The Night Before
The career fair is tomorrow and you’ve done a lot of work, but here are a couple more recommendations to help you be fully prepared.
Grab a friend to take out for coffee and have him double check your resume. Better to find any typos today than for a recruiter to spot them tomorrow.
While you’re grabbing that coffee take a few minutes to rehearse your 30 second commercial. As an aspiring author, I’ve been in your shoes recently when attending writers’ conferences. The first question every other writer has upon introduction is, “So what do you write?” So I rehearsed the pitch for my novel until I could say it in my sleep! By the time I sat down in front of editors and agents to “sell” my manuscript, my jitters were almost a distant memory.
Next, lay out your outfit. Or two. Because you might discover that sharp gray suit needs to go to the dry cleaner or, as soon as ladies try to pull on a pair of tights, they’ll get a run. Make sure you have a backup plan so you don’t have to show up at the fair in a borrowed outfit. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s not pretty.
The early bird gets the worm. It might be cliché, but it’s very true of a career fair. Many employers leave about 30 minutes (and some even sooner) before the fair ends. So if you show up later, you’ll miss out. And even if we don’t leave early, having spoken to 50, 75 or 100 plus students we’re fried by the end of the day. When representatives are fresh you’ll probably get far more information than those bullet points they’re sharing at the end of a four hour fair.
If it’s 6:05 pm and the fair ended at 6:00 pm, use a little discernment. A recruiter who is all packed up might share some quick highlights but don’t stick around for twenty minutes with tons of questions. Don’t ask for any handouts at this point. He’s already packed up. Even if you have a good reason, you were late, plain and simple. Ask if you can get in touch and let him be on his way. You want to be remembered, but not as the clueless wonder.
The Day Of
Today is the day. All of your preparation is going to pay off. It’s okay to catch a ride to the fair with friends but once you get there check over your written plan and go work the room. This isn’t a group effort. Walking around with a gaggle of buddies sends the message that you are a follower, not a leader, and you can’t make your own decisions. If your friend is interested in nursing and you’re interested in engineering, you’ll need to speak to very different companies. So shake ‘em and go your separate ways. Later on you can catch up and discuss the opportunities you discovered.
Talking to the Recruiter
I promise you, we don’t bite. And you’ve been following this cool blog, so you have plenty to talk about. 🙂 Introduce yourself with a firm handshake and be enthusiastic. We’ve all had that experience where we’ve been in the middle of a story with someone and that person looks away, or looks beyond us to something more interesting. Not a good move at a career fair. If you build rapport with a recruiter and she doesn’t have any careers that are a fit for you, she still might point you in the direction of some opportunities at other companies (we recruiters do talk to one another). But if you’re rude, good luck.
Be mindful of time and personal space. Even if you’re having a great conversation, know when it’s time to say thank you, shake hands and move on. If you think the company is great, there’s probably a line of other people behind you who feel the same way. Let them have their time with the recruiter. On another note, don’t stand so close I’ll want to call for security, but don’t stand so far away I have to beckon you closer. That will make me think you’re timid. If you’re afraid of me, how will you be able to handle the occasional tough customer? An arm’s length away is perfect.
Don’t be offended if the recruiter doesn’t take your resume. This is becoming more and more common. Don’t take it personally; it’s not you. Every company has its own application procedure, which is typically to apply on line and upload the resume. So why have a resume? Because having one says something about your professionalism. Plus, the recruiter might look it over even if he doesn’t keep it.
Ask Good Questions
Remember, you want to have a conversation with the recruiter so be prepared to ask some questions. Good ones. If the representative works for Midwest IT Solutions, please don’t ask, “So what does Midwest IT Solutions do?”
Well…provide IT solutions. (It happens.)
You can ask if they have any opportunities in sales, marketing, HR, accounting, etc. The name doesn’t say it all so don’t assume a company won’t be interested in someone with your major.
Some other good questions might include the following (but only ask if you’re truly interested):
Can you tell me more about your hiring process? This way you’ll know how to apply, when you might hear back from the hiring representative and how many interviews to expect.
Is there an opportunity for, or mandatory, relocation? If you are married to the town you live in and the company plans to send you to parts unknown after a couple of years, it’s probably not the company for you.
What are you looking for in an ideal candidate? The recruiter could describe you perfectly. Or not.
What are the daily responsibilities for the position? The position could be a desk job and you need to be on your feet all day. The job requires creativity and you’re more analytical. Great to know before you apply.
Will you be conducting on campus interviews? If so, find out how to sign up. If it’s three weeks away, however, apply right away so perhaps you can interview earlier.
What kind of training do you provide? Maybe the last company you worked for used the ‘sink or swim’ method and you discovered you want a very specific training plan.
Are there opportunities for advancement? If you want to be a director someday and there are only 20 people in the company, it might be difficult for you to achieve that goal.
More Do’s and Don’ts
Do not ask about salary. It’s obvious you’re going to go with the highest bidder and can’t possibly be sincerely interested in our company which makes us question how long you’ll stick around if hired.
Don’t be a collector. Many people hear there’s a career fair and show up, grab a bag and begin shopping. This is not a trade show, and it’s not a grocery store. He who grabs the most toys does not win. Don’t be mistaken for one of these people. There’s nothing wrong with accepting a stress ball, ink pen or candy but go back and get those things at the end of the fair, after you’ve connected with all the employers of interest. You don’t want to be the guy with so many freebies you’re dropping them in the aisles and juggling all your goodies while trying to get to your resume.
Don’t congregate in front of a booth with your friends. We recruiters want to talk to people but you and your buddies are blocking our table! Take personal conversations out of the high traffic areas.
Do take a business card. You’ll want to know how to get in touch with the recruiter and you don’t want to call Meghan, Megan or Sean, Shaun. Or Shawn. 🙂
Do network with other attendees and fair organizers. Your friends or the staff from career services might be able to tell you about a company you’ve overlooked that is offering your dream job.
Do make one last sweep at the end of the fair. This is a great time to thank the recruiter one more time and assure him you’re going to send in your application. Whenever possible, apply the same day while you’re still fresh in his mind.
Do note how to apply. If you’ve been told to apply online, don’t send an email to the recruiter asking how to apply. You’ll lose big ‘attention to detail’ points.
After The Fair
This is a great time to shoot the representative a note to reiterate your skills and interest. Send this note after you’ve applied to make them aware that you’ve followed instructions. You might even bring up something you talked about to remind them who you are. I spoke with a girl at a career fair years ago who is also almost six feet tall. Our discussion revolved around what a challenge it is to find pants that are long enough. When she mentioned that conversation in her follow up email I immediately knew who she was.
Make sure you follow proper phone etiquette and grammar. As I’ve mentioned before, all correspondence counts, so if your email is full of typos and improper grammar it could affect whether you move forward in the interview process. You should be putting your best foot forward in every interaction with the company, so while you might feel this is unfair, know that when you’re up against the candidate who didn’t have the Justin Beiber ringtone, he’s the one that’s going to walk away with the job.
There it is, tips on what you need to do before, during and after a career fair to help you get into the interview. May you land your dream job soon.