Job Fairs - Preparation (Part 1)
The first step in preparing for a job fair is to do some research on the companies in attendance. When overwhelmed with the job search process many of us feel that if we just hand out as many résumés as possible we will have a greater chance getting a job. In today's competitive labour market this approach no longer works. Employers find it difficult to find and keep good employees ~ you need to show a company you want to work for them ~ not just get a job. The first step in doing so is finding out what you can about the company.
- Check out what companies will be at the fair.
- Make a list of the companies you want to apply to.
- Look at the company's website. Make some notes, especially about things such as their mission statement, corporate environment, company history, programs, labour market information, etc.
- Create a cheat sheet with these notes so you can review it before you meet with the company.
Target Your Marketing Materials
Now that you know about the company, you need to target your résumé for the particular position you are interested in. If the position is posted on their website, make sure your résumé and cover letter reflect what they are looking for. Often we feel compelled to write all of the possible positions we would take in our cover letter or résumé objective, hoping that the employer will hire us for one of them. This approach sends the employer a clear message ~ you are not focused, you don't know what you want to do. From that they may further feel that you would leave them if something better came your way. You have a greater chance of obtaining a job if you stay focused. Make sure to write a different cover letter for each employer. If you do not know who to address it to, call the company and tell them you will be attending the job fair and ask who to address your cover letter to. It is also a good idea put all of your cover letters and résumés in a stiff-sided folder (or portfolio) to keep them neat and crisp. Make sure to bring plenty of copies of your résumé just incase you need them.
Prepare for a Possible Interview
Prepare to meet the employers as you would if you were going to a job interview. Some employers will interview on the spot. Know your strengths, how you will benefit the company, what you know about the company and anticipate any questions they may ask. You would be wise to prepare some questions you would like to ask (this does not include salary/benefit/vacation information). Questions such as: What are the characteristics of your most successful employees? How does your hiring process work? Prepare a one minute marketing speech to use when introducing yourself to employers. See article entitled 'Marketing Yourself: Your Personal Marketing Statement' on this website.
Dress as if you were going to an interview. Know your industry and the appropriate dress code. Some employers may want to see you in suit; others are fine with business casual. When in doubt, for men a suite or shirt and tie with dress pants is suggested. For woman, pant suits, or skirt suits are good. Dress conservatively. Get a good night sleep and eat a healthy breakfast.
If the job fair is large and there are many employers, be prepared to stay the entire day. Keep a pad of paper in your portfolio where you can write down the contact information from the employers that you meet. If they have business cards take one of them and write down when you talked to them, any suggestions they had etc. Remember you may be meeting with a lot of people that day; you don't want to get them confused.
Approach employers with confidence: Smile, introduce yourself, offer a firm handshake, state your name, the position you are interested in and offer them your cover letter and résumé. When talking with employers show that you are interested in what they have to say, head nods, eye contact and a smile go a long way. Convey knowledge of the organization that you have learned, ask any questions you may have, ask for a business card and the best way to follow up with them. If others are waiting behind you make sure to acknowledge that. Thank the employer for their time, and politely excuse yourself with a smile.
Click here to read the next article in this series titled 'Job Fairs - Follow Up'.
For information and assistance during your job search, be sure to visit the Newmarket Employment Resource Centre (ERC) at 130 Davis Dr. 905-952-0502.
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