How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

The People Behind the Tables

The recruiters you will be meeting with at a job fair are seldom the actual Hiring Managers. They are usually Human Resources (HR) recruiters who make their living as professional screeners. Their job is to weed out the undesirables so that Hiring Managers can spend quality time with the candidates who are on target for their needs.

However, some employers will have a Hiring Manager attend along with the HR Recruiter. This is especially true for smaller to medium-sized employers.

You need to have a different focus for HR Recruiters than you would for Hiring Managers. Recruiters are typically looking to screen you out, not qualify you in. Your objective should be to show that not only do you have all the necessary basic requirements, you are also an appropriate candidate for their work environment. Consider their focus. Whenever they make a recommendation for further action, they are putting their stamp of approval on the person. The last thing they want is for the Hiring Manager to come back to them and say, “Why did you give your recommendation for that person?” They want assurance that company resources will not be wasted in taking the next step with you. Ideally, they should be able to visualize you as someone who could eventually become part of the team.

Although recruiter styles vary, you can usually get a good feel for a Recruiter at a job fair by two very observable features:

  • Do they stand in front of the table at their booth? Or behind?
    Those who stand in front are likely to be approachable and want more qualitative information about your background. Those who stand (or sit) behind the table are likely to be more quantitative and analytical, and may even have a checklist—written or otherwise—of items that you must satisfy in order to go on to the next level.
  • Do they smile and act comfortable with their role? Or not?
    Those who smile are more likely to interview in a more conversational style. Those who do not smile are likely to be more structured and analytical in the questioning approach.

Is the above always the case? Obviously not. These are general observations made over the years from many job fairs. However, you will find about an 80 percent positive correlation (meaning that it’s wrong a solid 20 percent of the time) in the observations above. Another observation is that fully 90 percent of government recruiters sit behind the table with no smile. Definitely weird. It’s like they are all cast from the same mold. Must be government regulation at its strangest.

The Most Popular Jobs at Job Fairs

If you want to sell stuff for a living, job fairs are job search nirvana. Retail sales. Insurance sales. Financial services sales. Manufacturing sales. If you want sales, you will definitely find it here. For the rest of you, job fairs might drive you crazy. Why so many sales jobs? Because most people who are in sales are not in sales by design. People don’t typically go to college with the intent of becoming an insurance salesperson. At the same time, these companies rely on an efficient sales force to generate a profit. Most of them like to grow their own, so entry level is often ideal. These companies are out there beating the bushes at the job fairs. Quite often you will see a top-tier company on the list of employers recruiting at the job fair, yet arrive to find they are only looking for marketing reps (i.e., sales reps).

But here is the key: even if companies are actively recruiting only for sales, if the line is not too long (and you have the time), approach them to inquire about whom to contact for a position in your field within the company. They might offer instead to take your resume and get back to you (you will likely never hear from them again), in which case you should request their business card for direct follow-up. Then call directly at a later date to find out the name and title of the primary contact within the company who is responsible for hiring in your line of work.

Don’t let the “Sales Reps Only Need Apply” sign turn you away from an employer you are truly interested in!

When building up your job approach with potential employers, always present yourself as a proactive skilled person.

In other terms, when you meet many HR people at a single place in one day, it creates confusion of course, whom to contact first and to whom later.

Don’t even imagine with reference to going into a job fair with no knowledge which company will be going to be there and to whom you want to converse with.

Even if you carry out ensure to come crosswise a company that you didn’t aim to come within reach of but looks like a potential business company, take a little minutes to steal out and look them up at their stall. You need to assure and to make every recruiter feels like you are their best choice among all candidates appeared there.

How to approach prospective employers at job fairs Tips to Contact Potential Employers:

Make sure you have made a well prepared competition already planned to win the job, by way of doing proper research, and get identified with how recruiters weigh up candidates skills and talent while recruiting them for their esteemed company(s).

1. Pre-register yourself at the job fair:

First of all, always pre-register yourself earlier so that you can dig up a list of all approaching employers that will turnout there. Create a list of the top four to eight potential employers whom you want to meet up with in order of employer’s special significance. On the date of the job fair, go after your index and hang about alert. This approach will help out you take full advantage of your time and stay from getting unfocused.

2. Dress professionally for success:

First impression means a lot at job fair campuses; accordingly you must dress up in a very professional way. Dress competently or in any case wear self-styled “business casual” outfits. Ironing of your clothes without wrinkles on it, and make sure that your looks are well- organized, smart and hygienic. Your professional look should be self- explanatory about the wave length of professionalism. Lastly, candidates who rise to the apex of the “must have” listing, should understand the fundamentals of good manners. This is about compact greetings, addressing to recruiters as “Mr.” or “Ms.” and go behind with a post convention thank you note or just a thank you email.

3. Bring many copies of your resume to submit to employers:

Always make sure to arrive with at least five copies of your CV or resume and/ or maximum ten copies so that you could not fall short of your resumes while approaching employers at a job fair. Falling short of resumes at a job fair certainly reveals carelessness and negligence of candidates which may impact negatively on your profile.

4. Be prepared to answer queries:

While approaching potential employers at a job fair, go out there with the chief information in hand, since they must need to distinguish about you in order to judge you as a valuable applicant for service in their group. You need to be well prepared not only with the normal questions but also with the familiarity which you should be having about the company or business, or that particular employer is into.

5. Make an eye contact while representing profile:

Address to every company’s spokesperson with your full name, etiquettes to greet them, shake hands in a very formal way and definitely stare into their eyes when communicating with them. Such postures make you feel fully confident and geared up for addressing all their questions, even those for which you might not have been prepared or not aware of. Eye contact is a very fundamental and basic thing while approaching to any representative of the company at a job fair.

6. Ask over only precise questions:

In preference to asking what the company does or what business they are into, ask for the position or responsibility the said vacancy would be liable for. It will make you become visible informed; and yes, ask detailed questions with reference to the company’s formation, the nature of the definite position you are surely interested in, and enduring guidance or development opportunities in the company.

7. Interim and durable career aims:

The kind of service you are in the hunt for, do ask for short-term and long-term plans of the company in the said business. Since how long they were into and ask over about what prospects may subsist within their association, either publicizing or unpublicized. If no positions are at present existing, then do ask for a good time to make contact with them all over again, and/ or when would be their upcoming opportunities.

8. Ask what traits, skills, experience employer is looking for:

You need to ask over the specific and definite qualities, professional experience and skills which employer is searching out for. This is necessary to become aware of such qualities and skills because sometimes you might be having all together different traits, that of, opposite to what employer is hunting for. The group looks for the majority in job applicants.

9. Pose headship qualities:

Whenever you go ahead for the promotion of your self- profile to an employer at job fairs, do pose leadership qualities as much as you can, so that it could show out like you can do any given targets and do better tasks even under pressures and critical situations. Every recruiter score card has some grade for headship latent. The more you act like a wise and leader type candidate, the possibility of acquiring the job chances will eventually get double.

10. Get a business card and take notes:

After introducing yourself at every stall you would have targeted to apply, at last, never forget to take a business card from every booth where you would have put down your resume. Also never hesitate to take a rigorous follow- up with the spokesperson a few days or a week later, but not more than that. This will stay your dialogue and resume unmarked in their minds. If you don’t get the response within this time limit, then take a follow- up even after ten days too.

11. Finally, thank the manager for conversation:

After introduction, and handing over your resume, decently give thanking remarks to the representative who would have been patiently listening and chit chatting with you. And firmly shake hands and say a polite good-bye to him/ her. Do inquire about the later steps which might be, they could think of for you to take you into consideration for service in their company group.

12. Send thank you notes:

After arriving back from the job fair, you must send an email on their respective email ids to each spokesperson whom you spoke with. In the memo, ask them for confronting each other in a personal interview or discussion at their office address at mutual convenience time so that you could talk about your credentials in more detailing. Never forget to thank them in the end of the note.

Job fairs are intimidating places with huge crowds of people, fresher or experienced candidates, hassled employers, and the probability that candidates walk up to an unfamiliar person and start chatting about their profiles. But if you know how to find the way to handle with the company’s representatives, you can take an assortment of the nervousness out of the familiarity, and make an impression on every potential employer. Never behave over smartly or over- confident since many experienced also lose their chance of employment due to such cleverly behaving reasons. Just show the soft part of yours in front of the spokesperson of every company since it’s a large job fair and you are expected to show your confidence level with politeness, decency and smartness.

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Standing out—in a positive way—is no easy task. When you’re piled into a packed auditorium and competing with hundreds of other job seekers for just a few minutes of a recruiter’s attention, it’s crucial to show up prepared, ready to face the day, and knowing what it takes to distinguish yourself from the crowd.

So our guide to acing the career fair covers everything you need to know—from getting ready for the event to making a great impression and following up afterward. Follow these eight steps, and you’ll be on your way to landing interviews in no time.

Before the Event

1. Find Out Who Will Be There

Look—or ask—for a list of all the companies who will be attending prior to the event, and prioritize the ones you want to approach. This way, if you run out of time to meet everyone, you’ll at least be sure you’ve hit your top choices.

