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Fourteen Secrets for Marketing Yourself at Job Fairs


As you start marketing yourself to prospective employers, don’t forget about job fairs, a frequently over-looked opportunity. It’s a great place to make many contacts in a short period of time and introduce yourself to people that you would have no way of meeting otherwise. And although most job fairs offer only a few minutes with each company representative, at the very least, they are a great place to network and gather information about potential employers. Your objective for attending a job fair should be to:

1. Make contacts that could lead to job interviews.

2. Get names of people who might know of a job opportunity for you or who could refer you to someone who does.

3. Get an on-the-spot job interview.

Typically, the organizations represented range from smaller businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Hundreds if not thousands of people often attend so you’ve got competition for face to face marketing. Participate in a job fair with the goal of networking; if you get a hot lead, or an invitation to interview, it’s an added plus. Prepare for job fairs just as you would for a regular job interview. Psyche yourself up and get ready to take an assertive approach to effectively marketing “you.” And don’t be disappointed if you get the impression that the companies are participating for the public relations opportunity more than for finding future employees. It’s still a great chance to connect with people.

The following secrets for marketing success at job fairs will get you started.

1. Plan for a full day of activity. You may not know before you go how long you will be there, but think in terms of a day of greeting and meeting and passing out resumes and business cards as well as possibly engaging in some actual job interviews on the spot.

2. Find out which companies are going to be present and allow enough time in your schedule to see those in which you have the most interest. If you know ahead of time who will be there, you can even customize your resume and cover letters for each employer and definitely get a leg up on your competition. You should also prioritize the list and start with the companies that are the most interest to you.

3. Do some advance research on the companies you want to definitely visit. Research prior to job fairs is not any different than research before a regular job interview. You want to know as much as you can about each of the employers represented, especially those with whom you have the most interest.

4. You will need a two-minute “commercial” highlighting your background and skills. You should practice presenting the “commercial” until you have it committed to memory and have a polished delivery. Expect to present it many times throughout the day.

5. Dress to impress. A job fair is just as much an interview as a face-to-face interview on-site with a company representative. If you have any doubts concerning what to wear, try a suit. This applies to both men and women. Take the risk that you might over dress rather than lose an opportunity because you are under dressed. Many job seekers make poor decisions concerning attire for a job fair and never know that they were eliminated from further consideration because of their appearance.

6. Hand out your business card to other job seekers as well as prospective employers. Most job seekers don’t think of other job seekers as resources for job leads. However, they can be a viable resource and what better place to meet them than at a job fair or a job lead club?

7. Take extra copies of your resume and leave one with each company representative regardless of your interest in the company. You never know where your resume may end up. It’s very possible that even if the company doesn’t have any positions for you, they may know of another company who does. There is no excuse for running out of resumes. When it happens, it simply indicates that you were not as prepared as you should have been.

8. Use a good quality leather attaché case (or small briefcase) to keep your resumes neat and clean and to store material you collect. It’s also a part of marketing yourself. You don’t want to appear disorganized with papers sticking out of a cheap pocket folder or plastic binder. Make sure you also carry a good quality writing pen. Both the pen and the leather brief case are marketing tools that show employers that you know how to present yourself to impress.

9. Do not go to an employer’s booth with food, a beverage, or cigarette in your hand. Wait for a break to refresh yourself. And if you smoke, keep in mind that you smell like smoke. There is definitely a bias against smokers in the job market. And breath mints or chewing gum won’t conceal the odor.

10. Participate in workshops on job-search topics of interest. Some job fairs offer free workshops that can be worthwhile as long as they don’t take time away from your marketing time, which is your number one priority.

11. Take mini-breaks throughout the day. You do not want to appear worn-out or uninterested because you are tired of talking and standing.

12. Pick up business cards and printed information so you have reminders of companies and representatives with whom you spoke or have interest in contacting later.

13. Follow up with thank you letters to the company representatives who spoke with you. If you were lucky enough to get an interview, especially by more than one person with the same employer, each person should get a customized thank you letter (they should not all read the same) from you. It is acceptable to e-mail your thank you. However, like a resume and cover letter, it must not contain spelling and/or grammatical errors. If it does, it could cost you a job. When you write your thank you letter, be sure to remind the recruiter of your conversation at the job fair and your highlight your qualifications. Recruiters will meet many job candidates throughout the day, so try to include an item in your letter that will help to spark the recruiter’s memory. In the letter, express your interest in setting up an appointment for an on-site interview.

14. If you have time, talk to those companies that you are not particularly interested in. You could still get a job lead or uncover an interesting opportunity.

In conclusion, A job fair provides an excellent opportunity for both candidates and recruiters to market themselves by making that important initial face-to-face contact. However, you definitely need to be prepared before you get there. Casually dropping by a job fair without thorough preparation is a waste of everyone’s time. Your competition is there to market too. You can get the leading edge by using the information in this article to help you before, during and after you get there.

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