23 November 2010
Do you feel that careers fairs are a waste of time?Â Do you get all dressed up only to have every company at the fair take your resume, drop it in a box, and tell you to go apply online?Â Maybe you are saying to yourself, "I could have stayed home and did this!"Â Well it turns out career fairs actually do work!Â I am speaking first hand here, as someone who has landed jobs and had many interviews at career fairs, as well as been invited to second on-site interviews from connections made at a career fair.Â I also recruited on behalf of my previous company. Â
Think of it like this:Â Thousands of people will apply online to a job.Â A recruiter has to sort through all of these applications.Â This is why every company wants you to fill out their online job application form instead of simply uploading a resume.Â An application form where text has to me manually entered allows for filters to be set on the back-end.Â Hence, the recruiter can do a search for â€œMBAâ€ or â€œPsychologyâ€ much easier than trying to read through a ton of resumes.Â Some systems will try to extracting information from an uploaded resume in .doc or .pdf format, but that isnâ€™t always accurate.Â Even when the recruiter finds the qualified candidates of interests, it is too expensive to fly everyone out to the job location for an onsite interview, and it may be too time consume to do a phone interview with every single applicant.Â So another filter is needed, the career fair.
Most career fairs have websites up where you can upload your resume or job application prior to the fair for companies to look at.Â This allows companies to pre-screen several candidates at a time at no cost, other than the cost of sending their recruiters out.Â A company will have several interview slots open for the career fair.Â Do not expect to be offered a job on the spot at a career fair, but the fact that you had a pre-screening interview means that you are on the top of the list from the other applicants that merely applied online.
So how do you get one of those interview slots?Â Here are a few basic tips:
1.Â Â Â Dress to impress, and dress conservative!Â This may be common sense to some, but youâ€™d be surprised of the things that I saw as a recruiter.Â Put on your best business attire.Â Men, get a haircut.Â Ladies, get your hair done.Â No flashy suits.Â You know the restâ€¦
2.Â Â Â Research companies that will be at the fair beforehand.Â Make a list of your top 5 or so companies and grab some info about them off of their website (or sneak a brochure from their booth at the fair, read it, then come backâ€¦this works).Â Prepare your quick pitch, something such as:
Hello.Â My name is XXX and I REALLY want to work here.Â I know [insert company] does [insert what kind of work that the company does] which is directly related to my background and career interest.Â I have [insert relevant experience] and [insert degrees] and [insert company] is one of my top choices for a career.Â Let me ask you, do you have positions in the area of [insert a position that you know is open because you saw it on their brochure or website]?Â I am specifically interested in [insert a program or division of the company that you read about].
3.Â Â Â Prepare a cover letter! Prepare a cover letter!Â Prepare a cover letter!Â This says a lot because many people donâ€™t do this.Â And use Resume Paper (Google it) for your resume and cover letter.Â This pretty and thick paper stands out and feels nice in a recruiterâ€™s hand.Â Prepare one for each of your top 5 companies, addressing the company in the greeting.Â The general wording can be the same in each cover letter, but make sure to change the greeting.Â The rest of your resumes can be without cover letters if you choose, and can be on regular paper.
4.Â Â Â Be at the career fair before it opens, and be the first one to approach a booth.Â Recruiters have all their energy in the morning when a fair first opens.Â By the end of the day, they are tired of saying the same thing to everyone and all of their interview slots are probably full anyway.Â Go to your top company first, and then to your other top companies subsequently.Â Be energetic, smiling, and show them you want the job.Â Remember, have your pitch and some info on the company memorized.Â You can always step off to the side after visiting a company booth, and review the information about the next company you are going to before approaching their booth.
5.Â Â Â When you get to the booth, spit your pitch before you give your resume to them.Â After your pitch, if they donâ€™t ask for your resume, ask if you can give it to them (they will most likely say â€œyesâ€.Â If they donâ€™t, tell them to shove it.Â Just kidding). Â
6.Â Â Â If they donâ€™t offer you an interview, keep talking to them and asking about opportunities within the company.Â Have at least a good five minute conversation, theyâ€™ll remember you more than the other applicants who just come by and drop off a resume and leave.
7.Â Â Â Take some notes while talking to the recruiters.Â You will need these notes to follow up with them later.
8.Â Â Â Ask for a business card or at least an email address to follow-up with them after the career fair.
9.Â Â Â After youâ€™ve done these steps with your top companies, do the same with other companies youâ€™re interested in.Â It is just good to do your top companies first while you have all of you and the recruiters have all of your energy.Â By the end of the day, thatâ€™s when you can just pass out your remaining resumes like party flyers.
So youâ€™ve gotten an interview.Â Now even though this will not be the interview where you will be given a job offer instantly, you could be invited to a hiring event at the companyâ€™s location.Â Usually the interviews at the career fair are standard Behavior Based questions such as:
â€¢Â Â Â Give me an example of a time when you had to leadâ€¦
â€¢Â Â Â Give me an example of a difficult problem you had and how you worked through itâ€¦
â€¢Â Â Â How do you deal with a difficult employee?
â€¢Â Â Â What is your favorite scary movie and why?
Okay, so I made the last one up, but you get the idea.Â I would suggest preparing answers to The Most Common Interview Questions and having them memorized.Â And have follow up questions.Â You can pretty much ask the same follow-up questions after each interview.Â Pick some from the list here.Â Take notes during the interview.Â Be sure to get a business card or contact information of your interviewer after the career fair!Â A couple of days after the career fair, send an email to every recruiter you met.Â Those you interviewed with and those you only spoke to at their booth.Â From the notes you took, remind them of who you are.Â Hereâ€™s an example:
Dear Mr. /Ms. [insert recruiterâ€™s name],
Thank you for taking the time to interview/meet with me at the XYZ career fair on [insert fair date] in [insert fair location].Â As a reminder, you informed me about career opportunities in [from your notes, insert here what careers you discussed with the recruiter] at [insert the company].Â I have attached a soft copy of my resume.Â I hope you will consider me for a position at [Insert Company]. Â
[Insert your name]
And remember to attach your resume.Â Yeah, they probably have a hard copy (unless they left the box of resumes on the career fair booth table.Â Iâ€™ve seen it happen, really.Â Not sure if it was intentional or not, but stillâ€¦), but send them another copy anyway.Â You can send this same email to every recruiter.Â Of course, change the name in the greeting and the company name, otherwise youâ€™ll look pretty stupid.
So there you have it. Try these things at your next career fair.Â For college students, it is officially recruitment season!Â Many career fairs take place between October and January.Â If you have any luck, come back and comment on this article and tell us!Â If my advice didnâ€™t help you at all, please donâ€™t leave negative comments, but I wish you the best.Â Â Lata!
Â - Byron (former owner of MinorityGradStudent.com)