And while a career fair is a good time learn about companies, you should know a little about them before showing up. You’ll be able to ask deeper questions and get better information if you already have some background to work with.

So before you go, do some research about each company on your priority list and be prepared to tailor your conversations specifically to each recruiter.

2. Pack Your (Small) Bag

What should you bring to a career fair? Not much. Don’t carry a bulky briefcase or handbag—you want to be able to easily make your way across the room, have your hands free for handshaking, and not look disheveled. All you need is a small purse, plus a dark, plain folder to hold your resumes and any information you pick up at the event.

Bring at least 20 copies of your resume (more if there are more companies than that you’d like to meet with), a pen and paper for taking notes, and business cards (if you have them).

3. Dress for Success (and Comfort)

As with any interview, it’s important to dress professionally—but at a career fair, you want to be comfortable, too. Wear a lightweight outfit that won’t get too hot, and check your coat or leave it behind. And make sure your shoes are extra comfortable—you might be on your feet for several hours!

During the Event

4. Don’t Be Shy

As you approach each table, be friendly, be confident, and be prepared with something to say. Introduce yourself with a smile, eye contact, and a brief, firm handshake. Often, the recruiter will take the lead and ask you questions, but you should also have your elevator pitch ready—a 30-second soundbite of what you want the company to know about you. (Here’s how to craft one if you’re unsure.) To really use your time wisely, you should be able to concisely convey why you’re interested in the particular company and how your skills or qualifications suit the position.

But at the same time—don’t go too fast! Job seekers have a tendency to speak quickly, which comes across as rushed or nervous. You want to speak slowly and with interest.

5. Get Your Resume in Their Hands

One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is not giving out their resume until the end of the meeting—at this point, the recruiter may have gotten interrupted or moved on to someone else. Instead, as you speak about yourself, hand your resume to the recruiter, and point out the places that substantiate what you’re saying.

This will draw her attention to your resume and make you stand out from the other faces at the table, too.

6. Give a Memorable Goodbye

You want the person you’re speaking with to know you’re interested in his or her company. So ask relevant questions—and also be sure to ask about next steps. You should also offer to come by the recruiter’s office for a longer conversation in person.

When the conversation is wrapping up, make sure to thank the person you’re speaking with for her time. Most importantly, request a business card! Believe me, there’s no way you’ll remember everyone’s names at the end of the event. Plus, you’ll want to have her email address so you can follow up.

After the Event

7. Follow Up

Within 24-48 hours of the career fair, send a thank you note to each person you met with, whether you’re interested in the company or not. Who knows—the next time you go to one of these things, the recruiter at that dull software company could be working for Google!

If you think the recruiter would appreciate a handwritten note, send one, but also send emails to everyone. And don’t copy and paste—it’s OK for your messages to be short, but you’ll want to personalize them to each company and recruiter.

8. Take Action

For the companies you are interested in, follow the recruiter’s instructions about applying for a position. If you need to submit your resume online, do so within a few days of the event so that you’re still fresh in the company’s mind.

And if there’s not a position available right now that’s a good fit, ask the recruiter if you can come in for an informational interview (asking is as easy as following this guide). Getting even more face time with the company is always a good thing!

It’s not always easy to stand out at a career fair, but if you arrive prepared and organized, approach the tables politely and well-practiced, and follow up the right way—you’ll already be ahead of the pack.

Table of Contents

How likely are you to get a job at a job fair?

According to Glassdoor, 90 percent of colleges and universities host these fairs year-round, and 75 percent of U.S. employers report recruiting from them. And they aren’t just for college students. and is looking to fill more than 50,000 full and part-time jobs.

How do you land a job at a career fair?

Before the Event

  1. Find Out Who Will Be There. Look—or ask—for a list of all the companies who will be attending prior to the event, and prioritize the ones you want to approach.
  2. Pack Your (Small) Bag.
  3. Dress for Success (and Comfort)
  4. Don’t Be Shy.
  5. Get Your Resume in Their Hands.
  6. Give a Memorable Goodbye.
  7. Follow Up.
  8. Take Action.

What is the difference between a job fair and a career fair?

For a student, a job fair will be filled with employers on and off campus that are hiring part time positions and internships. A career fair, which may include Premedical Professions, Pre-Law, and other graduate opportunities, is not as exclusively centered on finding a job or filling a particular position.

What should you not wear to a job fair?

A business suit with pants or skirt is always appropriate, but a dress or skirt and blouse are sufficient in most situations. If you wear a skirt, do not wear it too short. A hemline just above or below the knee is best. Avoid a brightly patterned skirt or dress.

Do people get hired on the spot at job fairs?

The short answer is YES! Millions of people have found employment after visiting a career fair. As mentioned before, technology makes life easier – but also less personal. When searching for a job online, it could be days, weeks, or even months before you hear back from an employer.

Should I take a resume to a job fair?

When you attend the career fair, one of the most important items you should have with you is your resume. This can be a general resume that outlines your work experience, educational background and your skills.

How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

Is Job Fair really worth it?

Career fairs are worth it for job seekers, whether virtual or in-person. Especially if you’re an entry-level candidate or college student, it’s worth attending at least one career fair to see what opportunities exist and practice talking to employers.

Can you go to a job fair without a resume?

How do you prepare for a job fair?

How to prepare for a job fair

  1. Pre-register for the job fair.
  2. Keep reasonable expectations.
  3. Understand what recruiters or employers are looking for.
  4. Research each prospective employer.
  5. Prepare multiple copies of your resume.
  6. Choose the best resume format.
  7. Consider bringing your portfolio.
  8. Have your elevator pitch ready.

Can you wear a sweater to a job fair?

Wear a third piece: jacket, sweater or sweater vest. Business Suit: A two-piece matching suit is always the best and safest choice. A coordinating jacket and bottoms are appropriate as well. Clothes should be clean, neatly pressed, and fit properly.

Is job fair really worth it?

How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

SDI Productions / iStock / Getty Images Plus

How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

Whether you’re a college student going to a campus career fair or an experienced candidate attending a networking event, your introduction is the first opportunity you’ll have to make a good impression. You might not be comfortable putting yourself out there and talking to people you don’t know well. It can be challenging to sell yourself to prospective employers, so it will help to learn how to introduce yourself at a job fair.

A job fair (also known as a career fair) provides job seekers opportunities to meet with many employers at one event. Learn some techniques to help you prepare yourself for introductions at a job fair.

Take the Time to Prepare

Don’t wing it and walk into a career fair without having done anything to get ready. If you have time, consider getting a business card made up with your contact information. Ensure your resume is current (give it a quick makeover if it’s not) and print out copies ready to hand out to recruiters.

If there’s a list of participating companies online, check them out to see who you want to meet with. If you have a priority list of employers you’d like to connect with, you’ll be able to take your time working the room and introducing yourself.

What to Bring

A portfolio is a great way to hold everything you need to bring. Another option is a large purse, small briefcase, or messenger bag. Be sure you can easily get your materials out of it to share with recruiters. Bring at least 20 copies of your resume and a stack of business cards, if you have them.

A mini resume is a good option to consider using to share your information quickly.

Also, bring a notepad and pen to jot down names and facts you want to remember.

Have Questions and Your Pitch Ready

Prepare a list of questions to ask so you’re not fumbling for what to say. If time permits, check out company websites in advance, so you’re familiar with the participating employers. Check out the mission statement of each company of interest, as well as the openings listed on the career page.

The best questions to ask at a job fair include “What skills do you look for most in a candidate for X position?” and “What is one of the biggest challenges of the job?” Personalize your list of questions before the job fair so that you can learn more about the topics that interest you the most.

An elevator pitch is a quick synopsis of your skills, background, and experience. Get yours ready in advance and practice saying it. Recruit your friends and family to listen to you for 20-30 seconds, which is as long as your pitch needs to be, and get their feedback. The more you practice it, the easier it will be to say.

Describing your skills and talents is one of the hardest things to do while job-seeking. Don’t be afraid to sound confident, but try not to portray yourself as arrogant.

If you’re shy or extremely introverted, or if networking just isn’t your thing, consider bringing a friend, especially someone who is naturally sociable. It will be much easier if you have someone else tagging along.

Check in When You Arrive at the Fair

You may need to sign in at the reception area and get a name tag. Your name tag goes on your right side because you’ll be shaking hands with your right hand. Having the name tag on the same side as the handshake draws the recruiter’s eye to your name tag, making it easier for them to remember your name.

Make the rounds, visiting your priority companies first. That way, you’ll be most likely to get to meet a representative from the companies you’re most interested in working for. If you have extra time, talk to other organizations too—you may find a surprise company that’s a good match.

By establishing a list of companies to visit by precedence, you’re not wandering around looking like you’ll talk to anyone that might give you a job. That might be the case, but you don’t want to appear desperate.

