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I observed a job fair from the opposite side of the table this week.  In the past, I was the eager student trying to take advantage of meeting with recruiters. Instead, I was the recruiter, and people were trying to meet with me. I have to admit, I was a little shocked at the behavior of the some of the recent or soon-to-be graduates. As the day went on I started to create a check list of the essential things one must possess before attending a job fair. I will first start with some of the initial observations of the applicant pool.

  1. Based on what I observed there are a lot of job seekers who have yet to hear the saying: “dress to impress”.
  2. Job searching in packs doesn’t make you look cooler.
  3. Walking by 5 times before deciding to approach doesn’t exactly exude a ‘take charge’ kind of attitude.
  4. Gum chewing, really?
  5. Lift your head and look before approaching. Walking up to an insurance agency inquiring about healthcare positions might be a slight indication you have no idea who you’re talking to.
  6. One applicant thanked us for talking. Are other companies not talking?
  7. Scatterbrains need not apply.  I think my favorite applicant of the day was a gentleman who was very qualified but could not stop wandering his eyes around the room during our conversation. He told me he was scatterbrained, and there was too much going on around him. He came across as very disinterested, and his resume did not make it in the keep pile.

I know it can be nerve racking, but applicants must perceive the job fair as speed dating for jobs. It is essentially multiple mini interviews, the same rules that apply to the interview apply at the job fair. These are my quick tips to help you ace the job fair.

1. Research, Research, Research!

Every registered student receives a list of companies who will be attending the fair. The most important thing you can do, is pick out the companies you would like to talk to and research them! Have questions prepared for the recruiters, make a plan. Know exactly where each booth is located, map it out, and NEVER ask: What do you guys do? We all have smart phones, Google it!

2. Be prepared with a lot of resumes. Do a quick Google search of creative resume designs and find something that makes your paper stand out from the other piles. It might also be important to have a couple different job specific versions of your resume.

3. First impressions are key. We will be chatting with many students today. What makes you stand out? Please dress business professional, offer a strong handshake, direct eye contact is crucial, comb your hair, spit out the gum, and take out facial piercings. (Yes, I do happen to have a facial piercing, but I did not wear it to my interview).

4. Think about some common interview questions and come up with answers. Tell me about yourself? What type of position are you looking for? What is your past job experience? Is there anything else you would like for us to know? One student told me, “way to put me on the spot”. If you take advantage of being put on the spot, and come across as prepared and creative you will stick out in our mind when we are going through the stacks of resumes at the end of the day. Make yourself stand out!

5. As the mini interview comes to an end, conclude with offering a resume, asking for a business card, and inquiring about how you should follow up. Last but not least thank everyone who you spoke with, and offer one last hand shake.

I know these tips must seem like common sense but you would not believe the amount of students who were ill prepared. I promise if you practice just a few of these job fair prep ideas you will make a lasting impression on the companies present.

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