Most of the time, employers attending these fairs will have current openings. So, they are interested in meeting candidates and gaining an initial impression. In other cases, employers will not have openings, but are interested in maintaining visibility on campus and making students aware of opportunities within their organization/company. Regardless of the employer's current hiring capability, you should always prepare and take seriously the opportunities to meet employers at a career fair. All employer contacts are important opportunities to further your job search. The following eight steps can help you prepare for the next career fair.
Step 1: Take the event seriously
It is an interview. You are making that all important first impression. Only a small percentage of hundreds of interviewees will stand out at the end of the event. Make sure you're one of them! Dress well, practice your best handshake, award- winning smile and eye contact.
Step 2: Create the ideal resume
It should be short, sharp and digestible in one minute's reading by an employer. Make sure yours is one that is memorable but totally professional. Use good quality paper. Most major employers today will scan your resume into an automated applicant tracking system that can mean quicker retrieval for current or future interviews if your resume meets the strict criteria the technology can handle.
Step 3: Plan your strategies carefully
Use all the information provided by the career fair producer and the attending companies. If you are able to read it prior to meeting them, you'll be prepared, ready to make cogent conversation and ask intelligent questions-- making you a much more interesting candidate than those who ask "So. What do you guys do?" Bad move.
Step 4: Your “mini-interview” should be a dialogue, not a monologue
Because you have limited time to make an impression and gain valuable information about the company, you should have several questions ready. These questions help you figure out if the company is a good match for you. That is, "What skills and characteristics would the ideal programmer need for your project leader position?" THEN, use that information to sell yourself. "As you can see from my experience, I have... OR, "Can you tell me what characteristics your most successful mechanical engineers have?" "I'm glad to hear that because....
Step 5: Answer questions directly, politely and concisely
Your goal is to get a SECOND interview, "in house" this time, so you do not have to play all your cards on the first round. If you're genuinely interested, let them know! "I am quite excited about the possibilities your company offers, and I think I have the talent to help you achieve your goals.... What do I need to do to arrange a second interview?" This is not "pushy"; it's flattering and says you are professionally assertive! Ask them how they rate your credentials and "fit" compared to other candidates they're seeing. Asking for an honest appraisal is one of the best ways to raise it a notch!
Step 6: If a second interview isn't arranged immediately, don't despair
Send a thank you note to the person you met. (Get their card or write down their name and address at the event). Remind them of your interest and your qualifications and reiterate your interest in pursuing the second interview. Few people follow through this way today, and you will stand out from the crowd and demonstrate professional follow through.
Step 7: When a second interview is arranged, be on time
If an emergency occurs and you can't be on time, CALL and explain.
Step 8: Don't forget to “network”
There are hundreds of other careerists on site. Many of them have interviewed at other companies who may have an ideal position for you. Some may be leaving the ideal job for you. Share resources, leads and ideas. Often, other resources will be available, such as professional associations or career centers. Make use of all the possibilities. Remember, the more times you send your ship out, the more likely it will come in!