’re prepared. “Providing strong references also allows candidates to stand out from other candidates with similar resumes. Also, bring a notebook and a pen. This allows you to record notes, and shows potential employers you’re engaged and proactive.”

The early bird special
Job fairs, like buffet-style restaurants, can be a great option for savvy customers who know all the angles. Both have an early bird special. Want to stick out to an  employer? Be the first person they talk to at a job fair.

“In the beginning of the fair, recruiters and managers are very excited to meet potential candidates and are ready to have great conversations,” says Sally Schmidt. “Toward the middle and end, recruiters and managers have already had so many conversations, even great candidates can get lost in the shuffle.”

Fill your plate
The buffet line is no place to be picky. When you have options, take the opportunity to try a little bit of everything.

“Don’t be shy about talking to every employer there. They’re all there to hire,” says Aerotek Recruiter Lead Travis Young. “Worst case scenario, you’ll see what positions employers have available and learn more about their companies.” 

Young suggests approaching every conversation with a good attitude and an eagerness to learn — it’ll show employers that you’re more than just a resume. 

If you’re more of an introvert, Sally Schmidt recommends building your confidence by playing the part. She says, “Dressing in a suit or blazer will get you in a professional mindset and help you feel more prepared.” 

Ask for a to-go box
Most buffet restaurants don’t let you take home unlimited leftovers. That’s not the case with job fairs. The more you take home, the better your chances of getting to the next step in your job hunt.

While you’re at the event, Travis Young says, “Take notes on the conversations you had, and who you talked to.” 

Sally Schmidt adds, “Don’t forget to ask for a business card. That way you can send a follow-up email with an electronic copy of your resume and a recap of the conversation you had.”

Another great thing about taking notes, according to Young, “When you’re brought in for an interview, they can be a great resource to refer back to.”
Are you looking at job fairs in your area? If so, keep an eye out for Aerotek. Some of the recruiting experts who’ve shared their thoughts in this article might even be in attendance. 

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