Heading to a job fair? Get in line. Literally.
Check out these recent reports: Some 19,000 job seekers flooded Atlanta's streets looking for jobs at the Georgia Department of Labor’s Career Expo and Job Fair. In Los Angeles, more than 10,000 people descended on Dodger Stadium to vie for jobs with corporations such as Coca-Cola (Stock Quote: KO), Lowe’s (Stock Quote: LOW) and the Army Corps of Engineers.
“Everybody’s looking for a job now,” says William Chang, career services director for the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
If you’re going to stand out among the multitudes, you’re going to have to do more than just show up, you need to come prepared. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of a job fair:
1. Look at the guest list. In some ways, a job fair is like a party: Knowing who is invited makes a big difference. Take some time to find out what companies are going to be represented at the fair before you start looking for your interview suit.
For a listing of job fairs in your area, as well as a listing of participants, consult the National Career Fairs web site where job hunters can register for free.
2. Always carry a resume. Recruiters can talk to more than 1,000 people at a huge job fair and although it’s important to stand out, you don’t want to be known as someone who came unprepared. Begin by having plenty or resumes.
You can use the computer at your local FedEx Office (Stock Quote: FDX) for 30 cents per minute and print a stack of resumes out at 45 cents per page. However, if you’re looking to save a buck, public libraries such as those in the Chicago Public Library system allow any patron to use their computers for free and printing will only cost you 15 cents per page.
3. Don’t expect to wing it: Bring it! Although it’s great to be able to think on your feet, it’s best to have some talking points before you meet with recruiters.
Consider crafting a "verbal cover letter,” a well thought-out introduction with at least three personal selling points that will highlight your skills and achievements. It will make it easier for you to initiate conversation and make it easier for your interviewer to gauge his or her interest in you.
4. Put some questions together. A job fair can be a good place to ask questions of a potential employer. But if those questions are not specific to that employer or their industry, you may end up doing yourself more harm than good.
Questions to avoid: "What does your company do?" "Do you drug test?" and "When would I be eligible for a raise?"
Instead, do some homework. Once you’ve identified who you want to meet at the job fair, take a few days to find out as much as you can about them.
5. Take time to craft answers to expected questions. Before you blurt out a response as to why you left your last job, remember: You’ll only have one chance to make a first impression, so make sure that what you say has some weight.
Practice with friends and family. Better yet, target a recruiter you are less interested in for a trial interview. Once you have your confidence up, you are ready to go to the job booths that really excite you.
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