Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Navigate a Job Fair

By: Dr. Manuel Ruiz

The Center for Career Development organizes a full-time job and internship fair each semester.  Our fall 2013 fair is scheduled for Thursday, October 3rd (11:30am to 1pm) in the CUB Ballroom.  If you plan on attending the fair proper planning and preparation are keys to having a positive experience. For your convenience I have put together some helpful tips of items to consider prior to attending the job fair, during the job fair, and after the job-fair.

Before The Job Fair
1.    Research employers.  Look over the list and see who is recruiting.  Decide which employers interest you.  Then, visit their web sites.  Find out who they are, what they do, and why you might want to work there.  With this knowledge you’ll be able to talk intelligently with recruiters at the job fair and impress them.
2.    Update and polish your resume. Create an effective resume using key accomplishment statements.  Stop by the Center for Career Development during drop-in hours (Monday-Friday) 2:30pm to 4:30pm for assistance if needed.  During the fair, bring several copies of your resume.  Carry them in a professional portfolio.
3.    Dress for success.  First impressions are important.  Dress conservatively, in clothes you’d wear on the job (suit).  Forgot your suit at home?  Do not panic.  The Center for Career Development has a clothing bank that can assist you.  For more details stop by the office.
4.    Practice your handshake.  Engage the full hand, palm to palm.  Grip firmly, but don’t crush.  Look the other person in the eye and smile.
5.    Prepare and practice your “sales pitch”.  Short speech – 15 seconds long.  Follow the four step plan: (1) Give your name; (2) Mention the occupation you are looking for; (3) State your experience, skills, and accomplishments.  Explain how they benefitted a previous employer and how they’ll benefit the employer at the fair (accomplishments are big selling points); (4) Offer your unique selling point – What sets you apart from the competition – What makes you special?
6.    Questions to expect from recruiters.  Can you tell me a little about yourself?  Tell me about your skills?  What attracts you to this industry?  What do you know about our company?  Why do you want to work for us?  What motivates you to do a good job?  Tell me about your proudest accomplishment.  What are your career goals?
7.    Questions to ask recruiters.  What qualifications will make a candidate stand out?  What are the biggest challenges of this position?  What do you like most about working for your company?  Can you describe your corporate culture?  How is the company performing during the current economic crisis?  What types of training do you offer?  What are the next steps in the recruitment process?  How can I secure a job interview with your company?
8.    Questions NOT TO ASK. What’s the pay range for this position?  What about benefits and vacation time?  Can you tell me about your company – this question demonstrates that you did not do research.

At the Job Fair
1.    Develop your game plan.  Arrive early, get a list of employers, and plan your order of attack.  Remember, we will have a waiting area for students to relax, break, and ask questions!
2.    Start talking and wowing.  You only have a few minutes to wow each recruiter – make it count.  Your conversation should be interesting, short, and memorable.
3.    End with a request.  Say that you are interested in the position.  Give the recruiter your resume.  Ask for the recruiter’s business card.  Ask the recruiter how should I follow up with you and when?  Take notes on what the recruiter says.
4.    Make a good impression.  Firm hand shake, be professional, let your personality shine, and think of your conversation as a mini interview.
5.    Network with everyone.  Don’t just talk to employers; talk to other job seekers as well.  You never know who may be a good contact for you.

After the Job Fair
1.    Follow Up – Make Yourself Memorable.  Write a thank you note – a thank you note shows the recruiter that you really want the job.  You’ll also stand out because you are one of the few who made a special effort. The note can be handwritten or email.  Handwritten is more memorable and personal.
2.    Write to Everyone Else.  Send an email to the recruiters you didn’t talk to, but whose business cards you took.
3.    Keep Your Application in Motion.  Follow the recruiters’ instructions for setting up interviews/next steps.  If a recruiter told you to go online and fill out a job application, do it.  When you apply, write that you met their recruiter at the Job Fair.  Then email the recruiter to tell them you applied online as requested.
4.    Persistence Pays.   Remember those business cards you collected?  Stay in touch and follow-up within two weeks.  Let them know that you are still interested.  IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT BOMBARD THE RECRUITER ON A WEEKLY BASIS – COULD WORK AGAINST YOU!

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