Introduce Yourself With a Smile

A smile makes you speak differently and projects a positive, inviting personality. Be proactive and take the initiative to tell the recruiter who you are and offer a handshake. A simple introduction is fine:

  • “Hi, I’m Amanda Jones and I’m pleased to meet you.”
  • “Good morning, I’m Anthony Tobias and I’m glad to meet you.”
  • “Hello, I’m Kimberly Smith. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

It’s appropriate to ask the recruiter how they would like to be addressed. After you introduce yourself, be prepared to give your elevator pitch and be ready to answer a few questions. Offer a copy of your resume and your business card if you have one. Ask the recruiter for his or her business card to take with you.

Take the time to send a follow-up email. Send it is as soon as you can after the fair is finished. It’s a way to make another good impression on the people you meet. Tailor this example of a follow-up letter to send after a job fair to match your circumstances.

How to Prepare for a Job Fair

Attending an event with lots of people you don’t know can be challenging, especially if you’re not the most outgoing person in the room. But it’s essential to moving forward in your career. Don’t worry, with a little preparation and practice, you’ll be able to introduce yourself in a professional and nearly stress-free manner.

Remember, the people you meet with are interested in finding new talent. They might be your future employer. They’ll do their best to make you feel comfortable. Take some time to prepare, and you’ll be able to present your credentials effectively to everyone you meet. If you know exactly what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it, it will be even easier to connect with recruiters and get the most from the job fair.

Job fairs are becoming a more common method of entry level recruiting and screening. For the corporate recruiter, they offer an opportunity to reach interviewing terminal velocity—meeting the highest possible number of potential prospects in the shortest possible amount of time. For many students, job fairs provide a “freebie” opportunity to meet with multiple employers in the same day.

However, unless you do your homework, you will end up wasting your time at a job fair. Job fairs are the meat markets of the entry level job market, with employers sizing up candidates quickly, based on appearances, communication skills, and first impressions. Job fairs have a set of rules and protocols all their own. But if you understand how to effectively work within the system, you can easily double or triple your productivity and effectiveness.

Often many of the attendees at job fairs are “window shoppers” who are just browsing to see what might be available. While this approach may seem valid, take note that job fairs are not a “get-acquainted session” for you to meet prospective employers. They are first interviews where unprepared candidates are stepped on and over by those who are targeted and prepared. Yes, even the two- to three-minute greeting and exchange of sound bites is a real interview. You are being evaluated, whether it is for thirty seconds or thirty minutes. You always need to be at your very best. If you are to succeed at the job fair of the new millennium, you have to take a very aggressive, yet structured approach.

Understanding the Different Types of Job Fairs

Understanding what type of job fair you are attending is crucial to your planning, since each type has distinct differences in approach, setup, and general level of success for entry level candidates.

Campus-Sponsored Job Fairs

The campus-sponsored job fair is by far the most popular for college students. For many, this is the job fair. Larger campuses will often have several different job fairs, each one geared toward a specific discipline. They are usually sponsored by the Career Center on campus, although some may be sponsored by a particular academic department, club, or group. The campus-sponsored job fair is ideal for most college students since it is convenient, the lines are generally shorter than at commercial job fairs, and employers are predisposed to and familiar with your college. Many employers attend the job fair in advance of their on campus recruiting activities, while some use this as their only campus visit. Often the more astute employers will bring along a recent grad, possibly even from your school, to talk with prospective grads. Another trend in recent years has been for smaller colleges to combine together to create consortium job fairs.

Campus-Sponsored Career Days

As a sideline to the campus job fairs, many campuses now have an event they call “Career Day” early in the fall semester, and a “Job Fair” late in the fall semester or in the spring semester. The big difference is that many employers who come for Career Day are not actively hiring at that time. They often come for the exposure to students ahead of on-campus interviews or the later job fair. It serves as more of an information-sharing activity than a recruiting activity. In short, it’s a good time to meet employers in advance and gather up all their slick glossies on what they think makes them the best employer in the world. But remember, actively hiring or not, it is still an interview and you still are being evaluated.

Commercial Professional Job Fairs

These general professional job fairs are geared to a wide range of professional occupations, from accounting to programming to engineering to sales. Be aware that you are running with a new herd at this one. You have to be prepared to compete directly with those who have practical work experience in the field. Get ready to hear a lot of no’s, but the occasional employer that does have a need at the entry level could make it worthwhile. Your main objective should be to gather information for later direct follow-up with the employers. Do not expect anyone to call you back based on simply dropping off your resume.

Commercial Specialty Job Fairs

These professional job fairs are geared toward a specific group, such as “IT Job Fair” or “Technical/Engineering Job Fair.” If you are in one of the specialty groups, this is an excellent resource for finding hiring employers. Again, you are competing against literally hundreds of better qualified candidates, so your purpose should be to gather information about hiring employers for later direct contact.

Community Job Fairs

These are free-for-all job fairs offering everything from Swing Shift Manager at McDonald’s to professional and management positions. There are often over one hundred employers involved. If you choose to attend, make sure you are very targeted and very direct about the type of jobs and type of employers you are seeking. Identify the employers you want to work for and target their booth locations before entering the crowd of people.

The Job Fair No-Show Technique

If there is a job fair you would like to attend but are unable to do so, there is still a way to get noticed. Send your resume to the sponsoring organization twice, at least a week apart. The first one should arrive at least a week before the job fair and the second just after the date of the job fair. The reason? They will be accumulating resumes from those unable to attend. Then after the job fair, the resumes will be distributed to attending employers. When the employer representative scans through the two hundred to five hundred resumes, yours may be both at the beginning and at the end. And when it is seen the second time, the light will go on. “I know I have seen that person’s resume before.” You will get a long second look, which may be enough to make an impact.

Your resume should be specific and targeted. The two key areas on a job fair resume are the Objective section and the Summary section. Make sure yours are direct and to the point.

Attending Job Fairs At Other Colleges

If you request permission, many colleges are willing to allow attendees from outside their college. For safety’s sake, it is always best to check with the sponsoring organization, which is usually the Career Center for the college. If you are from a different geographical region and seeking to relocate to that particular area, most colleges are willing to accommodate your special request to attend. So if there is a job fair at another college, make sure you put it on your schedule. Don’t limit yourself to your college alone—take advantage of all available resources.

For more information on how to take advantage of all the resources available through other colleges, see the Other Alma Mater Technique.

Posted March 13th, 2020

A job fair is a little like speed dating for recruiting new employees to your workplace. They can be highly effective at recruitment and building your brand but require time and investment to be successful. The key to success is preparation and interaction. Job fairs offer employees a chance to meet a diverse talent pool of prequalified candidates. However, you will only be one among many businesses, so it’s essential to find ways to stand out.

Prepare Before You Go to A Job Fair

Before attending, find out who will be there and the best way to prioritize your approach to likely candidates. At a well-attended fair, it will be nearly impossible to meet everyone, so you’ll want to be sure you can identify and talk with your top choices.

Pick a team from your company that will best represent your business during the event. Networking comes easily to recruiters and human resources staff. This means they’re often open to initiating discussions with candidates. Hiring managers have the screening and interview skills that can be used on – site for spontaneous screenings.

Coordinate with your human resources department to order material needed to attract potential employees. Remember to have name tags for your team members and brochures about your company. Prepare questions in advance for those who expressed an interest in your company.

Use These Tips at The Job Fair to Attract Qualified Candidates

Before going to the job fair decide if you will be accepting resumes . Be sure everyone on the team attending is on the same page. Know which positions you’re actively trying to fill and arrive at the fair in plenty of time to set up. You don’t want to be setting up as the job seekers arrive as it appears unprofessional and can stop the early arrivals from talking with you.

Do not sit behind your table or booth as this can be intimidating, especially for those who are new to the job market. The goal is to look as inviting as possible to qualified candidates, so standing beside the booth or in front of it is a better choice. Say hello to those who pass by and be sure to smile.

After the Event Is Over, What’s Next?

Once the event is over, you’ll want to follow up with any inquiries as soon as possible. If you accepted resumes and applications, be sure to take the time to assess those quickly and get back to the job seekers. If you did not accept resumes, be sure you explained the right way to get through the application procedure, so candidates do not feel there brushed away. “Just go to our website” is not helpful in building relationships with people, nor will it generate good word-of-mouth between on-site candidates.

After an event is finished , it’s important to measure the results and compare those against other strategies you might use to recruit qualified candidates. You might consider questions such as, how many candidates did we interview during the event? How many of them were qualified? Did we find any qualified candidates that we would hire?

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How to approach prospective employers at job fairsJob fairs serve as one of the primary connections between employers and prospective job candidates. They provide an opportunity for both the employer and potential employee to diversify their search strategies. There are many types of job fairs, but all serve a dual purpose of enabling hiring organizations to meet and screen a large number of potential job or internship candidates and simultaneously providing job or internship seekers the opportunity to meet and screen a large number of employers. Job fairs occur throughout the year and remain a popular recruiting mechanism for employers regardless of economic conditions. Job fairs can be categorized broadly into six major types, including campus based, commercial entry level, commercial professional, commercial specialty, community based, and company specific. There are also virtual job fairs, which can accommodate any of these six major types.

