By THERESE MARIE BOLDT, FOX 2 Career Coach
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – In today’s economy, a job seeker can leave no stone unturned. Finding a job requires a person to employ a broad array of tactics – from searching the internet to working with recruiters to networking to attending job fairs. Many people who historically speaking would never have considered attending these types of events to land a job now see them as a great opportunity to connect with potential employers.
But if you want to make the very most of a job fair, you’ve got to be prepared to succeed. Just like interviewing, working a job fair successfully takes some strategizing.
Step #1: Have a Plan – Do your Research
Job Fair organizers typically publish a list of the companies (and organizations) that will participate in their event right on their promotional materials. But if not, go on line and do a Google search for the job fair to learn about the employers who will participate. Take a look at the list and determine who you’d like to meet with. Rather than walking around visiting every exhibitor delivering a generic message, I suggest selecting a reasonable number of companies to target. At a job fair, it’s not about quantity – meaning it’s not the number of resumes you pass out – rather, it’s the quality of the face-to-face interactions you have. To help you in selecting your target companies, ask yourself these questions:
What companies am I most interested in?
Are there companies on this list you have heard good things about? Maybe there are companies that are part of industries that are growing like alternative energy or advanced manufacturing. Maybe you’ll see companies listed that are known for providing great training opportunities – something that might be attractive to a job seeker who is “recareering.” Take some time to select companies that are most attractive to you.
What companies will be most interested in me?
Next, consider which companies will be most interested in meeting with you. What companies might be attracted to your skills, your experience, your education or even your potential? Put yourself in the shoes of the employer. Determine what might be important for them. Then be sure to target these companies at the job fair. For instance, if you have retail experience, be sure to meet with retailers at the job fair. If you have healthcare experience or education, make a point to visit with any medical companies at the job fair.
After you have chosen which companies you want to speak with, it’s time to do some homework. Find out who these companies are and what they are up to by visiting their web sites. What’s being said about these companies in the news? Are they growing? What are their short and long term plans? What types of hiring are they doing? What positions are posted on their sites? Write down some information on each company you plan to meet with so that when you are face-to-face with their representative at the job fair, you have something to talk about.
So now you have a list of companies, you’ve got information about of them, you’ve got a stack of resumes that accurately and succinctly describe your background. What else must you consider before entering the job fair venue?
Step #2: Dress the Part
What you wear does matter. Think about the image you are projecting. As you approach an employer at a job fair, your image arrives way before your credentials arrive. If you want an employer to seriously consider your credentials or your value, you’ll need to dress as if you were going to an interview. In all my years as a recruiter, I never heard an employer say, “He (or she) was dressed too conservatively!” Professional dress is MANDATORY if you want to succeed at a job fair. If you are not sure what professional dress means, it’s time to find out. Do some research. Talk to people who hire. Ask them how they define professional dress.
Outer wear (jackets, coats, etc.) is something that some jobseekers forget to consider. I recently attended a job fair that took place on one of the coldest days of the year. I noticed many people wearing unprofessional, and in my opinion, inappropriate outer wear. Here are some things I observed: a bomber jacket, a leather jacket with a sports team logo, a baseball cap, a ski jacket with paint on it, a knitted cap…the list goes on. Your outer wear needs to match your business attire. If you are not able to spend money on a new dress coat, I suggest you find a coat room and store the garments that could keep you from having a successful job fair experience.
Step #3: Prepare your Pitch
Preparing your pitch is important, but preparing to make your pitch is just as critical. What do I mean by this? When you arrive at an employer’s table, the employer’s representative has already formed an opinion about you based upon your outward image — how you are dressed. Then, before you utter a single word, you have an opportunity to insure that your pitch will actually be listened to. How? By meeting the employer’s eye, having a ready smile, and offering the employer a firm handshake. Now, the employer is ready to hear whatever pitch you have prepared.
Since you will have a very limited amount of interaction time with a potential employer at a job fair, it’s essential that you carefully prepare your pitch or presentation before the day of the event. And really take the time to practice. You only have one chance to make the right verbal representation of yourself, so make it count.
Rehearse two or three sentences that will allow the employer to quickly know:
who you are and what makes you great
what skills or experience you have
what type of job you see yourself in
what attracted you to the company
Want a real life example?
Here’s a pitch I would make if I were in front of a company who might hire me. “Good morning. I’m Therese Marie Boldt, and I’m a career coach. I have dedicated the last several years of my life to working with people and companies who are in transition. I’m interested in working with a company like yours because of your commitment to the professional development of your employees.”
Notice what is NOT included in your pitch?
What is not included is the reason you left your last job or how long you’ve been unemployed or any other negative statement that describes your current reality. Your pitch is about you, your vision, and the value you will potentially bring to this employer. So, how prepared are you to succeed at a job fair? What adjustments do you need to make in your strategy? Successfully working a job fair is work. But if you commit to doing the work, you’ll make great connections and, in the end, may even land a great job!