Not long ago I was at a job fair and there was an employer I wanted to meet. I fell in line behind a young job seeker who looked like he had just crawled out of bed – stubble, spiky hair, denim button down shirt, untucked. Eventually it was his turn to speak with the employer. Eyes cast towards his sneakers, he asked, “Um, what kind of jobs do you have?”
The employer was primarily hiring for customer service reps. “Is that the kind of job you want?”
“I don’t know, maybe.”
The employer had several positions to fill, and she tried to help him out. “Do you have a resume?”
“Okay, here is our website, you can go here and apply online.”
The job seeker took her card, grabbed the keychain and coaster giveaways, and left. He probably later told his friends that the job fair was a waste of time.
It didn’t have to be this way. He could have made the job fair work for him if he had followed just a few basic steps:
1. Be professional. Treat the job fair as if it is a first interview, because it is. Shower and shave. Dress to impress. It’s cliche, but true: you have one chance to make a first impression.
2. Be prepared. Know what you want, and practice your sales pitch. Research the companies participating in the job fair, and apply online beforehand. Bring multiple copies of your resume. Then, when you go, you can tell the employer that you applied and hand them a copy of your resume. If they take your resume, they will make notes on it and take it back to their office to match against their application system.
3. Be patient. The employer may not take your resume, but that’s okay. You still get a chance to ask questions and learn how you can follow up. Also, you may have to stand in line to meet the employer, which is an excellent opportunity to network with other job seekers.
4. Be persistent. If this employer does not have an opening for what you want, then ask them if they know who does. Then, give your sales pitch to another employer. After the job fair, send “thank you” notes to every employer you met, even if they didn’t have what you wanted; they may have an opening in the future. If they are hiring for what you want, then a “thank you” note is another opportunity to sell your qualifications. In any case, follow up.
5. Be polite. Saying “Thank you” goes a long ways. All other things being equal, employers hire people they like. They will notice, and remember.
Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.