The campus-based job fair is the most popular type for college students and is normally sponsored by the college or university’s career center. Employers who attend are often familiar with the college or university, and they might use the job fair as their only campus visit, or they might use it as a promotional tool in advance of their on-campus recruiting programs. Students find the campus fair a convenient method for meeting with employers who are equipped to screen and interview the potentially large number of students attending. Campus job fairs also provide an easy method for students to practice meeting face-to-face with an employer. A recent trend among career-services professionals, especially at smaller educational institutions within close proximity to one another, is to hold a consortium job fair at a central location as a means of efficiently deploying limited resources.

Commercial entry-level job fairs are run by independent contractors and are hosted in centralized locations throughout the country. These highly advertised events typically draw large numbers of students and other job seekers from a geographical radius of at least 300 miles. Commercial professional job fairs are intended to attract candidates with practical work experience to fill a wide range of professional occupations. Commercial specialty fairs are geared toward filling openings within specific occupational groups, such as computer programmers, technical/engineering, sales, or education. Oftentimes, job seekers use these fairs as a way to gather information for later direct contact with the prospective employer.

Community job fairs are hosted by a particular town, community, or broader region, with the intent of giving interested job seekers in a specific geographic area the opportunity to meet with employers who are recruiting in that labor market. Company-specific job fairs are a mechanism for any given business (or industry) to offer on-site recruitment as a means of assisting in securing appropriate human capital necessary for that organization’s staffing needs.

Regardless of who is sponsoring the event, job fairs provide participants an opportunity for high-visibility, efficient information gathering, alternative resource-seeking strategies, and networking. For employers, it is a low-cost method for securing a pool of candidates whose resumes and other related materials can be maintained in the human resource database. Costs and fees for running a job fair are generally borne by the hosting party or the participating employing organization participants, although in some cases candidates must pay a fee to register. Facilities housing job fairs can vary in size and venue and can include locations such as university/college unions, hotel ballrooms or conference centers, convention or expo centers, company cafeterias, community centers, gymnasiums, entertainment complexes, or any other spacious facilities with appropriate utilities and infrastructure.

Various job-seeking strategies are used by employment candidates. For example, some use the process for “window-shopping” the participating employers to see what types of jobs or career paths are available. Some candidates use a structured approach by identifying and targeting a specific number of employers for interviews. Other candidates use such unsophisticated methods as simply visiting with the participating company that has the shortest waiting line.

The individuals representing the employers at job fairs normally are not the hiring managers. Rather, hiring companies typically use recruiters or professional screeners to identify individuals who will be tapped for future consideration by the organization and to “screen out” individuals who do not fit the profile for their organizations. Usually, the prospective employer bases the decision concerning the next step for the candidate on a brief introduction and interview that could last anywhere from a few minutes up to 20 minutes.

Some job fairs also include workshops or seminars centered on various topics surrounding the job-search process. Sample topics of these related sessions might include the art of networking, interviewing skills and techniques, resume development, creating a job-search plan, and approaches to researching an organization. These workshops are usually offered at set times during the job fair so that job candidates can attend particular sessions while also scheduling visits or interviews with specific companies. Typically, local consultants present the workshops as a way to showcase their skills, while at the same time offering a valuable service to fair participants.

Spring is job fair season, and both employers and job seekers know that these events are excellent ways to make face-to-face connections. Job seekers like the fact that they can meet a variety of hiring mangers in a single day and in one location; employers like that they can collect lots of resumes and have a chance to meet the applicants in person and determine if they would be a good fit for the company’s culture.

With lots of jobs and talent to be had, both job seekers and employers know there will be a sense of competitiveness in the air. Job seekers want to make sure they stand out from other candidates and make a great impression on recruiters. Employers also create job fair strategies in order to attract the most qualified candidates — but a recent survey suggests that some employers are unknowingly pushing applicants away.

In a February 2015 survey of job fair attendees, conducted by, employers noted that some job seekers would walk by their booths at the event and not stop to ask about opportunities. Employers said that job seekers were missing hidden opportunities because they assumed they already knew all of the positions offered. For example, a recruiter at a mortgage processing company was advertising administrative positions, but she also had open positions for a human resource generalist, a software engineer, and a payroll assistant. Job seekers wouldn’t know that unless they stopped and talked to the recruiter.

So, why don’t job seekers stop at every employer’s table and ask about job opportunities? That was one of the questions the survey sought to answer. While employers stated they thought most job seekers generally approached companies based on brand recognition or other marketing initiatives, job seekers stated other reasons. Based on their responses, the following tips are for employers who want to maximize the amount of traffic to their booths at job fairs this season.

1. Eliminate Distractions and Focus on Candidates

Job seekers said that they were hesitant to approach recruiters who were eating, talking or texting on a phone, frowning/disinterested, writing, doing paperwork, typing on a laptop, or engaged in a very long conversation with someone else. The reason given for the job seekers’ hesitation was they felt they would be interrupting the recruiter, which would get the dialogue off to an awkward or difficult start.

2. Smile

Company representatives that seemed unhappy to be at the job fair or appeared to not want to be bothered were a turn off to job seekers. On the other hand, recruiters that smiled and made eye contact were appealing to job seekers who may not have otherwise initiated conversations. A smile was taken as an invitation to approach the employer’s booth.

3. Have a Colorful, Attractive Display

Next to the recruiters’ welcoming behaviors, job seekers said the second most important thing that made them approach a company’s booth was its appearance. Nearly bare tables with only a few brochures on display were often passed over, while booths that had easy to read information on benefits, jobs, and available locations were favored. One observation brought up by job seekers was that the booths with easily read information gave applicants talking points that made it easier to approach recruiters and initiate conversations.

4. Stand Up

Job seekers stated that it was easier to approach someone who was standing than it was to approach someone who was sitting. The explanation most often given was that, when the recruiter was at eye level, it was easier to hear them above the noise of the job fair. Additionally, when the person applying for a job is standing over the seated recruiter and talking over the background noise, they may feel like they are “talking down to” the recruiter, creating an awkward interaction.

5. Bring a Partner

Big job fairs attract big crowds that can quickly become unmanageable if only one person is manning the company’s booth. Many job fair attendees want a few minutes of the recruiter’s time to ask questions about available jobs, explain items on their resume, or learn more about the company. Of course, recruiters also like to have the opportunity to speak to applicants. Many job seekers stated that they would feel intrusive waiting beside another candidate who was talking about their resume and would likely move on to another table. By having a partner at the event, recruiters can better manage visitors to the booth.

These five actions will allow recruiters and hiring staff to create a dynamic, welcoming presence at this season’s job fairs and draw in talent that may have otherwise walked by.

How to approach prospective employers at job fairsJob and career fairs are a great way to connect with employers, learn about companies and find job openings that may be right for you.

When you attend a career fair in person, you may find yourself in an auditorium or other large space. Often there are hundreds of people competing for the attention of the companies’ recruiters and representatives. Although career fairs are less formal than job interviews, following these 9 tips may help you stand out to potential employers and advance your job search.

  1. Dress appropriately: A suit and tie may not be necessary, but you will want to look professional. For men, consider a shirt with a collar and khakis or dress pants. For women, a simple dress or blouse with either a skirt or dress pants works well. This type of attire shows potential employers that you’re ready to be in a workplace environment. Because it may be a long day, consider wearing flat, comfortable shoes if you’re walking.
  2. Do your research: Some job fairs may have just a few companies in attendance – or there may be dozens of potential employers. Either way, you should look over the list of employers and research the companies that interest you. Think, in advance, of questions that you may want to ask about the industry, job responsibilities or the culture of the company. Find out how to research a company in our blog post, Have an Interview? Do Your Homework!

Interview Tips

After attending a career fair, you may identify jobs that you want to apply for and secure interviews.

Check out our other blog posts to find tips on impressing your interviewer:

  1. Be positive: Approaching tables with a smile on your face and being willing to introduce yourself to the recruiters may help draw the representatives to you. The recruiters are there to talk with you and share why their company is a great place to work, so be positive and have fun learning more about companies and potential careers.
  2. Set realistic expectations: Establish a few goals for a career fair, like connecting with a certain number of companies, handing out 10 resumes, or even identifying a few specific openings you’ll apply for. But keep in mind that career fairs rarely offer the opportunity for more than a few minutes of discussion. Unless the career fair specifically advertises it, you won’t be interviewing for any specific jobs during the event, so it’s unlikely you’ll receive a job offer simply by attending. It’s when you follow up with recruiters after the event that you increase your opportunity to learn about job openings that may lead to a formal interview.
  3. Be polite: When you approach a company’s booth or table, don’t interrupt a conversation that the recruiter is having. Wait at the table until they finish. While you’re waiting, you can review any information that they may have set out on the table or go over the questions you’d like to ask them about the company.
  4. Bring your resume: Companies may send human resources personnel, a recruiter or even hiring managers to career fairs. Having copies of your resume to hand out may help them identify opportunities within the company that may be a good fit for you. As you approach a company’s booth or table, introduce yourself and give the recruiter your resume. As you discuss career opportunities, you can also refer to your resume, pointing out specific projects or jobs you’ve had that relate well to the positions available.
  5. Prepare answers: While it’s not likely you’ll have a full interview at the fair, being able to answer questions about your skills and experience will help you make an impression with potential employers – and may lead to interviews and job offers after the fair. Before you attend the fair, consider past projects you’ve worked on, any awards and accomplishments you have, and even challenges or problems that you’ve solved.
  6. Take notes: You’ll be meeting with a lot of companies, so keeping a record of conversations is a good way to keep track of details to use later. After each conversation, take note of the recruiter’s name as well as any specific topics you talked about, such as a specific position or certain skill set. You can use a notebook and pen to write down the information or pull out your phone to record a voice memo.
  7. Get contact information – and follow up: Ask for business cards from each person you talk with so that you can contact them later. The day or week after the event, set aside time to go through each potential employer and contact the person you talked with. Keep in mind that recruiters meet many jobseekers during each event, so they may not be able to remember your conversation exactly. To stand out, include some specifics on what you talked about (your notes will help you with this), including types of positions available and certain skill sets that you possess that their company is looking for. If you’re sending an email, attach your resume again. They may be able to send you specific job leads that fit your experience. Lastly, remember to thank them for their time.

