I often get asked if it is worthwhile to attend a Job Fair. My answer is always the same. That depends! I have had many students and clients get hired as a result of attending a job fair. Yet I have heard others complain that they were a waste of time for them.
Like with most things in life, the difference usually is a result of how you handle your part in the process. If you are waiting for a job offer to hit you in the face when you walk in the door, you will be disappointed.
I have hired people from job fairs, but I am not looking to hire just anybody. Employers are looking for candidates that are prepared and are great fits for their organization. In fact, lately there has been a growing gap between the number of jobs available and the number of hires being made. Adecco (a staffing company), surveyed more than 500 senior executives and found that 92% felt that American workers aren’t as skilled as they need to be. What is most interesting to me, is that 44% of them felt the lack of skills was more on the “soft side”. Areas such as communication, collaboration with team members, fitting into the culture, problem solving and the like.
In simply terms, if an employer can’t find someone they think can do the job well, many times they would rather not make a hire at all, even if they have an opening.
This means the responsibility is on the potential employee to make the case for why they should be hired.
Now let me come back to our original question about attending job fairs. One thing you should know, is that in almost every case an employer is PAYING for the right to be there. They are investing their money and their time to attend these fairs because they do have positions to fill. That means they can absolutely be a great opportunity for you if you can take advantage of it. But you have to do your part.
Follow these steps to maximize your chances of getting hired from a job fair.
Have a plan – Many people who struggle at job fairs walk in like it is Christmas morning waiting to be surprised by which companies are in attendance and what opportunities may exist. Do your homework ahead of time. Research which companies will be in attendance and hit their home page to see what job openings they currently have. Which opportunities are the best fit for you? Who do you know on Linked in that might have an inside track? Check out their social media pages to get a feel for their culture and what they are looking for. Know who you want to target before you walk in the door and have a plan.
Protect your brand – Companies will often talk about their “brand”. Simply put, a company’s brand is what the consumer thinks about when they hear their name. Do they think of quality and great customer service? Do they think affordable or over-priced? It is the general theme or belief others have about the product. We are no different and we present a certain image when we approach prospective employers. Are we dressed the part, or does it look like we just woke up? Is our resume and cover letter professional, without grammatical errors and does it clearly define what we are looking for? Or does it look like we threw it together five minutes before we hit the door? Are we showing confidence, or do we act like we are scared to death? First impressions are huge, make a great one.
Sell yourself – Most people will say they “hate sales”, or they are not a “salesperson”. But the truth is, whether it is a first date, a job interview or a job fair, you must sell yourself to move forward to the next step. You are the product and you have a sales force of one (YOU)! You don’t have to be that annoying used car guy that is pushy and annoying, but you do need to be able to articulate why an employer should continue the conversation and the value you can bring to their organization. It all starts with believing in yourself. Make a list of all your accomplishments and all the strengths you bring to the table. Don’t be shy, if you are having trouble, ask friends or family what they admire in you. Ask current or ex-coworkers what you did well. The hard truth is that there is about 1% of the population that can just “wing it”, you are probably not that person! Prepare and practice ahead of time your “elevator pitch”. Script out and memorize a 30-45 second introduction highlighting your experience, strengths and why you are a great employee. Stay away from the generic stuff. “I am dependable, loyal and a people person”. So is my dog! Get specific and make it personal. And say it with confidence like you mean it.
Go in for the close – Now that you have put your best foot forward and clearly articulated why you are a great candidate, it is time to seal the deal. Find out what the next step is and go for it. “I would love to set up a time to discuss the opening in more detail, can we do that right now?” “What is the next step in the process? I am very interested in learning more about this opportunity.” Grab their business card so that you can continue the conversation after the fair is over.
Follow up – To maximize your opportunities, you don’t want to sit by the phone and just wait for them to call you. The company representatives might have met with hundreds of people at the job fair, most won’t follow up. But you are not most people! Connect with them on Linked In and follow up within 24 hours to reassert your interest, share why you are a great fit for the position and to move the process forward. Be persistent, but not annoying.
Yes, job fairs can be great places to find a new position or start a new career, but make sure you are doing your part to maximize your chances of success!
Want to know more about advancing your career? Click here to visit Josh @ SiteGOAL!