We just set our clocks forward one hour, thanks to Benjamin Franklin’s genius idea of Daylight Saving Time and we’re all a little groggy from the sleep that has been taken from us. Well, wake up, sleepy-head! Now is not the time to fall asleep on your career search. For many universities, the Spring career fair (or Job Fair if not associated with a college) is just around the corner. In today’s job market, what will set you apart from over 2.7 million unemployed jobseekers?
Grab an extra large mug of your favorite caffeinated beverage and let’s get started! I have outlined a few recommended steps for achieving career fair success below.
Know Before You Go: Research the companies that are exhibiting at the career fair, their common entry-level positions, their brands, and what exactly it is that they do. Step out of your comfort zone and research some of the companies that you think you don’t want to work for. You may surprise yourself! Another tip: never approach a recruiter at the booth and ask “what does your company do?” In the day of Google, it’s too easy to do your homework on a company, yet many jobseekers still don’t.
Bring Your Résumé: I can’t say this enough. Yes, some companies today require candidates to apply online so that their applicant tracking system (ATS) has all your information in compliance with government regulations such as Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). However, even after you apply online, it’s still a good idea to take your résumé. Use it as a follow up tool. Tell the recruiter where you think you fit with their company (have to do the research first), and hand them your résumé while you’re telling them this. Don’t forget to tell them that you’ve already applied online!
Dress for Success: You’re most likely a college student, right? Khakis and a polo shirt sound fine for a career fair, huh? Don’t do it! Set yourself apart from your friends and peers. Treat the career fair like an interview and wear appropriate clothing. Wear clean, professional clothing (club-wear isn’t appropriate) and use an iron. You may be the only college student in a suit at the career fair, but believe me, you’ll stand out. Recruiters will know that you’re serious and could see you working for their company.
The Handshake: Do you have a friend or family member that has a crushing handshake? How about that friend that just dangles their hand out there so you can shake it? A firm, commanding (yet kind) handshake is very important. Look them in their eyes, smile and introduce yourself as “hi, I’m (insert name)” and shake their hand with a firm grip that doesn’t crush, nor feel like a limp noodle. Two seconds is more than enough time to hold on.
Follow Up: Follow up is perhaps the most important part of the entire process. After you’ve done the research, dressed for success, introduced yourself and learned about your fit within their company, don’t forget to ask for their business card, asking “when should I follow up with you?”. Since you’ll have their card, send a short, handwritten follow up thank you note for their time, reminding them how you met and the opportunity you’re interested in. You could also mention that you’ve applied online since and list the job requisition number or position name.
This wraps up Landing Your Dream Job Part 1 – The Career Fair. Tune in next week for part two of this four-part series, Landing Your Dream Job: The Phone Interview.
Please feel free to share them with your friends, colleagues, classmates, and any other jobseekers out there that need help with a competitive advantage.
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