About Ticket to Work

Social Security’s Ticket to Work (Ticket) program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Follow-up emails that will get you hired. When I first started working, I was never a big fan of sending follow-up emails.Instead, I used to spend hours polishing my resume( and practicing for the interview( I neverreally knew how to write a follow-up email; so I just didn’t do it. What Ididn’t realise was, I was letting opportunities pass me by by not closing thedeal.After years of struggling with what content I shou.

  • Why are follow-up emails important?
  • When do I send a follow-up email?
  • What to write in a follow-up email?
  • Job interviews
  • Networking events
  • Job fairs
  • Follow-up email after sending your resume to a potential employer
  • Back to you!

When I first started working, I was never a big fan of sending follow-up emails. Instead, I used to spend hours polishing my resume and practicing for the interview. I never really knew how to write a follow-up email; so I just didn’t do it. What I didn’t realise was, I was letting opportunities pass me by by not closing the deal. After years of struggling with what content I should include and how long I should wait before sending the email, I’ve got it figured out. Below, I’ll share what I’ve learned along with examples to illustrate the points. Why are follow-up emails important? A follow-up email is your way of showing that you care about what you and the person in question had previously spoken about and proves you weren’t just making small talk. A good example is when people contact us because they’d like to write for our blog. 90% of them don’t send a follow-up email – they never do it. This makes me question whether they really want to work with us, or they’re just trying their luck.

Video advice: How to be Successful at a Virtual Job Fair

How do you follow-up with candidates after career fair?

Thank you so much for taking time and sending us your application for the position of (Job Title) at (Company Name). After going through your application, we have decided that we will not be able to move forward at this point because (Reason). As you progress, please feel free to apply for future openings.

Can you get hired at a career fair?

The short answer is YES! Millions of people have found employment after visiting a career fair. As mentioned before, technology makes life easier – but also less personal. . By attending a job fair, you have a chance to meet with recruiters face-to-face, have them get to know you, and make an impression.

What do you say when you reach out to a potential employer?

Say something along the lines of: Hi (name), My name is _____, and I’m reaching out because I noticed you work on the _____ team. I would love to learn more about the work you’re doing on (team) and your experience at (company), as I’m planning to apply for (specific role) openings on your team this fall.

Is it possible to get an interview at a career fair?

While on- the-spot interviews aren’t common at job fairs, they can happen. Be prepared to do a short interview with the recruiter at the event. Review a list of the top interview questions and think through how you would respond at the moment.

Video advice: FOR EMPLOYERS: Handshake Virtual Career Fair Best Practices & Tips

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How to approach prospective employers at job fairs


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Job fairs allow employers to meet many prospective employees in a single day. However, with so many people attending, the atmosphere can sometimes be hectic, making it difficult to connect with qualified applicants. To make the most of this opportunity, employers need strategies for attracting the interest of attendees and identifying applicants with the most potential.

Know Your Audience

Before you attend a job fair, identify your target audience and research their goals, needs and interests. For example, if you’re participating in a job fair at a four-year university, the attendees are probably seeking entry-level, professional positions at corporate environments such as banks or advertising agencies. When talking to these job-seekers, emphasize incentives such as the company’s benefits packages and opportunities for advancement. They probably won’t have much interest in senior-level positions, however, because they’re not yet qualified for these roles. If you’re participating in a job fair open to the general public, be prepared to recruit at all levels, from jobs in the mail room to executive positions.

Create a Hiring Plan

Determine how many positions you have available and what kinds of jobs you’re hiring for. Note the key characteristics or qualifications you’re seeking in applicants, so you can quickly determine which candidates have the most potential. Decide if you’re only hiring for specific positions or if you want to recruit on an ongoing basis. If you’re only filling specific roles, tell job-seekers what you have available and if you’ll accept applications even when no positions are open.

Recruit Alumni Representatives

If you’re participating in a university job fair, bring along employees who graduated from that school. They can help you make a connection with attendees, in addition to demonstrating to job-seekers how graduates from the school fit in well with the company’s corporate culture. They can also provide insight into the mindset of the school’s students. For example, they may tell you that most of the students are driven and highly competitive, and looking for an environment where they can rise quickly through the ranks. On the other hand, they may tell you many of the students come from working-class backgrounds and are primarily seeking job security.

Bring Marketing Materials

Create an information packet that job-seekers can take with them and review after the fair. Include brochures and other materials describing what the company does, what it’s values and goals are and what it seeks in employees. This packet should also offer applicants a glimpse of what it’s like to work at the company, describing incentive packages, perks such as flexible schedules, and on-site amenities such as cafeterias and workout rooms.

Follow Up

Create a plan for following up with candidates you’re interested in. Take their names and contact information and assign someone to send them a short email or make a quick call thanking them for their interest. Also, make it easy for job-seekers to follow up with you. Bring plenty of business cards and explain the company’s application procedures and hiring process. If attendees contact you after the event, respond promptly and tell them what step you want them to take next, whether that’s coming in for a personal interview or sending a resume to the human resources department.

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How to approach prospective employers at job fairs


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Job fairs can be a good place to meet potential employers and learn about career opportunities in your field. Be aware of the downsides, however, to this mass approach to job-seeking and recruiting. Preparing to attend a job fair takes time and effort. And keep in mind that if you aren’t the type of person who makes a good first impression, your prospects of success at a job fair may be diminished.

Mass Appeal

While some job fairs are tailored to a particular field or industry, such as engineering or education, most career fairs feature employers from a wide range of businesses and industries. This can make it difficult to target which employers are worth approaching and which ones you’ll likely have nothing in common with. This may also prevent you from doing pre-attendance background research to make a good first impression.

Limited Quality Time

Companies exhibit at job fairs with the express purpose of meeting as many potential job candidates as possible. Likewise, job-seekers try to make the most of their time by talking with as many recruiters as scheduling permits. This limits the time you have to really learn about a company and to effectively promote yourself. The job fair environment is usually loud and crowded, which can make it a challenge to communicate, ask questions or even fill out an application.

Making an Impression

Quiet but otherwise qualified job-seekers are often at a disadvantage at a job fair. You can be the most educated, qualified person around, but if you’re shy or introverted, it can be difficult to make a good impression on a corporate recruiter at a job fair. Effective job fair networking takes a bit of an aggressive approach, and if you’re not comfortable with that, you may come across as submissive or uninterested.

Preparation Tips

To make the most out of a job fair experience, be as prepared as possible. Read through the exhibitor list and carefully select employers to visit. Dress professionally and make numerous copies of your resume. Plan to spend the entire day at the fair to ensure that you meet with all of the representatives you’re interested in seeing. Even if you are generally laid back, make an effort to present a confident, outgoing image so employers have the opportunity to see the value you could bring to their companies.

Attending job fairs can be a great tool for career networking as well as a resource to find open positions. A job fair is usually focused on a particular geography, industry, profession, or cluster of employers. They also include student job fairs, which introduce recent graduates to a variety of available careers and specialized fairs for particular groups, such as veterans or diversity candidates.

A job fair is an event where typically many prospective employers and job hunters meet in one location so that the employers can gather resumes from the job hunters, and the job hunters can receive, in some cases, interviews on the spot.

Job fairs can vary in format; for example, one employer that needs many different types of employees may sponsor a job fair as a single entity. As another example, job fairs can be restricted to particular types of professions, such as mechanical engineers or nurses, or restricted to general fields, such as academic sciences or healthcare.

There are two basic purposes to a job fair: employers wish to find good employees, while job hunters hope to find good jobs. Many job fairs are focused on first time, entry level recruiting, although there are exceptions to this. For first time job seekers, a job fair gives typically gives them a chance to learn about many different companies and the types of positions they are seeking to fill, as well as learning about various locations where jobs might be available.

It also, if the corporation or company is performing interviews at the fair, gives them valuable interview experience even if ultimately they are not hired as a result of that particular job fair. As with many events that typically are held face-to-face, job fairs also have been held on the Internet. While these are not held in person, they are similar to a traditional job fair in that they are held in real-time on a specialized web site at a particular day and time, and they provide opportunities for employers and potential employees to interact. An online job fair provides an advantage for both job-seekers and employers in that geographical restrictions can, for the large part, be ignored.

