career fair

Whether you’re entering the job market for the first time, or you’re an experienced professional planning your next career move, attending a job fair is one of the most effective ways to find your next gig. 

If this is your first career fair, you’ll quickly learn that it’s a fast-paced environment where it’s easy to get lost in the noise. When you’re preparing for a job fair, there are some things you’ll want to do to ensure that you stand out from the crowd and forge a meaningful connection with the companies at the event that are most attractive to you. 

Read on, as we cover everything you’ll need to know to ace your next job fair. 

What is a Job Fair? 

Job fairs or career fairs are events that connect companies with job seekers. At the event, each company maintains a booth where you can meet hiring managers and recruiters, discuss available positions, and tell them a bit about yourself. Some companies even conduct interviews on the spot. 

An online job fair is also an increasingly popular arrangement for companies to meet with prospective employees. Today’s uncertain times make an online career fair an ideal format for most people. Attending an online job fair allows you to network with interested employers on your terms from a safe and contactless environment. 

Why Attend a Job Fair? 

Many post-graduates and people searching for a new job often wonder if attending a job fair is a worthwhile use of their time. Trust us, it absolutely is. Apart from the obvious reason that a career fair might link you to your next employer, these events offer an excellent opportunity to research the job market and get some networking experience under your belt. 

The companies at these events are happy to share tons of useful information with you. You’ll learn about the company culture, what it’s like to work in the industry, and the paths for advancement within the business. 

Even if a particular company isn’t a strong fit for you at this time, you never know where you’ll be a few years down the line. The information you learn at the job fair might help guide your career path, and it can prove to be quite valuable down the line when you’re planning another career move. 

What to Expect at the Career Fair 

If this is your first career fair, or if it’s been years since you’ve attended one, you may be unsure of what to expect. But, there’s no need for you to go into your job search nervous or anxious about the process. Most of these events follow a similar format, and if you know what to expect, you’ll be well-positioned to make a lasting impression on potential employers. 

Most in-person events occur in event spaces or gymnasiums where dozens of companies can set up shop to meet prospective employees. The layout is similar to a trade show, where businesses set up elaborate booths that are interesting and inviting to draw you in. 

A few members from the company work the booth, and they’re happy to answer any questions you may have while sharing information about who they are and who they’re looking to hire. Many companies make their recruiter or hiring manager available at these events so you can meet with them directly. 

Online Career Fairs

At an online career fair, things are a bit different. The objective is the same, but since you cannot be physically present with representatives from each company, the experience is less conventional. 

Once you log into the online job fair, you’ll see a layout that’s similar to an online message board or discussion forum. You’ll notice a list of links for different employers, and clicking through a link will take you to that employer’s “booth” at the career fair. Once you’re there, the employer receives a notification, and they’re usually quick to greet you and introduce themselves. 

There’s typically a chat function that everybody at the “booth” can participate in. Here, you’ll learn more about the company, their open positions, and who they’re looking for. There are usually opportunities to chat privately with recruiters by text or video call so you can learn more about the company in a more intimate environment. 

Preparing for a Job Fair 

Preparing for a job fair is critical, and it will ensure you put your best foot forward and make a lasting impact on the prospective employers you meet. Whether you’re attending in person or online, these tips will make preparing for a job fair much easier.

Do your research on different companies beforehand
Register early to save your spot
Make sure your online resumes are up-to-date and ready for viewing
Practice your elevator pitch in the mirror or with a friend
Do a trail run and double-check any details

Do Your Homework 

One of the easiest ways to stand out at a job fair is to come equipped with a bit of knowledge about the companies you’ll be meeting with. Once you know who will be attending, make a shortlist of companies that seem enticing to you and do a bit of research on them. 

A sure-fire way to stand out from the pack is to come armed with a bit of background on the company you’re meeting with and have some smart questions prepared to discuss with the recruiter. 

Register Early 

Registering early helps secure your place at the event, and in many cases, it’s the best way to learn more about the job fair before it happens. Registering early allows you to see a full list of companies who are attending, so you can begin learning a bit more about them before you meet. 

Some in-person job fairs allow you to walk in and attend the fair without any advanced notice, but many more will turn you away if you haven’t registered for the event in advance. 

Have Your Resume in Order

Your resume, LinkedIn profile, or portfolio are how you’ll ultimately sell yourself to the companies you’re meeting with. It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s absolutely critical that all of these materials are in order before you attend the career fair. 

Keep in mind that the recruiter you’re speaking with has likely spent a few moments with half the people at the event. Even if you made a great first impression, you’d still need a compelling resume to draw their attention. 

