The Dreaded Job Fair

by The Red Recruiter on June 13, 2009

Frustration2I received a call the other day from a friend asking if I wanted to tag along with her to a job fair here in San Antonio. I’ll be honest… job fairs haven’t necessarily been the most enjoyable episodes of my career in recruiting. Perhaps it was the guy who had sweat dripping off of his palm… or the sick lady who constantly cleaned her hand on her dress before saying hello… oh yeah, I can’t leave out the people who spit when they talk – oh the joys of a job fair.

Putting all preconceptions aside, I thought it might be interesting to go in order to observe how job seekers are approaching employers. Having been in the recruiter’s position on more than one occasion in the past, I’m familiar with how quickly a candidate can win or lose favor with the recruiters. I also know that people have a real urgency to identify employment in this sort of market.. so, it’s important to get some objective feedback.

So, I packed up my laptop and headed out to the event. After meeting up with Taryn, a great friend and recruiter for Rackspace in San Antonio, TX, we headed over to the event. We decided that my cover was going to be as “The Assistant,” which I was totally cool with. I lugged around a few boxes and helped her get set up. Occasionally, I would make sure that the line of people had brochures to look at… very official “Assistant” duties!

The rest of my time was spent sitting in a corner watching how people approached the various booths. I must say, it was interesting to just listen and watch… beyond feeling like a total voyeur, I did have a number of takeaways that I’d like to share with those of you who plan to attend job fairs in the near future.

So, here you go… a list of things not to do at your next career search excursion.

Things NOT To Do At A Job Fair

  1. Do not ask what the company does once you arrive to the booth… if you don’t know, go figure it out first.
  2. Come prepared with your resume… seriously – this is job search 101.
  3. Make sure that your resume is clean (coffee stain free) and in good condition – pulling out a folded resume went out of style years ago!
  4. It’s a job fair, not a prison sentence. It’s okay to speak with the other people in line… you might just make a good connection.
  5. Do not give the recruiters “stalker eyes” as you wait in line… it does not help break the ice.
  6. Bring some water or have a beverage available. You do not want to have squeaky voice once you get through the line.
  7. Take a deep breath and remember that most of the people around you are in the same boat. It’s okay to be nervous, just work to take control of your emotions. No crying.
  8. You had better be a rock star if you are going to say “Let them know that I’m brilliant.” – I saw a guy pull it off, but it could have been a train wreck.
  9. Remember the basics… eye contact, firm handshake, smile – if you have wet palms… figure something out before shaking the recruiter’s hand. Any suggestions on this one?
  10. Do not drop the “F” bomb in the first 20 seconds… or during the interview process for that matter.
  11. When asked “What type of job are you looking for?”… it’s not okay to respond “Anything.” Be specific.
  12. Having a sense of humor goes a long way… if you know how to, use it.
  13. MASTER your 30 second commercial… practice until you are blue in the face! That’s all you have at the job fair.
  14. MOVE THE PROCESS FORWARD! Do not just say “Thanks” and walk away… are you kidding me. You came to accomplish something, so ask about the next steps in the process, who to contact… anything. Just keep the process moving along. OR, get the “No.” No risk, no reward… be brave.
  15. BE CONCISE in your short meeting. This is not chit-chat-catch-up-on-little-league-hour. State your case, ask for the next step, move on. In those steps, you do your best to make a good impression… but, you must keep it short.

What I’ve Learned At 30+ Job Fairs

I’ve learned that when I finish meeting 100+ candidates and I’m walking back to my car… there are only 2-3 that really stand out in my mind. That’s right… 2-3 people that I consider high priority targets.

Prepare for the job fair, practice your 30 second commercial, make sure your resume is stellar… be ready for action! Be among the 3% that gets remembered when it’s all said and done.

Recruiters know who came prepared and who did not. We, by nature and practice, are usually very in tune with how candidates act… that’s what we get paid to do. You will automatically stand out in the crowd if you plan in advance and gain the internal confidence to impress a recruiter.

What other tips do you have for attending a job fair? Any other disasters that job seekers should avoid?

Special thanks to R.O.A.R. San Antonio

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for hosting an excellent event! Great employers, great venue… awesome turn out!

Photo Credit, striatic

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