Job Fair Resources – Resources

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Maintain the Right Body Language and Affect

  • At the career fair, initiate contact with recruiters by smiling, making eye contact, and shaking hands when introducing yourself.
  • Approach recruiters by yourself, not with a group of friends. Recruiters see the group approach representing a lack of self-confidence. This is not to say that you shouldn’t approach a recruiting table where others have already gathered. You can approach a busy table and simply eavesdrop on conversations or peruse recruiting literature about a school district until you find an opportune time to introduce yourself and deliver your pitch.
  • Stand up straight and avoid looking fatigued or disorganized when speaking with recruiters.
  • Avoid setting your materials (bag, satchel) on the recruiting table. That’s the recruiters’ space, and by setting your materials on their tables you may inadvertently knock over their displays and carefully arrayed hand outs, etc.

The Greeting: Think GNAP

  • GNAP stands for Greeting, Name, Affiliation, and Purpose. See how each element is sequenced in the sample greeting: “Hello, I’m Judy Ranger, a senior secondary science major at the University of Maine at Farmington. I’m interested in discussing the possibility of my teaching at Hall-Dale High School,” or “Hello, I’m Judy Ranger, a senior business economics major at the University of Maine at Farmington. I’m interested in applying for the position of customer service specialist with UNUM Provident. Would you care to see my resume?”
  • Each time your deliver the GNAP-based introduction (or some similar variant), you clearly establish identity and purpose, which communicates confidence and self-direction.

The Three Types of Job Fair Interviews

It’s important to understand the basic types of interviews that take place at a job fair since your approach should be different with each. As you watch and listen from the side, you will be able to determine which type of interview is being conducted and to modify your approach accordingly. The following are the three basic types.

Screening Interview

By far the most common type of job fair interview. This interview usually lasts no more than two to three minutes and is usually conducted by employers whose main interest is gathering resumes and initial impressions before making decisions as to whether they will move to the next step. You will be asked questions about your major, your GPA, your experience, and what type of position you are seeking. Your strategy should be to quickly point them to the key areas in your background that reflect their needs. What needs? The needs they enumerated six candidates ago when you were standing off to the side as another candidate naively walked up and asked, “So what is your company looking for?” You need to fill the employer’s list of requirements or you will never see the light of day at the next level. This is the time to use your Thirty Second Elevator Pitch, keeping it short and succinct. Ask for a business card and inquire as to the next step.


This interview usually lasts five to ten minutes and is conducted at the employer’s booth, sometimes seated, rather than standing. Be prepared to give a full introduction of your background and quickly position yourself as someone who is a good fit in relation to that employer’s needs. The recruiter will usually want you to elaborate on the information contained in your resume, so it is crucial that you be prepared to comment on each and every item on it. Be prepared to give supporting behavioral examples for what might be a single-line bullet item on your resume. You may also be asked one or two introductory interview questions. Sometimes there will be questions related to qualitative behavioral traits which resumes do not reflect. Make sure all of your answers position you as the candidate who meets the employer’s needs. Ask for a business card and inquire as to the next step.

Full Interview

The full interview (if there is one being conducted) typically takes place behind a curtain or screen either at/near the employer’s booth or may be in another part of the hall altogether. Most employers use the full interview only as a secondary interview. In other words, you have to be invited to the interview based on the previous screening interview or mini-interview at the employer booth. Be prepared for twenty minutes or more, but probably no longer than thirty minutes, since most employers have a tight schedule to keep. Consider this interview the same as you would any full-length interview. Be aware that you may actually be interviewed by technical or line managers. You will be asked a number of qualitative, open-ended questions and will be expected to provide specific examples of your past results. Make sure you are prepared for the interview by reading the Interviewing Success information at this site. At the end of the interview, if you are truly interested, inform the interviewer of your interest and inquire as to the next steps. Assume that he or she is also interested.

Unless you are certain the employer is conducting secondary interviews, do not consider it a negative if all you went through was the screening or mini-interview. I realize that it can be rather depressing to spend two quick minutes with a Recruiter after a thirty-minute wait, but that is the reality of the meat market mentality of job fairs. Just make sure you know what the next step will be and follow up. This is not the time to cross your fingers and hope—take charge and make things happen.

The Most Common Introduction Question at a Job Fair

“What are you looking for here at the job fair?”

“A job” is not an acceptable answer. You should be ready with a clear and succinct description of exactly what you are seeking. If you have done your homework properly, what you are seeking should match quite nicely with what they are seeking. Your comeback question after you have given your 30-second elevator pitch: “And what type of candidates are you seeking?” The perfect setup for establishing potential common interests.

How to Gain Instant Rapport in the Job Fair Interview

Use the Personality Matching Technique found in the Mastering the Interview section to create a connection when interacting with recruiters. If you use this simple technique, you will not only gain instant rapport, you will also greatly increase your odds of being called back for secondary interviews.

In fact, to be truly outstanding at interviewing, you will need to read and understand all of the interviewing information on this site. Read it before you attend any job fairs or interviews.

Whether you are a client, or candidate, HTSS is committed to helping you succeed. Our resources are available online 24/7 to help with your hiring needs, or provide advice on growing your career.

How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

Whether you are a client, or candidate, HTSS is committed to helping you succeed. Our resources are available online 24/7 to help with your hiring needs, or provide advice on growing your career.

How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

October 17th, 2014

People either love or hate job fairs and that goes for both employees and employers. It is really easy to get bogged down in an event and not actually accomplish your goals. Before getting bogged down at the next job fair event think about these tips to make sure you’re not wasting your time or the time of potential employers.

Research the fair.

Never go to a job fair event unprepared. You need to know the times of the event, where the venue is located, and who will be there. The more you know about the job fair the better equipped you will be to make the most of the event.

Research the employers and make a game plan.

You don’t need to visit every single employer on the job fair floor. You want to target the companies that make the most sense for your career goals. Research the companies who will be there and make a plan to visit them.

Arrive early.

When you get to the venue early you can get a feel for the layout and determine where the companies you want to speak with are located. This can help you navigate once the space becomes more crowded.

Prepare an elevator pitch.

When you approach a company you’re interested in working with you need to hook them immediately. Prepare a 30 second statement that describes who you are and what you do. This will start the conversation.

Don’t just take all the free stuff.

Companies at job fairs will load their tables with free giveaways. Anything from stickers to pens can start to become cumbersome under their own weight as you proceed through the day. You don’t need everything so don’t give into the temptation.

Get cards and follow up.

The single most important thing you can do at a job fair is to remember to take cards from the contacts you’re most interested in developing. As soon as you get home, or the very next day, sit down at your computer and compose a follow up email to remind them of your meeting and suggest the next steps.

Looking for Assistance with Your Job Search?

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Tips for developing questions that will help you learn more about employers.

Attending a virtual career fair on Handshake will help you get an internship or job as employers focus on hiring students virtually. Virtual career fairs sessions are a great opportunity for you to connect with and learn more about the organizations hiring at your school. But how can you stand out to employers and make a great impression? One way is by showing up prepared and having thoughtful questions to ask. Here are some tips for prepping questions, and some examples to help get you started.

Learn about the employer

The first step is to do some research on the employer. Start by reading through their Handshake page, where you’ll get an overview of the organization, see student reviews, and check out the open jobs and internships. Then go through their company website and do an online search for recent news articles, press releases and other relevant information.

Spending some time before the session to learn more will pay off because it shows the employer your interest in their organization and in getting a job. It’ll also keep you from asking something that is easily found on their Handshake page or website. If you go the extra mile and demonstrate that you’re informed, the employer ambassador will definitely be impressed!

Create a list of questions

Now that you have more information, you can start writing your list of questions. Take time to think about what interests you the most about this employer. What do you want to learn more about? What qualities are important to you in a potential employer? What will help you decide if they are a good fit for you?

Make a list of your priorities and then fill in questions for each. It’s a good idea to have several questions for each session, in case some are answered by the employer before you have a chance to ask them.

When to ask a question

There are group and one-on-one sessions during virtual career fairs. If you’re attending a group session, make sure to wait for the host to announce that it’s time for questions. Depending on the session, you may have an opportunity to ask your question on video or type it into the chat. One-on-one sessions are an open conversation with the employer, so you should feel free to ask questions as you go.

Examples of questions

Here are a few examples of questions you can ask during virtual sessions. These are inspiration to help you get started. It’s important to tailor your questions depending on the type of session and your unique interests.

General employer questions

  • How would you describe the culture of the organization?
  • What is the office environment like? Is it formal or more casual?
  • How does leadership promote diversity and inclusion within the organization?
  • What support, initiatives, and/or training around diversity and inclusion are available to employees (i.e. employee resource groups, mentorship programs, leadership development)?
  • Are there professional development opportunities?
  • Does the organization encourage employees to pursue advanced degrees?

Questions about a specific team or job

  • What does success look like in this role? On this team?
  • How would you describe this team? The manager?
  • What are the opportunities for growth in this role? On this team?
  • Do managers encourage innovation and creativity?
  • How do managers measure success for employees/interns?

