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Are You Prepared for a Job Fair?

1st things first – do your homework.

Dress appropriately. Business casual at the very least. Bring a comfortable supply of Resumes. By comfortable – I mean easy to carry along and navigate with shaking hands, networking, etc. It’s no fun to be weighed down by too heavy of a briefcase or portfolio – or with documents that are unnecessary at this point. While there will likely be hundreds of pens at your disposal, be sure to have your own on hand for filling out anything requested of you during an event, such as  registrations, raffles, etc.

Please, don’t smoke just before coming in and meeting (sometimes in close proximity) recruiters face to face. First impressions are not always just visual. Just saying. Take 10 deep non-smoking breaths before going in and saying to yourself “I’ve got this!”

Go ahead and carpool to the event, but please visit the employer booths independently. No one takes a friend or parent along on an interview.

Be sure you know who is hosting the event, and why.

Is it at a local college who continues to build relationships with local employers? Beyond providing this opportunity for their students and alumni, a job/career fair held here could be a good thing. Chances are that there will be familiar faces and repeat attendance by both employers and job seekers.

Is it being held at the employers’ own location? Well, at least you know who is doing the hiring. That company most likely has current and future job openings that they are eager to fill.

Is it being organized by a job fair marketing company? Well, they may certainly be able to attract attention of both employers and applicants. But chances are, they may not be so invested in the community, other than to fill exhibit space and hopefully attract job seekers. They’re in – then they’re out.

Okay -now you want to know what employers are going to be there. Typically, this will be listed on the event site, somewhere. Be sure to visit your desired employers first, but you never know who you many encounter. Keep in mind that a recruiter who is soliciting for candidates for specific jobs on that day – may also be aware of other jobs not yet advertised. Start a conversation and just ask.

And with what I’ve heard over the past couple of years – recruiters at these events are too often turning away actual resumes — yes, the same one you’ve worked hard on to perfect and for this purpose, printed on very nice paper. Recruiters are redirecting applicants to ‘apply online.’ So, go ahead and do so – but do so before the event so you can respond – ‘Oh, I’ve already done so and thought I should bring a long a hard copy.’


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Career Fairs


I had been invited to participate in an area college’s career fair; one that was taking place in an exciting environment, with plenty of exhibit space and many resources for attendees. I was not on a typical panel as I had presumed, but instead provided a large roundtable where attendees could come by individually or as a small group – to ask relevant questions before or after they visited the many employer booths.

Some of the questions anticipated were provided on a list by the college for those of us on the Q&A panel in order to prompt conversation. Those questions included:

  1. How important is networking during a career fair?
  2. If a candidate doesn’t receive a response after applying, what should they consider doing next?
  3. What makes a candidate stand out in this job market and/or in a career fair.
My first candidate was accompanied by a job coach and a sign language interpreter. He was completely deaf and barely able to speak words. Fortunately, not only had I studied sign language many years ago, I also had worked in environments with the disabled – which provided training and job skills, and job coaching. Although it had been a long time ago but once I was in the field of human resources, I had actually created a position for a young woman who was blind, deaf and mute. And it was a mutual benefit for my employer to hire her. I was able to communicate, through the interpreter, this story which put this candidate at ease. I was also able to provide some realistic work scenarios that I hope he follows through on.
My closing adviser to this young man, was to make eye contact and smile. Granted – he had to focus on the interpreter for the obvious reasons – in both directions. Yet, there was plenty of opportunity for him to smile and make even a little eye contact – which he had done, but with shyness. But this same closing advise applies to everyone – hearing impaired or not, you can smile and you can connect. He seemed like a very pleasant guy and already had various job skills, transportation and ready and willing to work. I wished him the best.
In general, I support career fairs – when organized by the employer themselves with anticipated major hiring; when organized by a college in support of their local community; and when orchestrated by a 3rd party (such as Sundance Group) it should be one that is connected to the community — and not so much by those who pop in/out of town simply as an exhibit/promotion company. I’ve personally organized many job fairs over the years, most on behalf of my employers. Some with more than 9,000 people in attendance. When I launched Sundance Group, I had to introduce myself to the community I was now working in – and coordinated 3 job fairs in the area – to bring together local employers and local quality candidates. They were quite successful in their own right, without any funding other than the employer sponsored exhibits. Hmmm, wondering if it’s time to do that once again!
In closing today – I want to pose a question to our followers that I overheard during one of the mock interview sessions from yesterday’s event. And, regardless of what your answer might be – I wondered what you might think of the question, and what the interviewer might have been trying to learn by asking it. Please reply and let us know.
“What is something you know you should throw away, but just can’t?”