Want to save time, money and energy while looking for a job? Attending a job fair is a great place to start because it brings together many employers in a particular industry or region that are there, specifically to find dedicated and qualified candidates (that’s you!).
Statistics say that 80% of open jobs aren’t published and are acquired through networking (NPR). Whether in happens at a party, in line at the grocery store or at a meetup, building professional relationships is the key to getting more job opportunities. A job fair is a great way to create relationships with people who may soon become your new manager or coworkers. Put your best foot forward at the next job fair by avoiding these seven commonly-made job fair mistakes:
1. Not doing research on attending companies beforehand
A great way to burn out fast at a job fair is trying to talk to everyone. Spend some time online browsing the attending companies and if you can’t find a list, contact the job fair organizer to see if you can get a better idea as to who you can expect to meet. If you don’t recognize the name of an organization, a quick Google search of the company name “+ jobs” may reveal a career page where you can learn more about the company and what kinds of roles the company has already taken the time to post online.
2. Showing up without a plan
After doing a little bit of basic research on the companies that will have a booth or table at the job fair, set a realistic goal for your time there. Yes, “get hired on the spot” is your main goal, but considering the hiring processes that are in place these days, it most likely won’t happen that way.
Set a goal that feels a little risky yet attainable. For example, if you consider yourself introverted, a goal of talking to five different company representatives would be a great start. Or, be bold and set up at least two follow up phone calls to discuss more about their available positions.
3. Not getting to know fellow attendees
An often-missed opportunity is the great networking to be had while hanging out in line to check in, speak to employers or at the refreshment stalls. Think about it: Everyone attending has a similar goal and probably has a wealth of information to share about their career journey. Whether it is a tip on another great job fair or website, or first-hand experience interviewing at a particular business, a lot can be gained by simply turning around and asking your neighbor, “so, what brought you here today?”
4. Failing to ask questions
Asking questions of a company representative is just as important here as it is in the interview. At a job fair however, the stakes are lower. You should still be curious, but keep it casual. For instance, this is a great time to inquire about how the company representative was hired and what it’s like on a day to day. This is also a time to talk about some of your professional accomplishments. Work them into the conversation by saying something like “I have a great relationship with my previous employer who can attest to my excellent customer service skills. How valuable is that at your company?”
5. Running out of résumés
… or forgetting them for that matter! Bring two times as many as you think you need just to be safe. As someone that used to attend career fairs on the hiring side, my colleagues and I took notes that helped us remember the applicant and what set them apart on their résumé. More often than not, we would forget the ones who did not bring one. Remember, the average time spent looking at a résumé is six seconds, so make sure you only have the most recent and relevant information on there so the viewer can quickly scan and understand your background and training.
6. Dressing unprofessionally
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If you’re unemployed, it is going to show if you show up in the same neon leggings you wear surfing stories on Instagram on weekdays. A button-down and slacks or skirts or dresses with appropriate length and coverage will do the trick, and avoid any footwear that may be difficult to walk in. Rule of thumb–wear something business casual,comfortable and that you feel confident in.
7. Forgetting to follow up
We have all been there: You attend a great event and leave with a pocket full of business cards and excitement about all your new connections, and then you do nothing with them. Don’t be that person again! The employer you just met most likely met many, many more people than you did that day so following up will, without a doubt, make you stand out among the other applicants. A quick email sent within 24 hours of your meeting will go a long way towards next steps. And be sure to mention something that stuck with you about the conversation you had.