Before the fair
Step 1. Do your homework
You should know which organizations will be at the fair, and what organizations are looking for in job candidates. Visit the companies' websites and read what they have to say about themselves. Look up recent news articles to see what others have to say about them. Find out what positions are currently available. Find out the problems they're facing and think about how you can address them given your background, interest, and skills. If you're well-prepared, you will have a fluid conversation with employers about the organization and their products and services. Employers will undoubtedly try to test your knowledge, so be prepared by doing your homework in advance.
Step 2. Create a game plan
Whatever you do, always have a plan. You should plan to arrive early so you can be one of the first people to impress the recruiters. As a result, the recruiters will compare everyone to you if you set the standard. You should plan to speak to a specific number of companies, and plan to ask a few specific questions. When you have a strategy, you are more organized, more confident, less stressed, and you won't waste anyone's time.
Step 3. Dress for the job you want
You should dress as if you are going to an interview, because that's essentially what a career fair is: a mini-interview. You should error on the side of formality when it comes to your attire. It's okay if you're the best dressed person at the fair, that's an easy way to stand out. It shows that you're a consummate professional with good judgment and decision making skills. Ensure that your hair is well-groomed, your nails are manicured, and your breath is fresh. When you look good, you feel more confident, which can go a long way in the job search.
During the fair
Step 4. Introduce yourself
Your introduction will largely depend on the situation, but in general, say who you are and what you do for a living. From your research, you should know what kind of opportunities are available, so you should let the recruiter know what you're looking for and why you're interested in exploring opportunities at their company. Be sure to give a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, smile, and speak clearly and audibly.
Step 5. Deliver your elevator pitch
If you were on an elevator with a key decision maker in a company you want to work for, what you would you say to leave a positive first impression? Your elevator pitch is a 20-30 second speech whereby you talk about your immediate career goals and something about your background that has led you to having this career goal. Make it personal, but be sure to touch on a few key points in an organized manner. Talk about a few of your relevant experiences and relate them to the skills that are necessary for the kind of job you're seeking. Be specific in what you want because it's easier for someone to help you. Even if you don't know exactly what you want to do at the moment, choose something specific for the circumstance, you'll look and feel more confident.
Step 6. Anticipate possible questions
You should be prepared to answer a wide range of questions during the job fair. You should be prepared to answer general questions like, “tell me a little about yourself” and “why are you interested in working with our company?” You should use these opportunities to elaborate on things you've mentioned in your elevator pitch. When answering any question, try to tell a story. Recruiters are more likely to remember your story as opposed to recalling bullet points from your resume. Connect the dots for the recruiter so they can fully understand your logic in applying for positions available at their company. By the way, you are not truly prepared for conversations at job fairs until you've rehearsed your answers to the top 50 interview questions.
Step 7. Ask great questions
As a job seeker interested in a specific industry or company, it's expected that you are abreast of current trends, so ask about recent stories that have garnered attention, but be careful not to make any mention of negative press. Don't ask any questions in which you can find out the answer on Google, this makes you look like an amateur. Your questions should demonstrate that you've done your homework. They should be thoughtful and provocative. If you make the recruiter think long and hard about the answer to a particular question, she will remember you long after the fair is over. Remember, the questions you ask are more important than the answers you give. Keep this in mind and you won't have a problem standing out.
Step 8. Provide the proper paperwork
After you've made a good first impression you need to make sure your paperwork is just as dynamic. You should have a folder full of resumes to give each recruiter. Your resume should be polished and current. When you hand it over, you should encourage the recruiter to take a peak to see if you meet the qualifications for the position. If they seem interested in you and mentioned that you meet the qualifications based on your conversation and resume, you need to move on to the next step.
Step 9. Ask for an interview
This is a bold move that will make a lot of people uncomfortable, job-seekers and recruiters alike. The entire purpose of going to a career fair is to get an interview. Why leave it up to chance and wait for them to give you a call back? Take it into your own hands and request an interview. At this point you've spent some time with the recruiter and developed a rapport with them, and if things seem to be going well, you have good reason to request an interview. If they don't give you a firm answer after you've made your request, ask what it would take to get an interview with the organization. If you are bold enough to downright ask for an interview, recruiters will have no choice but to respect you. If the recruiter continues to avoid the request, no worries, you've done what you come to do, and that's to stand out from the crowd. Not many people are bodacious enough to ask for an interview at a job fair, and this alone will make you one of the most memorable candidates at the event.
After the fair
Step 10. Follow-up
After you've made a positive first impression, asked great questions, and capped off the conversation by asking for an interview, you would have likely solidified yourself as one of the most memorable job-seekers at a career fair, ever. Your follow-up is the icing on the cake and can seal the deal. How and when you follow-up is extremely important in securing the interview. You should follow-up as soon as possible. Each recruiter should have an email from you before they leave the fair. They will be thoroughly impressed when they pick up their phone after the fair and see an email from you, someone who already stood out in their eyes. The email will confirm their impressions that you are one of the people they will invite for an interview. In your email, you should mention that you met at the career fair and that you are writing to reiterate your interest in a position, and to ask for an interview to further discuss your qualifications and fit for the role. Be sure to attach your resume for their review.
Recruiters encounter three types of job-seekers at career fairs: the bad, the good, and the great. The bad job-seekers are the ones who are memorable for all the wrong reasons and will never be called for an interview. The majority of job-seekers are good. They will probably do a decent job if they were hired, but they don’t stand out, there's nothing special about them. Then there are the greats. The great job-seekers usually follow these ten steps to some degree, and they are the ones who usually land the coveted interview.