Questions for one-on-one sessions

  • What do you like most about working for [employer]?
  • Do you participate in employee resource/social groups?
  • What other teams do you work closely with?
  • What is the best part of your job?

By Vested
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How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

Speed-dating I think. The employers meet their tentative employees, at the set time and place, looking for a correct match.

The successful sourcing initiatives are the key to a successful recruitment plan of a company.

Entering into the job fairs with this approach will help you search the right talent in the pool of talent and potential candidates. Job fairs are the right place to entice top-tier candidates.

These few tips will help you to stand out and gain maximum experience at a job fair.

Host a contest: It is quite significant to attract the best talent in a career fair. But, how to do so? The super-strict environment of a job fair can be stuffing and anyone would love to get rid of it. Introducing a talent hunt or a completion will lighten the professionalism and inspire everyone to participate in it. You can ask them to submit their copy of resume in exchange of participating into your contest.

Advertise your presence: A running organization already has a large pool of employees to engage with. Your broader community includes top-tier candidates. Announce your presence in the job fairs via social media and email marketing lists. Provide the specific list of information including location of your booth. Also, provide hints about your special display. Try to show up with a special swag item to create hype in the fair.

Digitize your booth: No one wants to mess with the trail of papers in this time. Try to use digital things for collecting resumes and filling out applications. The digitization of hiring process is quite beneficial to modern recruitment process. Use laptops or tablets to display your recruitment videos, demonstrations and presentations to paint a positive picture of your brand.

Know your roles: Defining the roles clearly is the first step towards the recruitment. It will help you to fill the roles efficiently. Make a sheet that includes the position with all its key responsibilities and daily tasks.

Try to post all these details online so that it can be totally transparent. It will help you set up a mutual beneficial relationship between you and your employee.

Pick the best reps: It is not that simple that your HR team go to the job fair and promote your brand. It is better to send people that will work with the new hires on daily basis. Make sure the most positive, energetic and enthusiastic employees of your organization join the fair and meet new people.

It will help you in two ways. Firstly, your departments will come in direct contact with potential talent, and they will narrow it down as per your own requirement. Secondly, potential candidates will have a direct conversation with your employees and know about your reputation. It gives a first-hand experience to both.

Provide sustenance: Not only creative freebies, you will also want enticing passer-by to munch on your booth in job fair. Keeping candies, coffee, pizza or snacks at your counter will help you to catch their gaze. Being creative can be fun, but sealed and labeled items should be preferred. Something branded will create a good reputation of your brand.

Leverage your wins: Has it ever happened that your company has names as the best places to work in your area? Or has your organization won any nomination in last few years. Do you have a referral from an employee that makes your organization shine? Put all the information on a banner, literature or your backdrop?

Emphasizing your props will help the potential candidates to make a biased reputation of your brand.

Don’t sit: Sitting behind your counter on a job fair is a big no. Stand in front or on to the side of the table. It will intimidate the job seekers especially younger ones. It helps to invite people. Moreover, either sitting behind the table or standing at all, keep smiling. It is first thing the potential candidates will notice about you. It creates a positive aura.

Arrive in plenty of time to set up: One can easily spot a difference between a quick and relaxed work. A neat and maintained counter will simply enhance your impression.

Pick unique swag: Job fairs are about free promotional items. Therefore, it is important to maintain a realistic attitude.

How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

Have you ever left a job fair feeling like your top accomplishment was the distribution of your company’s latest promo item (stress ball, anyone?) to people who will likely toss it the minute they get home?

In theory, exhibiting at job fairs provides a boost to the candidate search and hiring process. In reality, job fairs require thorough preparation and out-of-the-box tactics to be an effective recruiting strategy.

If you are planning to attend job fairs in 2019 and come away with more than empty boxes, these tips are for you.

Target the right events

Before signing up for any job or career fair, research all of the events in your local area, or within a particular industry, such as healthcare or tech. Find out which events historically attract the candidates that best match what you’re looking for and stick with those. Say no to big-name events that may have a larger number of job seekers, but will be less likely to have the specific types of candidates you need.

Job and career fairs present significant opportunities for organizations; however, you might also consider other, less traditional venues for networking and finding prospective employees. For example, festivals bring together large numbers of local residents, some of whom will be good candidates for your open positions or will know someone who is. It’s another way to get some visibility for your organization, especially if your office is not in a major metropolitan area and you depend on local talent. Look for local Chamber of Commerce business expos or arts and crafts festivals – any fun event that brings the community and local businesses together can be a great place to extend the awareness of your employer brand.

For companies recruiting across states or countries, consider hosting virtual job fairs via a virtual event platform. Digital job fairs combine the power of the internet with some of the advantages of traditional job fairs to save costs and reach people who otherwise cannot attend due to timing or distance.

Design your space

Does your company have the necessary marketing materials to make your booth stand out and to distribute information to prospective employees? Standard items to have on hand include name tags, business cards, a tablecloth or banners, informational sheets and, of course, pens and other knick-knacks as incentives for people to stop by your booth. Craft the look and feel of your booth to match your company’s brand. The materials should distinctly promote your organization, meaning they should, at the very least, display your company logo.

Having branded materials is essential, but showcasing your brand takes more than free pens. To stand out from other employers at a career fair, think beyond the standard materials to something that will connect with your intended audience.

Does your company let you wear casual clothes to work? Then pass on the suit and consider branded t-shirts with your company’s tagline or values printed across the front.

Is your company technologically advanced? Bring a couple of your best products, or related tech gadgets, for people to experience for themselves.

If you’re recruiting seasonal workers for November start dates in September, dress up your space with winter decorations to really stand out from other employers.

Offer something of value in exchange for resumes or interview sign-ups. For example, bring a camera and a small backdrop and offer free headshots attendees can use on their LinkedIn profiles.

Prepare your team

This is the stage where you decide which team members to send to best represent your company. Recruiters and other human resource personnel are the most obvious choices. However, if other employees are enthusiastic about the company and enjoy networking, by all means, invite them along. Your best employees can often make the best recruiters, especially if they work in the area for which you are recruiting.

Preparing in advance by formulating talking points for your representatives will help your team understand what is most important to share with prospective employees. What information can you share face-to-face that cannot be found on your website? What are your best employee perks and benefits that make you a competitive employer?

Prep the recruiters so they’ll balance their time between asking probing questions to prospective hires and discussing open position(s) and what your organization does and values. Give each representative a tablet or notebook to take notes on exchanges with individual candidates. That will help capture relevant information about potential candidates on site and avoid trying to match conversations with candidates after the event.

Make the best impression

Once your marketing materials are packed and your team prepped, it is time to head to the event. Keep in mind, just because other companies recruit a certain way does not mean you have to follow their lead. Customize your approach to match your company’s culture and make a lasting impression.

  • Typical job fairs and other events provide a table for exhibitors. Do not place that table between you and the people you are trying to engage! Place the table to the side of your assigned area so that people can enter the space to speak with you. You and your company will be more approachable, and it will be easier to interact with attendees.
  • If you have a recent corporate video that you think captures the corporate culture well, set it up on a monitor at your booth and play it on a loop throughout the event. In addition to promoting your company, the light and movement of the video will capture the attention of people walking down the aisle.
  • Limit distractions such as work emails and incessant mobile phone notifications. Suitable candidates will pass you by if you’re intently engaged with your phone.
  • Team up with your marketing staff to ensure the event is promoted over your corporate social media channels. Capturing and sharing event photos and videos might be the exception to the previous rule!

Follow up

While your impressions are still fresh, organize your notes and categorize application forms and resumes based on the eligibility of candidates. Invite the best candidates to formally interview and tour your workplace right away; chances are they applied to other companies at the fair, and they could be won over by another business if you delay the interview process.

It might seem exhaustive to follow up with everyone who submitted their business card or resume, particularly if you have already found the perfect candidates to interview. However, remember that all those who stopped by your booth and listened to your pitch gave your organization a shot and offered you their time. The least you can do is send an email thanking them for stopping by your booth. It could be they know someone who is the right fit for your organization, or maybe they’ll be the right fit for a new opportunity in the future.

The incredibly low unemployment rate has recruiters scrambling to fill the candidate pipeline for hiring managers. The opportunity to find viable candidates in a sea of job-seekers makes college job fairs and industry-specific career fairs a tactic worth considering. But to get the most for your time, plan carefully and fully embrace and promote what makes your organization unique.

You are likely to hear conflicting advice on whether you need to bring both your CV and cover letter to jobs fairs. Although it is generally agreed that it is wise to take along your CV, some job sites suggest there is no need to prepare cover letters. This is arguably not the best advice. If you want to stand out from the crowd and secure your next dream job, one of your biggest weapons is to do your homework and arrive at the jobs fair armed with both your CV and cover letter.

