Do you feel as if a job fair never results in a job for you?
Do you wonder whether to even attend a job fair?

Yes, recruiters really do spend the time and money to come to job fairs because they are looking for great matches to their needs.  Niche job fairs which specialize in your field or are focused on those in a general area, like technology or people with security clearances, are often the most effective to attend.

Want to be one of the attendees who gets a recruiter’s real attention? Here is the inside scoop from talent acquisition professionals to help you.

1. Start right!

Do your homework in advance. Look at the information about employers attending the job fair. Find the ones which most interest you. Then check out their websites for more information on job requirements and what the company does.

Want to make the recruiter in the booth immediately discount you? Ask either of these questions:

  • What does your company do?
  • What kind of jobs do you have open?

This tells the recruiter you were too lazy to prepare. And they are not hiring lazy people. You will get another 20 seconds of their time while they check out the people behind you and then be shuffled out of the way.

2. Have your 20-30 second introduction ready to flow.

Give the recruiter some ‘red meat’ right up front. Sure you want to say your name first. But move right in to your desired job/area and a quick reason to talk with you – whether it is a relevant achievement, experience, or education.
Try something like this:
Hi, I’m Sharon Smith, looking for an intel analyst position, with Air Force service in Intel plus two years CT with your new client X, and have a TS/SCI/ with full scope poly. I’ve been recognized for both my analytical skills and writing excellence.

That tells the recruiter not only that you are looking for work in the field they need, but gives a quick indication you have done your homework and know about their new contract and provides some idea of your capabilities, veteran status, and clearance.  Pretty good for 20 seconds!

3. Look Sharp!

A job fair is an interview. Dress like the professional you are or seek to be. Sure, some of the recruiters are in corporate polo shirts – that is a marketing tactic. You need to be making that great first impression and demonstrating your value. Don’t be overly casual or wear something you fiddle with because it doesn’t fit or show up in something inappropriate for the work you seek.

And have a folio or notebook with your papers and resumes. Fumbling around trying to find your resume – or the right one – saps your self-confidence and gives a disorganized impression to the recruiter you wanted to impress positively.

4. Don’t Start Out with the Negatives

Really, people do this. Don’t start by saying that you will not be available for six months or have not been employed in a year or have over 20 years experience or give your salary expectations or your desire to work from home most of the time.

Introduce yourself with positives, reasons to talk with you. Be clear about what work you seek and what you offer. Sound interested, focused, and interesting.

You may have some ‘negatives’ – either realistically or in your own view. Don’t lie if asked. Do have a good, short explanation. But do not give me a reason to discount you before we even talk.

5. Don’t be Upset at Having to Apply Online

Job seekers complain or roll their eyes when told to apply to the company website. But government contractors and many other companies do this because they are trying to meet specific legal and contract requirements. Let me assure you, if you made a great first impression at the job fair – they will find your resume.

Do not limit yourself to applying online. Companies love employee referrals. So a major part of your job search should be to find people at your target companies and enlist their support in getting your resume to the right recruiters and hiring managers. Tell them why you are interested, ask questions about the company and why they work there, tell them the name of the person you talked to at their job fair booth and enlist their assistance in referring you. If you meet a company at the job fair that interests you but was not on your target list, start searching for folks in your field who work there and contact them.

Job Fairs are used by companies to recruit because they are effective in providing access to the type of candidates the company wants. You can make yourself into that valuable candidate by being prepared, presenting yourself well, and being positive in the process.

Isn’t your future worth that effort?