Spring is a busy time when it comes to job fairs, leading up to summer hiring. If you are planning to attend a job fair soon, it’s time to start preparing. There are three main things you need to know about how to prepare for a job fair:
Create a specific job fair resume
Typically, you should create a customized resume tailored for each individual job. When you’re attending a job fair, though, your resume needs are different. Put good effort into crafting a compelling career summary. This is not the same as a traditional resume objective, which is all about your goals; instead, it’s an overview of what you’ve accomplished, and how you can benefit an employer.
You should have printed copies of your resume to take with you. The resume that you create to take to a job fair should be limited to one page. Remember, roles that date back 10 years or more can be condensed into a section called “Prior Professional Experience,” or something similar, where you include just the employers, your titles, and your employment dates.
Depending on your field and the type of job you’re targeting, a job fair is your chance to move beyond the typical resume and include (carefully chosen, of course) color and graphics. Because you will be meeting with people face-to-face, you could even include your photo (normally frowned upon in the U.S.).
You may not be able to choose keywords targeted for an individual job when attending a job fair, but you can research keywords relevant to your industry and the types of roles you’re interested in, and draw from those. Resume examples are a great source in this case. If you’re pursuing a career in social media, visit Indeed.com, click “Find Resumes,” and browse through resumes using “social media” as a search term.
And, as always, make sure your resume is polished and error-free.
Hone your elevator speech
An elevator pitch is a short speech—30 seconds or fewer, or about the length of an elevator ride—in which you tell someone who you are and what you do. You can also include details such as notable accomplishments, standout skills, your interests, community involvement, or professional goals. Obviously, you can’t include all of that—so think of several highlights, and choose which to share based on who you’re talking to.
But remember, it’s an ice breaker, not your whole life history. Focus on being conversational.
If you’re a student and you’ll be attending a job fair at your college or university, your elevator speech should include information about your major, plus any notable projects, such as a thesis.
An elevator speech is designed to be a brief and compelling quick of your career or education. Practice, revise, and accept feedback to make sure you are engaging—but not bragging.
Don’t try to memorize an exact script—just get comfortable with the points you want to cover. The last thing you want is to come off as stilted.
Research potential employers
Generally, you’ll be able to find out in advance which employers will be at a job fair. It’s important to learn about who will be there, and to come up with a realistic and prioritized list of the companies you want to talk to. Don’t go to a job fair planning to talk with every company present.
If you’re going to be attending an industry-specific job fair, then doing your research is even more important. Not only will you need to know what sets one company apart from another—in order to decide who you want to spend your time talking to—but the questions you prepare for an industry-specific job fair should be more focused, and should allow you to demonstrate your understanding of, or experience in, that field.
Employers will come into contact with countless candidates during the course of a job fair. One of the most effective ways to make yourself memorable is to ask engaging questions. Don’t ask questions that could be answered with a moment’s web search.
Attending a job fair provides you with chances to practice marketing yourself, to learn more about specific employers, and to make potentially valuable contacts. It also gives you the opportunity to practice answering employers’ questions—and ask some of your own—in a lower-stakes setting than a job interview. A job fair can be an ideal trial run, and should be considered as part of any job search.