How to “kill it” at career fairs as demonstrated by moments from The Office
I am currently looking for a job. Recently I attended a career fair presented by Technical.ly Philly to help the developers get great jobs. I did my prep; I found companies I could see myself working at, dressed professionally, and had enough resumes to throw around like they throw dollar bills on a Friday night (at church, mom.)
Except, I made a rather awkward mistake. As I was chatting up with a recruiter, I mentioned that the company he works for truly stood out as one of the companies I was interested in.
He caught me off guard by asking “Oh really? How so?”. I did my research! I read up on the companies! Why was nothing coming to my head? Oh that’s right, because I did the research a week ago and I was really unprepared.
“Well, I like that it’s right in the city…and I really like. . .the people.” I answered.
He pressed his lips for a moment, darted me a skeptical look. “The people? Right. Ok, sounds good. I’ll pass your information on. Thank you”.
I mentioned this story to my friend, and she started laughing. “You know they just laid off a ton of people?” she asked. Great.
I wanted to create a guide for all of you job seekers who don’t want to learn from their own mistakes. Learn from mine.
Finding A Networking Event
To find networking events in your city:
- Follow the influencers in your city on Twitter/ Facebook. Do a quick Google search to find which organizations create events in your city. Who is creating monthly and annual events?
- Join Meetup groups. Find active groups groups that fit your interests, and sign up. Find out whether they organize networking events, or whether you can help set one up.
- Follow companies you’re interested in directly on their social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin).
- Check a company’s events page by Googling “[Company name] events” Go directly to the source!
2 Weeks Before The Event
Once you found an event, open up Evernote/Word/Moleskin notebook and start taking notes! If its a large event, understand that you may not have the ability nor the energy to hit every booth or table. You have to be strategic with your time, and your work.
Go through every company in attendance, and do some basic research. Figure out which characteristics of a job are deal breakers for you:
- Is this company in a good location?
- What are the available jobs? Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see an availability for a job you wanted. If you like the company, make a point to talk to the recruiter. Sometimes, if you are a great fit, a company can create a job specifically for you.
- How are the salaries? Use Glassdoor to get an estimate.
- What is the culture like? Corporate? Startup? Does it matter for you?
- How flexible or rigid you are with the job search? Are you set on a specific job/field or are you figuring out what you like and would appreciate a recruiter’s guide to other open positions?
During the process of researching the companies, keep a file for every candidate. You will need this for when you go up to recruiters at the event.
When you walk up to a recruiter, you should know:
- what the company does
- why it stands out to you
- recent news release, merger, event, etc.
- which position you are most interested in
- which of your qualifications, skills, or experiences make you a great fit
- what your goal is long term (this gives recruiters an opportunity to say ‘I don’t have a job for that role right now, but we do have an opening for another department”)
The Week of The Event
Take the time to re-read your notes, and make sure that you know the time, the place, and any other details about the event.
- Make sure your resume is updated and proofread. Print a lot of copies on resume paper. (You can buy some at Staples, OfficeDepot, Walmart, etc)
- Dry clean your suit, button-downs, slacks, etc. Check with the event page to see if they have a dress code. Always come in dressed business casual at the very least, which means slacks, jacket, button down. No jeans, no holes in clothing, no reminders of last week’s chili.
- Shine your shoes. Details are so important in first impressions, especially when the recruiters see so many people.
- Prepare a short, foolproof elevator speech that you will use when you speak to recruiters- something short and sweet to make the interaction comfortable. Focus on the basics that highlight who you are and why you are pursuing this company such as “Hello, I’m Khrystyna. I’m currently a senior at XYZ University, pursuing a degree in financial management. The role of the financial analyst interested me because I have experience with managing client portfolios, but also leadership skills through my involvement with organizations.”
The Day of The Event
You are looking sharp, and ready to go.
- Find out the layout of the event. You want to exude confidence, which you can accomplish by knowing exactly where you’re going rather than appearing like you're helplessly wandering.
- Take a moment to look over your notes on a specific company before going up to the booth. A quick refresher on which jobs they offer, what the company does, and why you want to work there.
- Practice Amy Cuddy’s breathing and empowering tricks. Take 1 slow breath in. Take 1 super slow breath out. Repeat 3 times. This will slow your heart rate down, calm you down, and overall give you the chance to feel more comfortable and confident. Don’t forget to stand tall, and never cross your arms.
- Go up to a recruiter (or wait in line if there are people), look him/her in the eye, flash a warm and genuine smile, shake the hand and dive into your elevator speech. Take your time. After your introduction, let the recruiter respond.
- If the recruiter has the job open for you- great!
- If the recruiter says that this may not be a good fit/ job is not available / any other reason : ask about other opportunities he/she may know of. Discuss why you want to work for the company and where you see yourself going in your career.
- In both cases where the job is available and not, say “thank you for your time” and ask for a business card.
The Day After The Event
Send every one of the people you spoke to a brief thank you e-mail stating that you appreciate their time, (and perhaps advice), your goals with the position, and reiterate what makes the company so special.
If this post was helpful or interesting, hit that little heart icon to show love. Please let me know if you have any tips to add to the list! I love hearing about what works (and doesn’t) for folks on the job hunt.