Ensure your resume is current, properly edited, and proofread. The same holds true with your LinkedIn profile. For artists and designers, make sure your portfolio is as eye-catching and current as possible. 

One tactic that may help you create multiple versions of your resume to highlight specific experience and education you may have. Suppose you’re a professional with a bevy of experience across numerous industries. In that case, it can be wise to create different versions of your resume to better target yourself to a particular position or industry.

Practice Your Elevator Pitch 

Your elevator pitch is a short and focused overview of who you are and what you bring to the table. If you found yourself sharing an elevator with an important business person, would you be able to make an impression on them in a few short seconds? You’ll want to bring that same energy to each company you meet with at the event. 

You’ll need to introduce yourself and briefly explain why you’re interested in working with them, what kind of work you specialize in, and what you can bring to the table. Your elevator pitch shouldn’t feel rushed, but you should be able to get through it in thirty seconds or less. 

Once you’ve ironed out how you’ll introduce yourself, practice your elevator pitch in the mirror or with a friend so you can refine it and make it as memorable as possible.

Do a Trial Run 

If you’re attending an online career fair, it’s critically important that everything you’ll need to participate in the event is working correctly. Nothing is more frustrating than finding out five minutes before the event begins that your computer needs an update or your WiFi is lagging and presenting connection issues. 

Do a trial run to make sure everything is working correctly and ensure that all of your systems are up to date and running smoothly. Try and get to the event before it begins to give yourself ample time to troubleshoot if necessary. 

Tips For Making the Most Out of Any Job Fair 

Before you attend your next career expo or job fair, go to bed at a decent hour and get up early so you’re well-rested and ready to put your best foot forward. Once the big day has arrived, you’ll want to be sure to follow the advice below.

Bring lots of copies of your resume
Be professional and dress the part
Your time is limited—manage it wisely
Smile, show interest, and ask questions
Follow up with a handwritten note of heartfelt email

Bring Plenty of Resumes

You never know how many businesses you may end up meeting with at the event. Make sure you’re prepared with plenty of resumes to pass out to prospective employers. Not only should you have paper copies of your resume available, but you’ll also want to be prepared with a digital version that you can email recruiters and hiring managers directly. 

Exude Professionalism 

You want to put your best foot forward at these events, and doing so is just as crucial for online career fairs as it is for in-person events. In fact, striking an image of professionalism may be even more critical at online events. 

You’ll want to dress professionally, even though you’re attending virtually. Imagine having a great interaction with a prospective employer, and they’d like to meet with you via video chat the same day for a job interview. You wouldn’t want to be there in a T-shirt and sweatpants, would you? 

You also must ensure that you’re communicating professionally with prospective employers. Since chat is the primary way of communicating at a virtual event, employers will be looking for prospects that demonstrate strong business communication skills. Save the emojis and shorthand for texting with your friends after the event. 

Lastly, be sure that you’re attending the event from a quiet and clean room that’s free from distractions. Some online events have a video element, and it isn’t uncommon to meet for an interview with prospective employers on the spot. You want to make sure that the focus is on you and what you can bring to the table, not a messy room with other people in the background.

Body language is also important on these calls. Speak clearly with good posture, and avoid using hand gestures where possible as they can be distracting on video calls. 

Only Meet With Companies You’re Interested in Working For

Your time is valuable, and so is the time of the people you’ll be meeting with. If you can’t see yourself working with a particular company, don’t bother speaking with them about future employment. 

If this is your first career event, you may consider broadening your horizons and meeting with a broader pool of companies. But, if you’re a more seasoned professional, focus on having quality conversations over a large number of conversations. 

Be Engaging 

Engagement is the currency of a successful job fair. If you aren’t engaging with potential employers, you won’t be especially memorable to them, and you’re unlikely to score an interview. Make it a point to engage with every company you’re interested in, and have some questions ready to help facilitate engagement. 

Also, don’t be afraid to ask recruiters or hiring managers about the next step in the process. Find out who to speak to next or how to get your resume in the right hands within the company. 

Follow Up 

The day after the career fair, take a few moments to reach out to the person you spoke with from each company. Your message can be brief; thank them for their time, let them know it was a pleasure meeting with them, and you look forward to connecting with them to discuss any opportunities available within the company. 

The follow up demonstrates that you’re professional, timely and interested in a position within the company. It’s a great way to help yourself stand out from the sea of other attendees who are also finding a job. 

Final Word

Whether you’re a recent post-graduate or a seasoned professional, attending job fairs is ideal for putting yourself in front of prospective employers and finding your next career. Take the time necessary to prepare yourself, and follow the tips above. You’ll be well on your way to acing your next career fair and job interview.

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