What Recruiters Wish You Knew About Career Fairs
I have spent a lot of time in my life at career fairs, both as a recruiter and as a career counselor invited to attend the fair to assist job seekers. Often when job seekers are out of earshot, I have the opportunity to hear what recruiters think about these events. I think you should know, too, so here are career fair tips that recruiters would share if they were being completely candid:
1. Try to attend the career fair during the earlier part of the event rather than the later part. Toward the end, recruiters start to lose their voices and enthusiasm. In the last hour of the fair, I’ve found them hiding in the hospitality room or trying to sneak out early despite the protests of the event organizers who want recruiters to stay until the very end of the scheduled time. (Note to event organizers: shorter events are better than overly long events…even extroverted recruiters have their human limits).
2. If you are attending the fair with a friend or two, separate to make the rounds of employers. It is overwhelming for employers to interview two or more people at the same time, so be brave and approach them alone.
3. You start making a first impression the moment you walk up to a recruiter. If you are a woman wearing a skirt so short and tight you can barely walk, tottering on stiletto heels, you make a definite impression but it isn’t the one you might think. If you are a man wearing sweat-stained exercise clothes and recruiters can smell you coming within 10 feet of them, you are NOT going to be invited to an interview. Wear mainstream business attire, but it is OK if your outfit has a bit of individuality and color. If your budget is tight, there are nonprofits like Dress For Success and Career Gear that can help, or you can shop at a second hand clothing store.
4. Don’t chew gum, suck on mints, or eat or drink anything in front of the recruiter. If you are worried about your breath, take care of it before you approach the table.
5. The absolute worst way to greet a recruiter is to ask, “So what does your company do?” or, “What jobs do you have open?” Just like with dating you wouldn’t ask a prospective date, “So do you want to go home with me tonight?” before you’ve even said your name, you need to have an introductory conversation with the recruiter so that the recruiter can decide whether to offer you an interview later. You might not always know in advance which employers will be attending a career fair, but sometimes the list is published in advance on the event website. If possible, consult this list to research what each employer does and what types of job openings they have. Using this info, create an introduction for yourself. See #6 below for an example.
6. Approach each recruiter with fresh enthusiasm and energy. Make eye contact and smile. Some recruiters expect to shake hands but others will have their hands full with a clipboard or other info and in that case, don’t worry about the handshake. If you do shake hands, do so firmly but not so much so that you crush the bones of the recruiter’s hands. Say an intro that includes your name, something about your background and/or skills, and what you want to do. For example, “I’m Jenny Brown. I have worked in marketing for the last five years, most recently at Hilton Hotels as a Marketing Manager. Your hotel is well-known for its customer service and I would love to talk about how my marketing communication and social media skills might fit well at your company.”
7. Practice your pitch on a few of your second choice employers before approaching your top choices. This way, your favorite prospects will be able to see you at your best. Don’t wait too long, though…remember Tip #1.
8. Don’t wear out your welcome. After a pleasant and short conversation, say, “It was nice to meet you,” and start to walk away. If the recruiter wants to know something else, he or she will stop you from leaving. It is better to end a conversation a bit early than to create an awkward situation where the recruiter is looking over your shoulder at the long line of job seekers forming and wondering how to get you to move on.
9. Be prepared with a targeted resume. You probably can’t be equally prepared for all employers at the Fair, just the ones that are the best fit for your interests, background, and skills. Recruiters are not impressed with “one size fits all” resumes that have no focus and seem irrelevant to the job opportunities being sought. Don’t be afraid to be specific about what you want as it will increase your marketability for the best career options for you.
10. Ask each recruiter for a business card but don’t take it personally if any recruiter doesn’t want to give you one. Recruiters have told me that they received literally 1000 emails after some career fairs so they stopped giving out their contact info. They just don’t have time to respond to that many people.
11. Career fair organizers are as annoyed as you are when a lazy recruiter seems like they have no interest in having a discussion and they just want to only go to the company website and apply online. Other recruiters who are truly interested will ask additional questions and want more details! Many recruiters are forced to have you apply online! DO IT! It's a requirement by the company and if you want the job bad enough you have to follow their rules. Recruiters make notes of the candidates they like and wait to see if you will fill out an app. I don't know how many times I hear recruiters say "well, I'd hire him/her if she will go to the trouble of filling out an online app. I'll watch for it to come through."
12. To expand on #11 above, the recruiter may ask you some questions about your resume, or he/she may not. If a recruiter doesn’t seem interested, say, “It was nice to meet you,” and walk away. It is tough to know why you “click” with some recruiters and not others, but there is little to be gained from trying to win over someone who seems bored or aloof. Concentrate instead on talking to recruiters who seem to take a genuine interest in finding out more about you. Don’t gauge an employer’s interest in whether or not they will physically take your resume. Many companies want all applications to be done electronically and if you make a good impression, the recruiter has noted your name in some way to look you up later.
13. Many recruiters bring small gifts (SWAG aka “stuff we all get”) to career fairs. Feel free to ask to take one from each table, but don’t grab more than one and don’t ask if you can take one for your family member or friend. Don’t ask for stuff that is boxed up, as those items might be reserved for a different event. It is fine to carry a professional looking bag to carry these items, but don’t take so many things and stuff them all into such a huge bag that you look like you are a shopping adventure.
14. If you are given contact info by a recruiter, send a brief thank you note (or email) after the event. This is your opportunity to demonstrate excellent writing skills and to again call attention to the reasons why the company might want to interview you.
Each company is responsible for their own hiring and regulations! You are NOT guaranteed a job even with "hiring on the spot". You may or may not be a candidate for each individual company's needs or regulations.
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Job Fairs & Recruiting Marketing Services
Personally, I see people hired ALL the time thanks to Job Fairs- it's all about networking, following the instructions (YES! Online apps) and follow ups. If a recruiter is interested in your skills- they will call or let you know. Don't get frustrated and listen to the negative. Recruiters come to Job Fairs to meet you- a pre-interview of sorts. They are looking for skill sets, personality, attitude and more!!
Nothing in life is easy. You want the right job or career not the "right now job". Work for it at the next JOB FAIR!
Dress for the position you are going after!
If you are looking to get into the oilfield- boots, clean jeans & work shirt. Looking to get into the professional world? Dress professionally.
Where do I start?
Talk to ALL the companies. You would be amazed at what positions are offered that you might not think about. Hospitals are like small cities- they hire for painters, electricians and more. Same for the prison systems and most large employers. Don't rule anyone out just by their company name or type of company. You could miss out.
Why do they send me to fill out apps online?
Some companies require recruiters to ONLY have online apps so all the I's and T's are crossed and dotted. (Really it's the lawyers....). They also use them to see if you REALLY want to work for them and will go the extra mile. Why would they want to hire someone who is too lazy or important to follow their directions. If you won't follow directions or suggestions before they hire you they worry you won't later. Recruiters use job fairs as a pre- interview to screen out candidates. Make sure YOU stand out in the crowd. AND most importantly, they want people who will go the extra mile!
Will I be hired on the spot?
It depends. It depends on the company set up, the recruiters focus, your skill set and attitude!! Very few places hire you on the spot anymore. However, there are always exceptions to the rule and see plenty that do. BUT you have to talk to the recruiter to find out. Every company is different!
What time is best to come?
When the doors first open or during the lunch hour. Recruiters also have lives outside of recruiting so some leave early, get tired or have emergencies come up so they must leave early. Don't wait.
Do people really get hired from job fairs?
Yes! We see it at every event, all year long. It's about networking and building relationships. Finding a job is a job by itself! It requires effort and determination.