Business dressed and resume in hand, you head into the job fair. There’s a swarm of people at each table and you have to wait in line to talk to the recruiter of your choice. With so many other qualified people, how do you stand out? There are a few things you can do to make sure the company remembers you when it comes time for the interview phone calls.
While it may seem easier to just apply online and skip the crowd and the rush, you wouldn’t be doing yourself any favors. Some employers have offered job seekers the job on the spot, right in the middle of the fair. Wouldn’t that be nice? The secret is in the leg work.
Know what you’re talking about
A week before the job fair start researching each company that will be attending. While it’s tempting to stop at every booth you pass and hand them a resume, you don’t want to risk getting lost in the pile of generic applicants. Research which company has positions that are specific to your qualifications. Know the specific job openings they have and the required skill set that goes with them. Then, tailor your cover letter and resume to that specific position. Instead of taking the ‘look at all the great things I can do’ approach on your resume, take the ‘look how my skills can help you’ approach. Study the job description and use similar keywords when describing yourself. Come with 3-5 different resumes and cover letters tailored to your top company interests. Have them all attached with your personal business card, and make sure you give them to the right company.
Write down a few questions that you have about the position (not salary and benefits) and a few things that specifically interested you. Hiring managers say they look for people who come prepared and show that they did their research by explaining why they would fit well into the position. Also think about telling a story about yourself and why you feel you’re a great fit for the job. Explain your background and what attracted you to the company to stand out. It’s important to know real facts, not just general “I really like what you do” type statements. Something like, “I admire the program you have set up for marketing managers to connect with employees, I think it’s important that everyone is on the same page.”
The most important thing to remember is never walk up to a booth and say, “what positions are you hiring for?” or “what does your company do”. You’re almost certain to never hear from them again if you approach them that way.
Practice makes perfect
There are a few things you should practice before you come to the fair, your elevator pitch and your handshake. Your elevator pitch is what you’ll use when you get the face-to-face time with the company. It’s your 20-30 second spiel about yourself (what you researched and how you fit the specific position) and your qualifications. Be ready for some follow up questions and have your own questions on your mind so you can ask them before you leave. Hiring managers love seeing your confidence and personality, so be yourself.
Practice your handshake on anyone that will let you and make sure you have a firm grip. Think about how many hands they have shaken before and will shake after you. Be sure that you’re one they remember. This is a part of your appearance. It’s important to also be dressed in business professional with everything ironed and shining.
It’s not over til it’s over
After you’ve wowed them with your knowledge about the company, given them your specific resume and a great handshake, your time is up. There’s one more piece to the job fair puzzle that will help you stand out. Ask them for their card or a way to get in contact with them. Use this as a way to follow up with them and thank them for their time. It’s a good idea to email them a thank you and attach your resume there so they have a digital copy. Now they know your face, remember your hand shake and can connect the resume to a real person. Use LinkedIn and other social media networks to your advantage by connecting with them online. If you don’t hear from them in 2-3 weeks, try to email again to inquire about the position. Persistence is key, if played correctly.