Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Conquer the Career Fair Cattle Call

In April, our local newspaper is hosting its annual job/career fair, and I can already hear a stampede in the distance: hundreds of job seekers anxiously charging towards the local hotel conference room to shake as many hands as possible and indiscriminately throw out resumes as if they were distributing flyers for a band performing at a pub. If your goal is to land a job, this is not a worthwhile strategy. Where is the attention given to the employer? What are you doing to make yourself stand out? At a career fair, time is limited and a recruiter’s attention span is short. Make the most of your career fair experience by reading our previous post on the subject while also incorporating these strategies to create a connection between you and the company:

Focus on the few: Career fairs can have anywhere from 25 to 250 employers attending. Simple research on the event website or other promotional material can give you an idea of what companies will attend…specifically, the ones that you want to seek out. Once you have identified these companies, get to know them inside and out. Research their culture, organization structure, competitors, and any interesting bits of recent news about them. This information will provide you an opportunity to have more substantive conversations with the recruiters, ensuring that you stand out through your knowledge and familiarity.

Problem solve: Companies obviously want to hire those who meet their needs. Using your research from the step above, try to identify or anticipate needs that the company explicitly or implicitly has. For example, if the company is growing, where geographically? In what business sectors? What kinds of support staff will they need to support this growth? Reflect on the company’s current and future state, and write down ways that you can help. Incorporate these into your conversation with the recruiter so that he/she gets the message that you are someone who can contribute to the company’s goals.

Reverse Interview: To create a connection with someone, oftentimes it’s best to have him or her do the talking. Develop questions that speak to the recruiter’s personal experience at the company, which can include:

  • What do you most enjoy about your company?

  • How would you describe the company culture?

  • What kinds of people are successful at your company?

  • What experiences have you valued the most at your company?

Showing interest in the recruiter’s experience by asking thoughtful questions will help you be remembered in the future. Be sure to actively listen and respond to his or her statements with what you are looking for in a company, the kinds of experiences that have made you successful, and other responses that keep the two of you talking but also highlight your strengths for their benefit.

Don’t get caught in the career fair stampede: take the bull by the horns and make connecting with the recruiter through targeting companies, problem solving, and reverse interviewing your principal strategy when attending a career fair.

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