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Maximize Career Fair Exposure

I have attended many career fairs over the years. All are properly organized and set up with the intention to provide a central place for job seekers and employers to meet.

A career fair can be a very productive environment for you to make networking contacts to further your career. It is a rare opportunity to meet HR managers face to face without an appointment.

Employers have booths set up, much like an art and craft fair. The employers are displaying the opportunities at their companies. The big difference is that you can not buy an opportunity. The company must want to hire you. So, as you walk around the career fair, keep in mind that you are selling and they are buying. It is the opposite of a craft fair because the people in the booths are the buyers. The employers are looking you over to see if you fit the company requirements and culture.

Career fairs are basically organized networking events. Even if you do not land an interview that day, if done right, you have developed leads and contacts for future opportunities. Every person you meet is important. In order to maximize the value of a career fair follow these basic guidelines:

  • Dress as professional as possible. I recommend that you do not dress business casual. A business suit will set you apart from all the rest. Image is everything at the first meeting.
  • Arrive early. Being early may give you extra time with the employers to interview. Stay late, sometimes the last contact is the best contact.
  • Resumes-a-plenty. Bring lots of resumes and give to every possible contact. Do not ever run out of resumes. Bring more than you could possibly use. I suggest not using business cards or attaching business cards to your resume. Keep it simple.
  • Be positive, relax, and smile. It sounds simple, but I have seen many candidates that seem tense and rushed to meet everyone.
  • Research the top companies you want to contact. Days before you arrive, pick your target companies and are sure to make personal contact even if you have a long wait to see the company representative.
  • Repeat the walk, do not be shy. Go back to the same booth a second time! Think of a good reason to return to their booth.
  • Collect all information packages that companies provide. These packages are excellent for understanding their plans and goals.
  • Ask for a commitment to interview later if the booth is very busy. The employer is in a buying mood. They want to find qualified candidates to hire. The employer also wants to accumulate some resumes for future openings.
  • Always collect business cards from managers. Most business cards now have e-mail addresses for you to send a thank-you and follow-up notes.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Career fairs are wonderful places to practice you ability to meet new people. Practice your handshake and eye contact and smile simultaneously. It is an open environment and less threatening with lots of other people around, so you should be more relaxed than in a one on one interview. Every time you present yourself and your background, you will get better and more poised.

Finally, career fairs are wonderful events, particularly for those in the beginning stages of their career or changing career fields. Attend as many as possible. Every contact you make is important because you will not know which contact will lead you to that next job. Be focused and stay positive about getting results.

"When you play it too safe, you are taking the biggest risk of your life...Time is the only wealth we are given."
- Barbara Sher

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist see the opportunity in every difficulty"
- Winston Churchill

Dear Headhunter,
I am planning to transfer to UCLA next year and would like to get your opinion. My goal is to get a Bachelor's Degree in business Economics. My main focus of interest for this degree would be financial. What tips can you give me as far as how the real world operates and what are the key items employers in these fields look for?
- Sophi

Dear Sophi,
The real world operates on creditability first, ability second. Transferring to UCLA will get you better exposure when you start interviewing. UCLA career days will offer you more choices.

Dear Headhunter,
Upon reading your article, I found your 10 Commandments to be so true, but at times, I find it so hard for me to get that certain job. I am 44 years old, trying to find the right job. Seems to me that each time I go out and look for work, it's so easy, but when it comes down to having the interview, I get the jitters in my stomach. Why is that?
- Spicey

Dear Spicy,
Everyone gets the jitters. It is a normal feeling when a person is in a new situation. The best advice is to maintain eye contact at all times. If you smile, they will smile back. Humor can relax you and them. Focus on telling the truth. If you are hiding anything, that will cause stress.

PLEASE NOTE: emails received become the property of "Dear Headhunter" and may be published unless otherwise requested. Questions may be edited for content and length. All questions will be reviewed, some without a reply.

George Gurney has been a leader in the employment industry since 1976. He founded an executive search firm that conducts domestic and international assignments.  He has won numerous awards for recruiting excellence.  He has been a guest speaker at national conventions and seminars.