Recruiters see your preparation for a job fair as a sign you will be organized, professional, and ready for battle once they hire you. And because meeting company representatives at a job fair is parallel to a first interview, you must know how to put your best foot forward.
Here’s a practical guide to look prepared and stand out from the crowd.
- Do the basics right: your outfit
Personal hygiene, attire etiquette, clothing, shoes, and jewelry choices are all forms of basic human communication. What you wear and how you wear it sends subtle messages that most of us perceive without even thinking about them. How you prepare your outfit for a job fair is crucial. This doesn’t mean you need to go buy an expensive suit – great outfits can be put together on the cheap.
Wear something that represents who you are, what profession you are interested in, and what you want to say about your professional self. For example, if you are interested in a managerial position, wearing a traditional (but modern cut) suit or a nice skirt and button-up blouse are great options. Then add a necklace or a pair of shoes that have flair and express who you are. Accessories are a great way to show your uniqueness without compromising professionalism. There is a wide variety of what is considered professional, so do not take the traditional route if you feel that you want or need to follow your own clothing path.
What matters most though, is HOW you present your outfit. This is what you should do:
- Press or steam the creases out of everything
- Shine your shoes
- Do your hair neatly
- Don’t exaggerate on the cologne!
Although these tips sound simple, you may easily forget to press your outfit ahead of time and in the face of a busy schedule, end up leaving the house with lots of wrinkles!
- Update, edit, and print many copies of your resume
Although you probably know you must bring your resume, make sure you have updated all of your recent experiences that apply to your career. Make sure to focus on results-based achievements and put in the time to avoid other resume ‘red flags’.
A second read through every time you are ready to hand your resume to someone is necessary; even those who are amazing at catching mistakes see the ones they missed when looking at a document with a fresh perspective. Moreover, having a friend give you feedback never hurts.
Remember to print at least ten copies so that there are plenty to go around.
For in-depth suggestions on how to improve your resume, check out How to Land a Job at a Great Company and Get Promoted, written by Eric Shannon, founder of LatPro.
- Research the companies that will be there BEFORE you go…
Knowing something ahead of time about everyone you meet may seem silly to some, but this will be another drop in your bucket of professional first impressions. You don’t need to memorize every company mission and vision but do read the list of who will be attending, choose three to five that you are really interested in meeting with, and learn about what they stand for, who works for them, and what their current employees are like. Have a few specific questions in mind for the top employers, and know the positions for which they are hiring.
Just because you research some companies beforehand doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go introduce yourself to as many as time allows. Preparing just increases your chances with the companies that interest you.
- Know your elevator pitch!
At any job fair, hundreds of very talented people may appear to be prepared. You can stand out from the crowd by relating to an employer when you meet them. Think of it this way: 2 WHATS + 1 WHY
WHAT: Communicate your vision of WHAT you like about the company.
WHAT: You can personally bring WHAT benefits their mission and business.
WHY: You are a great fit for them.
Candidates who connect on a deeper level by answering these questions and draw parallels to why they care about what they do and how they can personally help a company are the ones who typically get a second interview. What can you do to improve their company and how are you the best fit?
Remember to keep your focus continually on the employer and not on you.
- Practice first impressions
One of the least known job fair preparation techniques is practicing how to greet, shake hands, and be confident. You may already be a pro at this; if this is the case, feel free to ignore this section, but most people get nervous when facing what can be a very nerve-racking experience, meeting your potential new boss! So figuring out how to relax to not shake like a leaf is essential.
Researching some calming techniques is a great way to be prepared and be confident. Also, ask a friend to pretend to be a potential employer to figure out what your elevator speech about who you are and what you want will be.
Most importantly, be confident and be you. Even if you have no time at all to prepare, go in knowing that you already have all it takes to do whatever it is you really want to do.
For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.