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Guerrilla Tactics for Job Fairs
Jo Curtin, Manager, Career Expo Conference Planners.
After watching and talking to thousands of job seekers who've attended our events over the past 12 years, we've learned there is an "art" to getting a job through participation in job fairs. A few tips that make the difference:
- Take the event seriously.
It is an interview. You are making that all-important first impression. Only a small percentage of hundreds of interviewees will stand out at the end of the event. Make sure you're one of them! Dress well, practice your best handshake, award-winning smile and eye contact!
- Create the ideal resume.
It should be short, sharp and digestible in one minute's reading by an employer. There are really excellent guides on resumes. Make sure yours is one that is memorable but totally professional. Use good quality WHITE paper (copies are ok as long as they are very clean and crisp).
Forget pictures, graphics, colored paper, funky print styles--they don't leave a positive impression and they aren't scannable. Most major employers today will scan your resume into an automated applicant tracking system that can mean quicker retrieval for current or future interviews--if your resume meets the strict criteria the technology can handle. Prepare a resume that will scan well.
- Plan your strategies carefully.
Use all the information provided by the job fair producer and the attending companies. Company literature, job descriptions and advertising by the company is usually available.
If you are able to read it prior to meeting them, you'll be prepared, ready to make cogent conversation and ask intelligent questions--making you a much more interesting candidate than those who ask "So. What do you guys do?" Bad move.
- Your "mini-interview" should be a dialogue, not a monologue.
Because you have limited time to make an impression and gain valuable information about the company, you should have several questions ready. These questions help you figure out if the company is a good match for you.
That is, "What skills and characteristics would the ideal programmer need for your project leader position?"
THEN, use that information to sell yourself.
"As you can see from my experience, I have..."
OR, "Can you tell me what characteristics your most successful sales reps have?"..."I'm glad to hear that because...."
- Answer questions directly, politely and concisely.
Your goal is to get a SECOND interview, "in house" this time, so you don't have to play all your cards on the first round. If you're genuinely interested, let them know! "I am quite excited about the possibilities your company offers, and I think I have the talent to help you achieve your goals....What do I need to do to arrange a second interview?"
This isn't "pushy"; it's flattering and says you are professionally assertive! Ask them how they rate your credentials and "fit" compared to other candidates they're seeing. Asking for an honest appraisal is one of the best ways to raise it a notch!
- If a second interview isn't arranged immediately, don't despair.
Do the old-fashioned thing--send a thank you note to the person you met. (Get their card or write down their name and address at the event). Remind them of your interest and your qualifications and reiterate your interest in pursuing the second interview.
Few people follow through this way today and you'll stand out from the crowd and demonstrate professional follow through.
- When a second interview is arranged, be sure to be there on time.
If an emergency occurs and you can't be on time, CALL and explain.
- Don't forget to "network".
There are hundreds of other careerists on site. Many of them have interviewed at other companies who may have an ideal position for you. Some may be leaving the ideal job for you. Share resources, leads and ideas.
Often, other resources will be available, such as professional associations or career centers. Make use of all the possibilities. Remember, the more times you send your ship out, the more likely it will come in!