Get a Jump on Job Opportunities
Bring Your Best Manners to Job Fairs
For most of my law school clients, the on-campus interview process has nearly ended. While those career services offices catch their collective breaths, over the next several weeks, the career services folks at other graduate schools will move into high gear as they seek to match employers and students at on-campus job fairs.
Career fairs offer students phenomenal opportunities to make positive impressions with prospective employers. This is especially true where a student’s résumé lacks that something special. In a world in which employers consistently report that new hires too often lack communication skills, nothing beats an in-person meeting to prove that a student excels in this competency.
Like any other networking event, to succeed, students must tackle three separate phases of any job fair: preparation, attendance, and follow-up. The student who fails to commit 100% to any one phase is unlikely to achieve the best results possible . . . like a coveted job with a favored employer!
Following are 10 things every student should know about the three phases of job fair participation:
1. Research attendees. At a very minimum, know something about each company or government agency scheduled to participate. From an employer’s perspective, nothing says, “do not hire” more than the student who approaches a prospective employer and asks, “So what does your company do?”
2. Prioritize. Create an A List (employers you’re most interested in meeting) and a B List (employers who may not be your first choice, but you wouldn’t turn down their offer). Don’t even think about talking to a B List employer until you’ve tackled your A List.
3. Résumés. Pack-up at least 25 résumés and carry them in a portfolio that will keep them neat and clean. Make sure your résumé highlights the unique talents and skills that you bring to the table. Consider bringing different versions of your résumé, for example, a candidate for a marketing position might want to carry a standard résumé plus another that demonstrates his/her creativity.
4. Questions. Develop two to three questions that you can ask any employer. (Please note: these questions cannot include inquiries about starting salary and benefits!) Demonstrate a genuine interest in what the employer does.
5. Attire. Confirm the dress code for the event. In most cases, attendees should wear business-conservative attire. That means suits and ties for the gentlemen and suits for the ladies. Even where “business casual” attire is invited, forget about wearing jeans, T-shirts or revealing outfits.
6. Arrive on time. There’s no such thing as arriving “fashionably late” for a job fair. Besides, participants who arrive at the start are most likely to enjoy the undivided attention of prospective employers.
7. Business etiquette. Show that you have good manners by introducing yourself professionally, articulating your name and a descriptor (two or three sentences that describe who you are). Extend your right hand for a nice, firm handshake and make eye contact. Enjoy a 10- to 15-minute conversation. If it appears an opportunity exists, don’t hesitate to inquire about next steps. Ask for business cards.
8. Nibbles. Some schools provide refreshments for job fair participants, employers and students alike. Skip nibbling anything until you’ve met everyone on your A and B Lists. Keep your hands nice and clean for every handshake with a prospective employer.
9. Notes. As soon as you leave the job fair, find a quiet spot to make notes about the conversations you’ve had. Don’t put this off. Your memory will fade incredibly fast. List connections, common interests and possible opportunities.
10. Communicate. Follow-up with every prospective employer you met. At a minimum, thank them for making time to speak with you. Don’t hesitate to follow-up with a letter of interest also known as a letter of inquiry. Continue your follow-up. Don’t assume an employer is not interested in hiring you until someone specifically says so.
What Do You Need to Know?
People who secure employment via job fairs, prepare for them thoroughly, attend with a positive attitude, and follow-up consistently.
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