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8 Steps to Maximize Your Impact and Experience at a Job Fair

Job fairs may have lost their value if you simply attend them to land an immediate job.  They have some value if you’re looking to uncover potential job opportunities for the future.  But, they have tremendous value if you consider them as a opportunity to build your professional network and practice your professional conversation skills.

8 Steps to Maximize Your Impact and Experience at a Job Fair

1.  Print business cards with your contact information to bring along with your resume. If you meet someone who you prefer to not leave your resume with, you certainly can leave a business card instead (which is actually more likely to be retained).  Check out VistaPrint for low cost options to have a quality card printed with your name, contact information, social network channels, skill, etc.

2. Get started with your meet and greet at least 1-2 hours after the event began.  Employers at job fairs get slammed at the beginning of the show with eager job seekers.  There is often a waiting line to meet with the exhibitor’s recruiters, so conversations tend to be shorter to keep up with the line.  Wait until after the crowd has circulated a bit and start with the booth that has fewer attendees.

3.  Greet the exhibitor representative with a handshake and a smile and ask them to tell you a bit about their business and their role at the company.  Typically the format of a job fair calls for the reverse.  Recruiters have countless conversations about the applicants’ background, but share very basic information about themselves or their organization.  If you position your introduction this way, you will likely get more information about the company than if you had just asked what kind of jobs they are hiring for.

4.  Offer a verbal summary of your experience before handing over a resume.  You have a conversation started, why stop the flow by taking out your resume at this point.  What happens when a recruiter views your resume is they immediately look for keywords and relevant work history.  When they are viewing it, they are only half listening to what you are saying at that point.  Remove the resume barrier and speak about your overall skillset and experience more than your actual company history and job titles.

5.  If after your briefing (in less than a minute) of your experience and skills the recruiter asks to see your resume, present them with a copy of a one page summary version (also known as profile page or executive summary resume).  Explain that you have a more detailed version that you would be happy to email them and ask for their card.  What you have subliminally done is demonstrated  your resourcefulness.  You resume will likely get lost in a stack of hundreds.  Now you have the invitation to email one directly to them.

6.  When viewing their business card, read it.  Take a moment to acknowledge their title and ask if they are an open networker on LinkedIn.  Most people working at the exhibitor booth are in the recruiting and HR field, so they will most likely accept your invitation to connect with them via LinkedIn.  Click here to learn more about the advantages of setting up an account.

7.  Schmooze a little.  Saying something like, “You have been very helpful and I’m interested in staying in touch with you.  Having a recruiting professional in my network is helpful to my job search.  Is there anything I can do to help you in your business?”  This professional statement puts you on a more peer to peer level, shows confidence, and is certainly going to distinguish you from the others they have spoken with.

8.  Repeat this process at as many exhibitor booth possible.  Don’t worry about the company being a direct link to what you are looking for.  Recruiters are well connected and if they had a good interaction with you, they’ll find a way to help you or offer solid advice on where you should be looking.

Job Fair Checklist

  • Get suited up; looking good makes you feel good
  • Bring at least 20 copies of one page profile (executive summary resume)
  • Have a portfolio with pad and pen to store your resumes in
  • Have plenty of your business cards with all your contact information
  • Have a pocket or place to keep business cards you have received

Bonus Tip:  Job fair exhibitors often have promotion items to market their companies to give away to job seekers.  Don’t take them!  You are there to network, not to pick up pens, coffee cups, and squeeze balls.


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