Is the career fair worthwhile?

Every once in awhile I write a post about career fairs. If I had any doubt that they could be effective, those doubts were blown away when my most recent intern, Emily, updated me on how she was doing with her job search.

Emily will land on her feet anyway, she is a talented young lady who I was blessed to have as my very first personal (as in Design Resumes) intern. She graduated from Rasmussen College on Friday, April 6 with her Associate Degree in Human Resources Management. She will get her Bachelor’s Degree in the future but right now just wants to get out there and use her Associate’s degree.

As my intern, I provided her with a full line of Design Resumes services. She has a new professional resume, she has been surrounded by career marketing advice for months, and she is a very smart young woman.

Emily went to the Rasmussen College career fair in February and apparently was more than successful. She’s connected to me on Facebook and I kept seeing her status say, “I have two interviews” or “The interview went very well.” When I called to ask her where the leads were coming from, she told me that most of the leads were coming from the career fair. She found plenty of opportunities with major employers.

You need to be prepared for a career fair though to be successful and Emily has good sense to start with and then I coached her even more just to be sure. You might benefit from the following check list.

The Career Fair Quiz:

  1. Are you dressed the part? Look at the career fair photo above. Most everyone is in suits. If you don’t have a suit and you are a male, pick a nice shirt, add a tie, and get a pair of dress pants and some black or dark brown shoes. If you don’t have these things, perhaps you should invest. Since job search is challenging, having the basic job search outfit is a good idea even if you don’t use them later. If you are female, black pants and a nice shirt or blouse, perhaps with a blazer, makes a good first impression.
  2. Do you have your resume updated? Don’t think that it will work to bring your old resume that doesn’t have your most recent position on it to a career fair. Your resume should be professionally written and chock full of accomplishments and key words. Be prepared with print copies but realize that you may be just collecting information and posting your resume online later.
  3. Have an “elevator speech” ready. 30 seconds of what you offer, what you are looking for, and who you are. Tough as this can be, figuring this out in advance will make you look better at the career fair than the person who is stammering for an answer.
  4. Though your resume should be prepared, collect business cards at the career fair so you can send a cover letter or thank you note to the person who is running the career fair booth for the company. You never know how that kind of networking could help you.
  5. Did I mention that you should not be chewing gum, drinking soda, or eating anything as you go booth to booth at the career fair? No one wants to be unprepared to chat because their mouth is full. Networking, Networking…
  6. Prepare questions to ask companies. Find a list of who will be at the career fair in advance and target the ones you are really interested in. You can do online research.

Emily got it right. If you follow the tips above, you will too!

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  1. Jason Alba on April 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I think career fairs can be good (even though I wrote in a recent blog post they are an utter waste of time :p). Two reasons (aka, my assumptions) why I think she was successful:

    1. This was sponsored by, and was at, a school. Big difference between a non-school sponsored career fair.

    2. She is young, so likely looking at entry level (if she were a senor level exec, looking to make $80k+, would she have had that success?).

    Again, just my assumptions. I haven’t seen much success at job fairs… but I’m happy for Emily!

    • Julie Walraven on April 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Hi Jason, I felt the same way and had been advising my clients not to bother. I read your post before and even retweeted / shared it but I had to speak about her results. It seems that more and more politicians are sponsoring job fairs and even attending them. Sean Duffy was at the one today and there was significant press about it.

      I also see the economy changing and I think companies are starting to use career fairs a bit differently than they did between 2007 and 2011.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Omar on April 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Career fair can be good and not. It depends on you.

    • Julie Walraven on April 11, 2012 at 9:03 am

      Sometimes it depends on you, sometimes it depends on the objective of the company. If the companies present are really planning to hire in the future, then you are right. It depends on you to make a difference in your resume presentation, your dress, your ability to communicate, and your respect to others. I think people who are pushy or disrespectful at career fairs also rapidly lose points.

      • Bob B Hayes on April 12, 2012 at 1:31 am

        Yep, you are right! I have been a job hunter myself, Came out of a good college with a technology degree, I always thought that I can get anything. But these jobs were really a disappointment, most of the companies just want to collect data so that they can have a stronger database. The hiring rate in these fairs are really not very encouraging!

  3. Carmen on April 11, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    This blog is very influential. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. It was a knowledgeable post.

  4. Liz on April 12, 2012 at 3:45 am

    You did a great job. Thanks for posting such informative blog with us. Please keep it up.

  5. Jennifer on April 12, 2012 at 7:14 am

    I’ve always read you infographic blog. And it was pretty awesome. Please keep posting your interesting blog.

  6. Amy Lang on April 12, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Great article Julie! What a great example of how being prepared for a job fair can provide leads.

    • Julie Walraven on April 13, 2012 at 7:08 am

      Thanks, Amy, hope you are well. Yes, it worked well for Emily, she was in more interviews Tuesday,

  7. Mohamed on April 24, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Its true. Applicants who make the effort to send a thank you leettr/email after meeting whether after a networking event, meeting or job interview are more memorable because so few people make that effort. Once that message is received you say to yourself Oh yes, I remember that person ‘and if you’re interview or meeting was solid thats a good thing!

    • Julie Walraven on June 8, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      Exactly, thank you for stopping by. I am behind on comments but I do appreciate the time you took to comment.

  8. Julie Austin on May 25, 2012 at 11:28 am

    For the past few years I’ve been volunteering at job fairs and putting on my own. I know for sure that people were hired from my job fairs and I have also hired people who attended and was very happy with them.

    I hate to say this, but many people simply don’t use common sense when it comes to a job fair. You have to treat them like a real job interview, meaning you dress the part, etc. If you go to a job fair with a chip on your shoulder it always shows and you can be sure that you won’t get hired if that’s the case. I teach a free job fair webinar to prepare job seekers in what to expect and give them tips on how to make the best of one.

    • Julie Walraven on June 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm

      You’re right about the lack of common sense. I have seen the craziest dress at job fairs. Thanks for your efforts, Julie.

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