Most of the time, you would only be able to meet potential employers during an actual interview. But more and more people are realising that you can actually already do this at a career fair. Wouldn’t it be great if you could meet the people in a company to get a sense of who they are and what they are about, even before you send a CV out to them?
Here are some top tips and steps that you should take to maximise your chances of landing a job with one of the employers at a career fair:
1) Find out which companies are at the career fair, then plan your approach
You will want to meet as many companies as you can, but equally you have to be clear which companies you absolutely want to get in front of, and see if you can network and make an impression on them. The website for the career fair would typically have this information, and you can start doing a bit of research about what each company does before you turn up on the day. Then decide which ones you will want to spend most of your time talking to.
2) Time your arrival, early if possible
You could spend the entire day at the career fair, but it’s important to arrive early before the crowd peaks. When it’s early, employers would have more time to chat and speak with you, and because they’re still fresh, you have a good chance of being more memorable. You could also arrive towards the end of the fair, but realise that as the day goes on, employers would have spoken to and met many jobseekers, and will start to get a bit tired too (because they’re human, just like you!). So ideally get there early.
3) Dress appropriately
I know it’s not an interview, but you are going to be standing in front of potential employers, so look your best. Not suggesting suiting up (that would be overkill), but perhaps a neat collared shirt, and maybe some semi-formal pants, like khakis. If you decide to be there in jeans, make sure it’s a simple pair, not the type with too many pockets or holes in them.
4) Have an elevator pitch ready
What’s an elevator pitch? Basically a way you can introduce yourself within a short period of time, and hopefully catch the attention of potential employers. Elevator pitches are well crafted, well practised statements, that have to come out very naturally, for them to work. Check out some guidelines for a modern elevator pitch for jobseekers.
5) Have good questions ready
Just like how you would prepare for a job interview, having good questions can some times be more powerful than what you say during the interview. Here’s a good article on what questions to ask during an actual interview, but you can adapt some of them to a career fair also.
6) Don’t forget to ask about them
And when I say “them”, I don’t mean the company, I mean the person you are speaking to. Have an interest in their story, ask them what they do in the company (they may not even be a recruiter), why they joined, and what they enjoy most about working at the company. After all, they are also there to attract good people to join the company, so it’s an opportunity for you to find out what it’s like working there. Plus many jobseekers will be there to just talk about themselves, what better way to leave an impression when you do something a bit different? Make sure you know your boundaries though, and not come across as intrusive or weird, so avoid personal questions.
7) Be unique, don’t sound like the other 100 people they’ve just met
Being able to balance confidence, curiosity, selling yourself, yet not sounding desperate is an important skill to be memorable during the day. If you’ve done your homework, and carefully crafted your pitch, you will have a higher chance of being memorable.
8) Bring your CV
Bring many copies of your CV, hardcopies and also have them on a USB flash drive. But instead of just offering it to them, why don’t you try asking them if they would like to see it? You will come across as polite, not desperate, and confident at the same time. Regardless of how the conversation went, they would of course say “yes”, but if your elevator pitch, conversation and questions hit a note with them, they will be seriously reading it when you actually show it to them. Let them have a look at the hard copy first so they can quickly go through it, then offer to transfer it to them using your USB flash drive or email it (which might be better if they are okay with this, because it makes it easy for them to respond) if they prefer a soft copy.
9) Offer to follow up
Very often, a jobseeker would just leave their CV and hope that the employer actually contacts them. How do you follow up after the career fair without sounding desperate or pushy? If you’ve struck a good conversation with them, offer to also email them a soft copy of your CV (even if you’ve already transferred it with your USB flash drive), and ask them permission to do so. When you have their email addresses, you can then follow up easily after several days, and just drop them a simple email to:
- remind them of your conversation;
- reiterate your interest in the company;
- how you believe you can contribute and fit into the team;
- let them know you would be happy to discuss further if they would consider meeting you again, because there would have been limited time during the career fair.