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You Never Get a Second Chance at a First Impression
A career fair gives you an opportunity to network with prospective employers and gain information about the industry in which you’d like to work. Showcase your skills and experience to stand out among other candidates. By following a few guidelines, you could be on your way to landing a career that’s just right for you and your family.
Dress the Part
A career fair is a gathering for professionals. Dress as though you’re going to a job interview because, in a very real sense, you are. Bring multiple copies of your resume as well as a portfolio of your best work, if that’s appropriate for your industry. Don’t walk around with a cup of coffee or with your eyes glued to your smartphone screen. Be ready to smile, shake hands and greet recruiters with a polished introduction.
“Pleased to Meet You”
Introduce yourself with a smile and firm handshake. Look the recruiter in the eye; then give your name and purpose: “Hi, I’m Ashley Smith, and I’d like to talk with you about open positions with your company,” or, “Good afternoon, my name is Anna Jones, and I’m interested in finding out more about the work you do at ABC Company.”
The Elevator Pitch
Job fairs can be crowded, and you may have just a few minutes to talk with any one individual. After you’ve introduced yourself, be ready with your “elevator pitch,” an engaging summary of who you are and what you have to offer a potential employer. The elevator pitch gets its name from the amount of time you typically have in an elevator with another person. It’s about 20 or 30 seconds. Think about the most important details a recruiter should know about you and practice your pitch out loud before going to a job fair. Here’s an example:
“Hi, I’m Sarah Jones and I’m an executive assistant. I’m an expert at multi-tasking and managing all the details of a professional’s day, so my boss can devote all her energies to doing what she does best. I’m proficient with many types of business software, and I learn new things quickly. At the end of the day, I help create an organized, efficient work environment that gives an executive peace of mind.”
Notice that Sarah Jones did not provide many details about what she does. Her emphasis is on what she can bring to employers (peace of mind) and how much better off they’d be if she were on staff.
Extending the Conversation
Keep the conversation going after your elevator pitch by asking an open-ended question. Open-ended questions require more than a simple “yes” or “no” in response, and they invite the other person to speak. For example, you might ask, “What type of positions do you recruit for besides sales?” or “What kind of education and experience are you looking for in your marketing department?” By doing your homework ahead of the job fair, you’ll have information you can use in your question, such as, “I read that the company has a new CEO. How do you think that’s going to change the company’s direction?” As another example, you might say, “‘The Hometown News’ says you’re expanding your research department. I’d love to work in that department and wonder what opportunities you anticipate at the entry level.”
Exit and Follow-Up
Recruiters generally want to talk with as many people as they can during a career fair, so do not monopolize their time, especially if there are others waiting in line. You can exchange the most important information in three to five minutes. Create an opportunity for follow-up by giving the recruiter a copy of your resume. Ask the recruiter for a business card so that you have contact information for a phone call or email. Close the conversation with a handshake and a “thank you” while you find out what you should do next: “I enjoyed talking with you. This sounds like a wonderful opportunity. What’s the best way for me to take the next step?”
As soon as you finish talking with a recruiter, take a few minutes to jot down any important information about the company and the person you spoke with. Make note of any additional questions you might have. When you get home, or the very next day at the latest, send a brief email to thank those you visited. No matter how informal the conversations seemed, keep the emails professional. Proofread carefully to ensure your spelling and grammar are correct. Use standard business letter openings and closings, and please skip the emojis. Here’s an example:
Dear Ms. Mason:
It was a pleasure to meet you at the job fair. I’m very interested in the customer service positions we talked about.
We discussed my background in customer service and the experience I have gained over the past six years. I was impressed to learn that XYZ Company values customer service so highly that it provides quarterly training for all employees. I strongly believe that my skills can be an asset to your company.
I look forward to speaking with you again about positions in customer service. I’ve attached another copy of my resume for your reference. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 555-555-5555 or by email at email@example.com if you have further questions.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.