How to Make the Most of Your Next Career Fair
Career fairs are funny things. On the one hand, for job seekers without much enthusiasm, career fairs can be horribly boring events that include a lot of aimless wandering around punctuated by brief bouts of awkward dialogue with harried recruiters.
On the other hand, for the well-prepared tech job seeker, career fairs can be great places to network, check out what is out there in the way of job opportunities and projects, and land some callbacks and interviews for tech jobs.
Which of those experiences you will have at your next career fair rests in your hands. So, how can you make the most of your next career fair? Here are some strategies for career fair success.
Step One: Plan Well in Advance of Attendance
Successful career fair experiences begin well before the day of the event. Monster.com suggests that job seekers should:
- Call the organizers of the career fair to get a comprehensive list of participating companies.
- Do some preliminary research on the companies from the list that most interest you.
- Narrow down your list of interesting companies to a manageable size.
- Reach out to those companies and find out who will be attending the job fair. If possible, get the person’s name, title, and contact information. This will help you prepare a cover letter to go with your resume for the companies that interest you the most.
Step Two: Research the Companies That Interest You … and a Few That May Not
There are few questions that make a recruiter more annoyed than “So what is it you guys do?” Take time to do some in-depth research on a handful of companies that interest you before attending the career fair. Find out what you can online about the company’s culture, current projects in the company’s pipeline, and any recent press releases and product announcements for the company.
When you take the time to do your research, you signal to recruiters that you are detail-oriented, focused, and ready to engage with their companies. This is always a good thing.
In your research, however, do not simply look at the biggest tech companies like Google, Apple, or Amazon. Throw some smaller companies in as well. You may find that there are many tech jobs available with companies that might not readily come to mind but that offer exciting opportunities for a candidate who is a good fit.
On the subject of how to prepare for a career fair, take a look at what these Carnegie Mellon students suggest:
Step Three: Get Your Resume and Supplies in Order
Since your resume is the tangible item you intend to leave with a recruiter, it is a good idea to ensure that it will pass muster. Here are some tips to get you started in the right direction, resume-wise:
- Be certain that the skills relevant to the company and position in which you are interested are easy to see. Recruiters have limited time to review your resume onsite.
- Use bullet points rather than lengthy paragraphs about your skill set.
- Format your resume in a way that looks both aesthetically pleasing and professional.
- If at all possible, keep resume length to one page. If you cannot fit all your qualifications on one page, consider making different resumes for different positions.
- Read your resume multiple times to ensure there are no grammatical errors or misspellings. At the same time, check it for accuracy regarding dates, skills, education, and certifications.
- Have several friends to take a look at your resume as well. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes may spot errors you have missed.
- Have plenty of resumes on hand for distribution. Additionally, you may want to have some business cards printed with your contact information and website so that recruiters can easily contact you if needed. Take pens, notepads, or mobile devices to jot down important information you discover as you network.
Step Four: Dress for Success
A tech career fair is not a day in the park or even a day in class. It is a meeting place for professionals. That means that you will need to choose attire that reflects your professional demeanor. For some fairs, suits are the norm.
There is one potential exception to the suit and tie rule, however. If the companies participating in the career fair are tech startups, you may find that a slightly more casual look works well. The rule of thumb regarding attire is that you should match the environment in which you will be moving. For a startup career fair, opt for a little less than head-to-toe business attire, but more than an outfit for a day in the park.
Step Five: Pay Attention to Your Body Language
Nonverbal communication is often a differentiating factor between a tech job seeker who stands out with recruiters and one who does not. Here are some tips to help you carry on a brilliant nonverbal conversation:
- Smile. A good smile exudes confidence and puts others at ease.
- Hold your shoulders back. Good posture sends a subtle message that you are in control and know what you bring to the recruiting table.
- Establish good eye contact and face the recruiter directly. This shows respect both respect and interest in the subject the recruiter is discussing with you.
- Work on that professional handshake. Firm, but not crushing is the standard to follow. Avoid at all costs the limp fish handshake, as this is a professional no-no.
Step Six: Have a Specific Goal in Mind
Recruiters at career fairs are inundated with tech job seekers of all sorts, so their time is at a premium. To ensure that you use the time allotted wisely, resist the urge to simply say “I am open to any position you have available.”
Recruiters are interested in finding out what your particular strengths are and how those strengths will fit with their organization. Be specific about the type of position that interests you, and showcase the requisite skill set for that position when you connect with a recruiter. Listing your objective specifically while networking and on your resume will help you stand out from the crowd.
Step Seven: Ask the Right Questions
Recruiters want to know what interests you. Ask questions that reveal why you are excited by the prospect of working with a particular company. Here are some potential questions you might consider asking:
- What is the career path with your organization for a person with my skills?
- Where do you see the company heading in the next five, ten, or twenty years?
- Can you tell me about projects that have a high priority in your organization right now?
Asking questions about company culture are acceptable as well, though the answers to those questions may not be as illuminating as you might think. As a general rule, the more specific you can make the question to the particular company, the more likely you will uncover useful information and impress recruiters with your interest.
Step Eight: Nail the Elevator Pitch
At a busy career fair, you will have limited time to make an impression on recruiters. That is why it is imperative to have your elevator pitch down to a science. An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that is used to quickly engage the listener and spark interest in you as a job candidate. MindTools.com gives the following steps to help you craft a killer elevator pitch:
- Identify your goal.
- Tell the recruiter what you are doing now.
- Communicate your key skills and identify the unique talent you will bring to the table.
- Engage the recruiter with a well-prepared question or two.
- Conclude by reiterating your strong points.
The best way to ace an elevator pitch is to practice it until it becomes second nature. Practice repeatedly with a friend who will provide an honest critique of your performance. If you must practice alone, practice in front of a mirror, paying attention to your body language as well as your spoken words.
Check out this short video tutorial about dos and don’ts of career fair elevator pitches:
Step Nine: Follow Up after the Career Fair
Be sure to send a follow-up email or letter to recruiters who took the time to talk with you. Use the opportunity to highlight any points in which the recruiter showed interest in your original interaction. Sometimes this simple reminder helps the recruiter to establish exactly which job seeker you are out of a sea of other faces.
Tapping into the Right Information for the Tech Job You Want
Extensive preparation is the key to optimizing your career fair experience. Paysa can help with that. Paysa collects data on job descriptions and compensation information from tech jobs across multiple industries.
With the Paysa platform, you can quickly map career paths according to skills required, education required, location, and company. You can see how and when different tech companies promote their employees and even follow the trail of top tech talent over time among the companies with Paysa CompanyRank.
Knowledge is power. Take a moment to put the power of Paysa in your pocket today by signing up at Paysa.com!
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