Job Fairs: Gaining Entry Into the Booth

The fair is in town. No, not the county fair. The annual job fair. Many employers in one place with their best faces forward, looking to attract you, to work for them.

Companies you are interested in will be represented so this looks like a worthwhile stop on your hunt for the perfect job. You will have an opportunity to present yourself and to learn more about your potential employers. You will only get one chance to make a first impression and in the face of bright lights, stunning displays, gifts, candy smiling welcoming faces eager to meet you, don't think for a moment that your potential next employer is taking this lightly. They are not. They are willing to stand at a booth for hours and speak with literally hundreds of potential candidates to find the few who stand out. Don't blow it!

You are walking up to a booth. What do you do? Impacts are made in an instant and if you are serious about your job search, you will want to be taken seriously. How? By showing employers that you do take this seriously. Read and learn everything you can about presenting yourself professionally and take that knowledge with you into the fair. Do not dress like you are going to the county fair. Do not throw professionalism out the door. Do not head straight for the bags o' free stuff. It really does not serve you well when you ask an employer to hold your bag o'pencils, balloons and candy while you dig through it to find your resume at the bottom of the bag.

You are at the booth. You are greeted and you begin to speak with the employer. Be yourself and be prepared to answer the question that will follow the pleasantries, "What areas are you interested in today?" This is point where the pool of candidates splits into two groups. The split is so pronounced that at times, one can almost hear it. In one group are those candidates who are asked to come over to the side where they can speak more privately and in the other, those who are given a free balloon and an application (maybe) to complete and send back. Admission to the first group? A solid, thoughtful, authentic answer to the question. "Oh, I don't know, what have you got?" is not a good response. If you give it, the employer will follow up with a question along the lines of, "What type of work do you currently do?" or "What skills do you have?" If your response is going to be, "I can do anything," you should not be at the fair. An employer at a job fair will not provide career counseling. They will ask questions to see if there is a fit between your skills and experiences and their needs and they will make this determination based on your answers so you need to be prepared with the answers. This is a two way interaction in which you hold the key. 

Maybe, just maybe, you really will take anything. "Anything" still is within a context. Define the context. For example, "I worked at XYZ Company as an Administrative Assistant in the Sales Department. My computer skills are excellent. I excelled at providing the sales force with lists of potential customers by reading trade journals, through my contacts with the local Chamber of Commerce, and believe it or not, as a board member of my church. We were recently acquired by another company and I was let go. I am very interested in working for your company because of your commitment to the local community. I am open to consider any opportunities where I could use my skills to benefit the company."  "Interesting," says the employer. "Come on over here where we can speak more privately."

Yes! You have gained entry into the booth. Now we are talking!