Whether you're a recent graduate seeking your first position or an experienced professional in search of a new opportunity, attending job fairs is one way to network and find job leads. Job fairs allow you to meet hiring managers from various companies and industries -- all housed under one roof for the day. These tips will help you make the best impression.
Research Job Fair Companies
"When meeting candidates at job fairs, I like to see that they've done their research," says Louis Dennis, a human resources representative for State Farm Insurance Companies in Greeley, Colorado, who regularly recruits employees by attending job fairs. "Folks who can sit down with me already knowing something about the company and the types of jobs they're interested in are very impressive to me."
It's usually possible to obtain a list of employers participating in a job fair ahead of time. The best-prepared candidates will have already spent time researching corporate cultures and searching job listings on Monster and other sites. "If someone can say to me, ‘I'm interested in underwriting or claims' and can back up why they're a good fit, I'm immediately going to be impressed," Dennis says.
Develop Multiple Versions of Your Resume
After you've done your homework, tailor your resume based on your job objective, and consider bringing multiple versions to the career fair, says Christina MacGill, associate director of career programming for career services at Pennsylvania State University.
"Once candidates have done their research on participating companies, they can create a few different resumes targeting these," MacGill advises. "For example, someone interested in finance can research typical job titles and types of responsibilities and then create several different versions accordingly. They also might create one resume targeted to working for banks and another one tailored to working for the finance division of a large firm like GE."
You should also prepare a general resume without a specific objective. "That way, candidates can be prepared for any situation at a job fair by keeping their options open and having multiple resume versions ready to go," MacGill says.
Cut Through the Clutter
Having a concise resume to hand out at job fairs is crucial. "When I'm at a job fair, where the line can get eight-to-10 deep of people waiting to talk to you, I cringe when I see a resume that's more than a page and a half long," Dennis says.
"If the resume is cluttered and not easy to read, this is a problem," says MacGill, who coordinates career fairs at Penn State. "Employers get so many resumes at career fairs, and you've got to make sure your resume is easy on the eye, with the main information easy to pick up and quickly scan."
Bring Supporting Documents
Additional documents that could help support your qualifications will depend on your industry and career goals, but they may include a cover letter, professional portfolio, transcripts (usually for new graduates), reference list, letters of recommendation and job applications.
Use the information uncovered during your research to guide your cover letter development. You may have found names of HR managers, position openings and job requirements that will help you customize your letters. If you don't have this information, write a cover letter to go along with each resume version. The letter should provide an overview of your qualifications that meet the goal the resume specifies.
At the same time, supporting documents aren't as important as your resume, and some hiring managers won't be interested in dealing with the extra paperwork. Dennis says cover letters aren't necessary at a job fair.
Request a business card from each hiring manager, and jot down a few notes immediately after each conversation -- this will help refresh your memory when you follow up. Email or mail a thank-you note within 24 hours of the job fair.
"When I've met someone promising, I'm looking for them to follow up," says Dennis. "If they do, that's a sign of serious interest."
"We also recommend that after you meet with someone and learn more about specific positions, alter the resume and send an updated, customized version to the person you spoke with right away," MacGill says.
Make your resume shine with help from Monster's resume writing experts!
A cover letter is an extra tool you use to sell yourself to an employer. If you fail to submit a cover letter to job fair recruiters, you are selling yourself short. The cover letter is a professional way to introduce yourself to a recruiter, encouraging him to take a look at your resume and ultimately hire you for the job. It is a good idea to bring general and targeted cover letters with you to the job fair. Targeted cover letters are impressive, in that it sends a message to the job fair recruiter that you took time to perform research before attending the fair.
Type your name and mailing address at the top of the cover letter. Include the month, day and year of the job fair's date. Use left alignment for your contact information and date.
Do not put a company's name and address on a general cover letter. If you know that a company you are interested in will be present at the job fair, create a targeted cover letter just for that company. In a targeted cover letter, include the name of the company, as well as the mailing address, with left alignment. You can often get this information from the company's website.
Type “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Human Resources” for the cover letter greeting. If you want to put a name on a targeted cover letter, be sure you know the name of the company representative attending the job fair. One way to get this information is to contact the company human resources department prior to the job fair.
Type the body of the cover letter. In it, mention the type of industry job you are interested in, instead of mentioning an exact job position. Examples of industry job types include customer service, management, sales, education and health care. If you conduct research to determine the exact jobs a specific company is hiring for, create a targeted cover letter for that company. In a targeted cover letter, mention the exact job position you are interested in. For instance, you may list the job as “certified nursing assistant,” instead of “health care.”
Create multiple versions of your cover letter. Depending upon your job preferences, you may create one for management positions, another for customer service and a different one for education. By doing so, you ensure that each recruiter receives a cover letter that is targeted and relevant to a specific job type.
Specify in the body of the cover letter that you learned of the open position through the job fair. Include two to three sentences summing up your qualifications and experience.
Close the cover letter by asking for an interview at a mutually convenient time. Include your best contact number and the hours you can be reached on that number.
Thank the company representative for his time. Add a professional closing, followed by your name and handwritten signature. Examples of professional closings include “Sincerely,” “Respectfully” and “Cordially.”
About the Author
Faizah Imani, an educator, minister and published author, has worked with clients such as Harrison House Author, Thomas Weeks III, Candle Of Prayer Company and "Truth & Church Magazine." Her dossier includes JaZaMM WebDesigns, assistant high-school band director, district manager for the Clarion Ledger and event coordinator for the Vicksburg Convention Center.
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images