How to maximize your job fair experience

Career fair tips

 

When you think of attending a job fair, what comes to mind?

  1. A bunch of college-aged students clamoring for the same job at a top company.

  2. People standing in long lines for a chance to drop a resume in front of a recruiter.

  3. Booths handing out more pens and candy than job opportunities.

While we admit there may be a little truth to all of these, there are also many smart reasons to attend job fairs:

  • They’re an excellent way to network with your peers and potential employers.

  • You’ll have a chance to improve your interview skills.

  • You get information, insights and feedback from real people in real time.

  • You’ll reach many potential employers in one place, in one day.

So before you rely solely on job boards, LinkedIn and personal connections (all of which are still great), take a second look at what a job fair can do for you and take a look at our tips on how to optimize your experience.

Avoid questions you can easily find on Google

Business Insider recommends you ask questions you can’t find doing a simple search on the Internet. Questions you can easily find online include benefits, paid time off and culture facts. While these are great to know, part of your homework at a job fair is to find out what fits for you. After all, you’re interviewing employers as much as they're interviewing you.

Try asking recruiters questions like:

  • How does your company deal with industry changes?

  • Why do you personally like working here?

  • What are your retention rates? Do you keep most employees long-term?

  • What are some hidden perks of working here?

 

Desk interview

 

Observe and interact with other job seekers

Try not to think of attendees at job fairs as your competition. Your skill sets, personality and work history are different than everyone else’s. By getting to know other job seekers, you’ll soon find out that your goals and career aspirations are unique to you. This should be a great confidence builder.

Break the ice and ask other attendees a few questions while you’re standing in line. Some ideas are:

  • What are you looking to get out of this job fair?

  • Have you worked for any companies represented? What was your experience working for them?

 

interview tips

 

Get as much free advice as you can

Even though you might not intend to apply for an opportunity with a particular employer, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. Engage with the recruiter anyways and ask questions about the industry. You can even invite a few fellow job seekers to have lunch or take a break together. Sometimes the best time to learn is in the moment and among your peers.

Other tips

Before the job fair

  • Research the businesses that will be so you can hand out as many as possible without fear of running out.

  • Pack a small bag with water and goodies. You’ll most likely receive plenty of freebies at various booths, but you might be spending an entire day there trying to make an impression, so stay fueled.

  • Practice your introduction in front of a mirror. This will make you more confident once you’re actually on the floor at the fair (especially if you’re nervous or naturally a little shy).

During the job fair

  • Dress like you would for an interview, but wear sensible shoes as you’ll be on your feet a lot.

  • If you have them, hand out business cards to employers and job seekers.

  • Stay hydrated with water because it will help you stay focused and energized.

  • Take breaks as you need them. Get outside for some fresh air, take a seat in the lobby next to the conference room or even drive around the block a couple of times.

  • Stay positive! Think of every person you meet and every company spokesperson you interact with as a new opportunity to grow and learn.

After the job fair

  • Follow up with the companies you’re most interested in with a thank you card or quick email.

  • Formally apply on the company’s website even if you gave them your resume.

  • Write out the positives and negatives of each company you interacted with. That way, if you land an interview you’ll remember your first impressions in greater detail.

  • Review, revise and even rewrite your resume.

Whether you are just finishing college or looking to make a mid-career job leap, attending a job fair is an investment in you, your worth as an employee and your future.

Take the next step and scroll our job fair boards and seek resources in your area that specialize in job placement for people of all backgrounds and work histories.

Looking for a career fair?

Our JobsHQ team has a list of current and upcoming job fairs in many regions across North Dakota and Minnesota. Get the list.

About the author
Lonna Whiting is a writer for Click Content Studios and Forum Communications Company. She specializes in content strategy and internal communications for a wide range of industries. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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