Career Fairs – Suit up and let’s go!

I attended a local career fair this past week to network and learn which employers are actively recruiting, what skills they are looking for, and which industries are attracting the most candidates.

It surprised me that many job seekers had not done any prep work prior to the event. Upon speaking with many, it surprised me even more how many candidates did not bring resumes or wear interview appropriate clothing.

Perhaps they didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps this was the first job fair they had attended. Perhaps they didn’t think it mattered. Perhaps they didn’t know to ask anyone.

Job fairs are a great way to meet a variety of employers from various industries and learn about current and upcoming job opportunities. If you are someone who is changing career direction, or maybe you don’t have related, or very much experience, job fairs are a must. You get face time with recruiters without blindly applying to posts online.

Are you someone who knows that if you could just get your foot in the door, you could show the interviewer why you are the best fit for the job? If so, hiring events can be a game changer for you.

Below are a few tips to maximize your experience when attending a hiring event.

1. If possible, contact the organizer prior to event and ask if there is a list of employers/companies that will be represented. How did you hear about the fair? Was it advertised in the newspaper? Start there and reach out to find the main sponsor’s name and contact information.

2. Go through the list of attendees and visit their websites. Research any open job postings shown on their sites, then decide which companies you would like to work for, and tailor different versions of your resume to align with each company.

3. You need to have a portfolio to carry your various resumes, sorted accordingly or in separately marked envelopes, to submit to recruiters. Personally, I also recommend having some calling cards printed. is an affordable source for cards. If you are employed and looking, you do not want to hand out your current employer’s business card. If you are unemployed, having a calling card sets you apart, making you memorable.

4. Your first impression needs to be professional. Be sure to dress for the position you are seeking. You want the recruiter to be able to envision you fitting into their company’s culture. You do not want to be remembered as the woman in yoga pants and sneakers.

5. Use the portfolio to organize the business cards you collect and any brochures, job descriptions, or other information being distributed by employers. Make notes on these items if you spoke to their representative and really hit it off or discussed a specific position or topic.

6. Within 48 hours after the event, send follow-up emails to people you spoke with; reminding each of positions discussed and anything you noted on their business cards. This will help you stand out. Feel free to attach another copy of your resume to your email so the recipient does not have to dig through a stack to find it.

7. If you felt a particular connection with a recruiter, feel free to ask for a follow- up meeting in your email, to learn more about the company or the industry. Even when firms aren’t actively pursuing candidates, many people are willing to take a few minutes to discuss future opportunities or offer career advice and direction to those who ask.

Keep in mind that you are casting a wider net for your job search with each connection you make. Be memorable for the right reasons so that when someone hears of a job opening over coffee, you are the first person who comes to mind for them to refer.

For a free consultation on your resume, suggestions on calling card design, or “what not to wear” advice before heading to the next job fair, please feel free to reach out. Happy to help you make the most of the experience.

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