How to make job fairs work for you

The most important thing to wear is a smile - Ann Taylor

Ask any job seeker if they like job fairs and they will say "No!" Ask any company rep that question, and I'm afraid they will say the same thing. So, why do companies and job seekers still go to job fairs? Because it can be a wonderful way to get a job! Applying online is like throwing darts in the dark. Done right, going to a job fair can be like standing one foot away from a job board and sticking the dart into the bulls eye by hand ... if you approach them the right way. Some companies set up interview booths and extend job offers at the job fair (depending on the level of job)! Job fairs can be a terrific way to get past the online screening traps, meet with real people and find some companies who need you right now.  

There's always one person the companies are fighting over

I was working a job fair in Montreal, Canada and things were exactly the same as they were at career fairs in Dallas, Texas and Minneapolis, MN; there are always a few who candidates who stand out from the herd ... that all the companies fight over. 

As I stood there at the Montreal job fair, struggling to remember my college French, I saw one well-dressed, brightly smiling candidate hit the row of companies and I laughed out loud. knew exactly what was going to happen. Like a huge school of fish, all the company reps came out from behind their booths to meet that one woman. They were fighting over her. They all wanted to talk to her, and they craned their necks trying to make sure they did not miss out on her, as they struggled to talk to other candidates. 

In sharp contrast to that job seeker, there were many more candidates who acted and looked like they just rolled out of bed ... and really didn't want a job at all. There always are. When company reps talk to them, trying to figure out what kind of a job they want and if they can help them, they get the distinct impression that the last thing they want is to get a job. The employers start to wonder: someone make them go to the fair (their husband, or their employment counselor)? And then, the reps try to move them along as fast as they can ... away from their booth. That sounds awful, but it's the truth.

The worst part about meeting candidates who seem totally disinterested is this: most of them really do want a job, but they hate going to job fairs so much, they wear it on their sleeves. 

Job fairs are exhausting for candidates. They're exhausting for employers, too. However, they can be a wonderful way to find a job ... if you're willing to do a little work ahead of time.

Who gets hired (and who gets turned away)?

Well, the answer most people jump to is this: the people who fit the open positions employers have that day. If only it were that easy! The truth is, not everyone who has the right skills get hired (there are more people than jobs). Furthermore, the best-qualified guy is rarely the one to get the job.

The candidates who get the interviews (and the jobs) are the ones who:

  • Show up well-dressed
  • Are enthusiastic about talking to employers
  • Have done a little homework about the companies
  • Know what they want next in their career
  • Have the skills they need

5 ways to stand out from the herd at a fair

Standing out from the enormous herd of candidates at a job fair is pretty simple, actually. It will take you a little time, but your return on investment will be tenfold. I promise. Here are 5 things you can do to stand out from the herd:

  1. Know what you want!
  2. Know who the companies are, and which ones you want to talk to. 
  3. Know what you have to offer (what skills and experience might be relevant to the companies)
  4. Be professional! (How you dress and how you present yourself).
  5. Be enthusiastic! Even if you hate job fairs, put a smile on your face. Your dream job might be right there, waiting for you. 

Be PREPARED (and be the one they want to hire)

The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare - Juma Ikangaa (world-record marathon runner)

Download & the use the complete career fair prep guide!

It's packed with tips and tricks about how to get ready, how to show up and how to follow up after your next job fair. Packed with insider secrets from someone who spent 10+ years on the hiring side of the job fair booth.