In today's online job search market, human contact is at a minimum. Career fairs are an excellent opportunity that - when done right - can be very valuable to your job search. In an earlier blog post I provided tips to help you make the most of a career fair. Today, I am going to examine some of the most common mistakes and how you can avoid making them.
Mistake: An unfocused job search or an "I'll take anything" attitude
Solution: There are few things that make a recruiter crazier than this type of approach to a career fair. Companies don't want to hire you just because you NEED a job. Before attending a career fair, research the companies, find out the type of positions they have open, pick at least 5 target companies, and figure out how your skills and experience can benefit each company. This approach enables you to make a concise, targeted presentation to each company when you visit their table.
Mistake: Unprofessional appearance
Solution: The career fair should be treated no differently than an interview in terms of your appearance. Should you wear shorts and flip flops to an interview? Should you take your children with you on an interview? Should you walk into an interview holding hands with someone? In case you are unclear, the answer is NO to all the above. Just like an interview, at a career fair you should dress to impress, attend alone, and pay attention to your non-verbal communication.
Mistake: Asking inappropriate questions
Solution: Never ask questions about salary, benefits, or vacation time. Instead, focus your questions on gaining more information about the company and how you can fit into the organization.
Mistake: Grabbing free stuff
Solution: Most every table has free stuff to give away. If you go from table to table collecting giveaways and then approach employers with a bag stuffed full of goodies, you will look unprofessional and will offer the impression that you do not take the job search seriously. Focus your efforts on the job search first, then if there is time discreetly pick up a few items - if you must.
Mistake: Not taking advantage of the networking opportunities
Solution: You should walk out of every career fair with a fist full of recruiter and HR business cards that you can follow up with in the coming weeks. In addition, network with your fellow attendees to make additional contacts. Today's job search market is referral-based, make contacts wherever and whenever you can!