by Scott Boyd
Job fairs. Speed dating for job seekers and employers! Or like a cattle market.
Most Colleges and Universities organise job fairs round about graduation time to allow students to meet new employers - it's a fairly common method of recruiting recent graduates.
Job seekers can use job fairs to find out a bit more information about employers, working life and general industry information. This is what most people use job fairs for.
However, the opportunity exists for job seekers to use the brief few minutes they have with employers to create a lasting impression (er, a "good" lasting impression!) and sell themselves, for job fairs are also an opportunity for the cream of the crop to rise to the top!
So who are those people hanging about the tables?
Employers and recruiters tend to send HR personnel along to job fairs to either weed out unsuitable candidates or pick out some young potentials from the crowd.
Unlike trade shows (which have basically the same format), job fairs aren't "staffed" by marketing people - they aren't trying to sell you anything. They are there to be sold by YOU! (the obvious exception is where you are such an attractive prospect, you get them chasing you, but let's face it - if that was the case, then you wouldn't be reading this!)
You are a salesman competing for business amongst hundreds of others. You could leave your CV with the recruiter. Would they remember you?
Dress for an interview!
Yes, job fairs are interviews and you should treat them as such.
Simply sauntering along in jeans and a t-shirt to see what's going on isn't going to get you anywhere, regardless of your skills and abilities. There are literally hundreds of other people there with the same aim as you - finding meaningful employment!
So, go along to job fairs and be prepared to make an impression!
Do your homework on the fly!
You see those glossy brochures the recruiters have strewn all over their little tables? And the posters on the walls? And the conversation the recruiter is having with the other jobseeker next to you?
This is all valuable information! And you NEED to use it to make your impression!
Find out about the company. Find out about the jobs they are offering or their graduate programme. Listen to the questions the recruiter asks other people and the information he or she gives out.
If you wander on up and ask some vague question about health plan or holidays, the recruiter is simply going to answer you and will soon be distracted by someone else. There it was. That was your chance. It's gone now.
You need to engage the recruiter - not simply hold a one sided conversation with them! At a job fair, a conversation is your best friend, because the longer you spend talking with the recruiter, the more likely they are to remember you.
The least you should leave a job fair is with some background about your industry (an idea of the types of jobs available), and some information about employers. At best you leave having made a positive impression on several employers and have a few job prospects to look forward to!