Yesterday, I found myself saying something I often say this time of year. “One of my all-time favorite things is to go to a job fair!” The response I received was not unexpected. The job seeker hadn’t even thought of attending a job fair since college. They seem so juvenile on some level.
I will admit, tiny job fairs aren’t always everything they’re cracked up to be. I’ve been to fairs with ten or less employers who have tiny booths and very few actual jobs. These events add little value, and could eat up a perfectly good afternoon.
But, a good job far can be worth its weight in gold. On more than one occasion, I’ve successfully landed a job as a result of attending one of these events.
Large fairs have 300 or more employer booths. Often, the companies represented are the ones you’ve been dreaming of, such as Facebook, Google, or FedEx. Each employer has a booth that’s manned by someone from their recruiting team. They’re there to answer questions, collect resumes, and in some cases, conduct interviews.
You heard me right. The recruiters often conduct first round interviews at large career fairs. Can you imagine how much time might be saved from applying online, if you could simply walk from recruiter to recruiter in person?
Finding the right fair can take time, but is worth the effort. Start by looking on local chamber of commerce websites, and the websites of young professional groups. They often help career fairs to get the word out.
Then, check out the websites of various national organizations, such as National Society of Hispanic MBAs, Society of Women Engineers, or Net Impact. These groups have huge annual conferences. As part of a conference, they will typically host a large career fair. And, the organization will often sell a career fair only pass for $100 or less that can save hundreds off the conference price.
If you’re not sure which organizations to look up, try checking out your local convention center website. There is often a calendar of events page on the site that will contain a listing of all upcoming fairs and conventions.
Keep in mind that the same recruiters attend many different job fairs all year. The particular fair you attend is not as important as the specific employers represented.
Once you’ve found the fair you want to target, prepare four things: your suit, your resume, your business cards, and your elevator pitch. Study the job fair map provided and decide which employer booths you want to stop by. Look up those companies online to see which open positions they are currently promoting.
The day of the event, arrive early. Prepare to stay all day. Feel confident when talking to recruiters about your job search, and don’t be afraid to ask for their business card. After the fair, follow up through e-mail and LinkedIn.
With a little work, you’ll find job fairs can be helpful for years after college is completed.
Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com.
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