Preparing for a Career Fair

What to know and what to do before you walk the floor

Hold your head high and shake recruiters’ hands firmly. Maintain eye contact with the company representative with whom you speak. Keep your hands out of your pockets, don’t chew gum, and try not to say “um” when speaking with prospective employers. Try to avoid using slang in general — “yes” sounds better than “yeah,” and “’sup?” isn’t an appropriate greeting in a professional setting. These are tendencies you should have overcome while practicing what you will say.

Try to collect business cards from recruiters or company representatives that you meet. This gives you a name and a contact. Jot down notes on the back of the cards so that you will have better recollection of the conversation with that person later. Write down what kind of jobs they have available so that you won’t have to rely on memory.

“Everyone looks to come away with that position, but you need to look at networking,” says Kollhoff. “It’s not only who’s hiring, but the hidden job market — someone who’s not hiring now might be in the future.”

Follow up
So you’ve done the career fair thing and now you’re just waiting for the phone to ring. This can be even more nerve racking than the career fair itself. It’s important to remain positive and patient.

It’s a good idea to write thank-you notes to the people with whom you spoke at the career fair. While it may have become more acceptable to write an email to thank someone, a hand-written note is a rarity these days and will make you stand out more as an applicant. If you choose to send a thank you by email, it’s not a bad idea to attach your resume to it so that the employer can identify you more readily. They might not remember you by name, but they may recall your experience.

Kollhoff suggests that job seekers indicate in a cover letter that they’ll follow up in a week. After that week has passed and it’s time to call, be polite. If the person whose business card you got is unavailable, ask for a better time to reach that person. If you find out that the company no longer has jobs available, ask them to keep your resume on file. Then call back in two weeks. If they still don’t have any available positions, don’t call back for one month.

Kollhoff recommends that job seekers stay active in their field and keep networking. Use your time between calling back different companies to find out about their openings to stay current on training and expand your skills in any way possible: classes, volunteerism, whatever keeps you engaged in the field. If you gain new skills or accreditation, update your resume and resubmit it to a prospective employer. Find more career fairs to attend and keep plugging away at it.

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