If you are planning to attend a jobs fair in your nearest town or city, you are likely to have plenty of time to prepare, so how best can you present your credentials effectively to every person that you meet? It will be easier to connect with recruiters and make the most of the jobs fair experience if you know exactly what you are going to say and to whom. This is where your CV and cover letter come in. Your CV will provide a snapshot of everything that potential employers need to know about you in a nutshell, from essential contact information and skills, to employment history and work experience. Having up-to-date, accurate printed copies to hand, ready to give to recruiters, will provide all the information they need at a glance after you have made initial contact. That way, they will be able to follow up with candidates who have made the right impression after the event. So, by handing out printed CVs, you are more likely to be called to interview.

A good point to make is that you should try to give your CV to prospective employers at the start of any conversation. You can then reference certain achievements you would like to mention, or the recruiter may wish to highlight a skill that has been brought to their attention and ask you to elaborate, providing a good talking point and steering the conversation in the direction you would like it to take. Job event organisers usually recommend printing out around 20 CVs prior to attending any event.

However, if you have done your research, you will know exactly how many CVs you are likely to need because you will have drawn up a list of the companies you plan to approach. If you apply for a job, employers expect you to include a cover letter along with your CV, so why not take along a tailored cover letter for the companies where you would like to work? This shows you are serious about wanting to work there. Job hunting can be a tough battle, so by taking the initiative to prepare a cover letter for the company in question, you will be more likely to outshine other hopefuls.

Presenting a cover letter that has been specifically written for the individual company will increase your chances of being hired, and I cannot stress enough the importance of tailoring each letter. Show you know about the company, its vision, mission and corporate values, and write your cover letter to reflect these. If a job advert has been posted on the company website, there will be a list of requirements, so make sure you can illustrate that you meet each of the company’s needs, with examples, of course. To this end, you are demonstrating that you are not just interested in working at the company, but you are the perfect candidate for the job.

Thinking about it from a potential employer’s perspective, who are they more likely to hire? The candidate who shows up to the job fair with all the chat but no CV and cover letter, or the candidate who can demonstrate effectively that they are the right person for the job with an up-to-date CV and professional cover letter?

In online applications, a polished CV and first-class cover letter can help to seal the deal, so, in the same way, boost your prospects by bringing along your CV and customised cover letter for each organisation you plan to approach at the jobs fair. Plus, don’t forget your paper and pen so you can make notes that may be useful when it comes to following up on contacts you have made. It is not always easy to stand out from the crowd at job events, but if you show organisation in this way, you will know you have done everything in your power to increase your chances of success.

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Job fairs give students and recent graduates a great opportunity to meet with local businesses and employers.

These career fairs are also a great opportunity for employers and local businesses to meet with potential candidates and pre-screen applicants more efficiently than simply looking at a cover letter and resume submitted online.

However, as more and more employers flock to career fairs to meet with potential candidates, it is more important than ever to set up a job fair booth that is eye-catching and appealing.

Below, we are going to discuss tips for setting up a job fair booth that is both eye-catching, appealing, and draws in potential candidates.

As employers compete for limited talent, attending a job or career fair can be a great way to attract more candidates.

You’ll be given the opportunity to meet with students, recent graduates, and local talent, without the need to set up individual interviews and screenings.

Are you a candidate looking to attend a job or career fair?

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Bring Your Team

A great way to attract more candidates to your job fair booth is to bring your team with you.

By bringing your team with you, you are able to accommodate multiple candidates at once, ensuring that each individual receives undivided attention and interest.

Additionally, by bringing your team with you, you strengthen the bond that your team has with one another.

They will be able to assist with the hiring process and will feel more connected to their work as instrumental members of the team.

Be Prepared and Exude Professionalism

Many candidates who attend career or job fairs are looking for their opportunity to enter the workforce and corporate career.

They will be basing their decisions on your professionalism and booth setup.

So, be sure to set up a booth that is attractive, clearly calls out your company’s name, and showcases your company’s logo.

In addition, be sure to display your promotional material on your table, and don’t be afraid to add a splash of color.

While you may be tempted to stick with black and white text, a splash of color will help to showcase your more fun and creative side.

Make it Easy to Apply

All too often, a candidate will express interest in a company they meet at a career fair, only for them to forget to apply to the position once they return home.

To avoid such issues, be sure to bring tablets and laptops with you, allowing interested candidates to apply directly to open positions.

How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

Setup a Giveaway or Contest

College students and recent graduates love getting free stuff.

Not only is it exciting, but it also generates buzz amongst candidates at the career fair.

So, be sure to offer a contest or giveaway that will attract additional applicants to your booth.

Be sure to make the giveaway something attractive and don’t skimp out on going big.

In addition, be sure to require participants to provide their email addresses to enter the contest.

This will help you to create a mailing list that you can use to keep in touch with the candidates you met.

Bring Sweets

What’s better than a giveaway or contest?

What about free food!

College students love sweets and will likely stop by your booth if they smell something sweet.

Bringing donuts or fresh baked cookies will help to attract candidates and ensure that your booth is teeming with activity.

Invite Candidates to the Fair

Want to ensure that your booth isn’t empty?

Simply invite previous applicants to the career fair to meet in person.

This will give you an opportunity to meet face-to-face and to determine their qualifications.

In addition, this will be seen as an act of goodwill and will likely help you to continue to attract candidates to apply to open roles and positions.

How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

Don’t Sit Behind the Booth

Career and job fairs are nerve-wracking experiences for candidates.

In addition to meeting with dozens of potential employers, they will likely be nervous when it comes to approaching an employer they admire or feel won’t accept their application.

To help them ease their nerves, be sure to remain present and active throughout the career fair.

Don’t sit behind the booth.

Rather, remain in front of the booth, engaged and initiating conversations with individuals as they pass by.


When it comes to tips for setting up a job fair booth, it is important to remember that many individuals attending the career fair are both nervous and excited about the opportunity to meet with employers.

As such, it is important to remain engaged, active, and present throughout the fair.

You’ll likely want to attract as many individuals to your booth as possible.

This can be done by offering free sweets and gifts and holding a small contest or giveaway.

This will bring in more individuals, providing you with an opportunity to speak and engage with them.

Lastly, be sure to make the process of applying to open roles and positions as easy and seamless as possible.

This means having tablets and laptops prepared for new applicants and encouraging individuals to apply to positions which interest them immediately.

Summer is the season for job recruiters. With graduation right around the corner, there will be a fresh flock of eager 20-somethings entering the workforce full time. Ask yourself a few questions: Will you be hiring on the spot? How many positions are you looking to fill? What three attributes does your ideal candidate have? While it’s best to be open to everyone that walks by your table, having a certain guideline will help the process along and allow you use to invest your time wisely.

Career fairs are a great opportunity to hone in on new talent, like MBA majors, and add valuable members to a growing team. In order for you to present your company in the best light, there are a few tips to follow to ensure success.

Tip #1: Make A Plan

Take an “inventory” of your staff and analyze which areas may need an extra boost or which teams could use another member. Go over budgets and know ahead of time the type of positions you want to hire for and the type of person that would fit into your company culture. Have a few interview questions ready to conduct mini-sessions with potential applicants on the spot. Since there is no official job posting with all the details of each position, you will want to clearly explain expectations of positions you have available without seeming too overwhelming to people who pass by your table.

Tip #2: Be Professionally Presentable

Speaking of tables, make sure that your booth or table is set up to reflect your company’s brand and personality. Put together marketing materials that will show what your company is about and give people more information, even if they’re just casually looking at a wide array of options. One of the best ways to do this is to create stand up banners that will be easy to transport to the career fair and set up on site. This can be the eye-catching feature that entices someone to stop by and learn more about your company.

Tip #3: Be Courteous

If you are recruiting for your company, you want to make it appear like your company is both a professional and fun place to work. It may sound like common sense, but mind your manners. Stand up and shake hands with people. Don’t eat at your booth, as this will make you seem disinterested, unprofessional, and even sloppy. You want to convey the message that you are open for business and ready to chat with interested candidates. Also, don’t spend time on your phone unless absolutely necessary. It’s not very inviting to pass by someone whose nose is buried in their email or social media. Save that for later.

Tip #4: Prepare A Mini-Interview

Preparing a mini-interview before you get to the career fair will help you pre-qualify candidates. This is an excellent way to cut down on the amount of unqualified or otherwise unsatisfactory interviewees. Prepare a couple questions to ask interested job seekers. This is a great use of your conversation time with candidates and of your time at the event in general. Make sure you take this advice.

Tip #5: Create A Sign-Up Sheet

Allow people to hand you their resumes, but also provide an area in which you can take down their contact info and the position they’re interested in. This will help keep things organized better and will be more helpful for when you return to the office. By entering this information in a spreadsheet on a laptop or tablet, you can also write in specific notes if certain candidates stand out.

Tip #6: Be Approachable

Although it may difficult to get a full picture of any potential candidate at a job fair, make it easy for people to approach you and whomever else is there to represent your company. Be open to questions and don’t be afraid to prompt questions of your own to get a feel of what candidates are looking for. Even if someone doesn’t fit the description for a position that you currently have open, it doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t have an opening down the road that they’d be a good fit for. Go in and keep an open mind throughout the entire fair. Hand out business cards to those that are interested so that they have an easy way to contact you.

Tip #7: Bring Some Swag

If you want to have a successful career fair, swag is not necessary. But, it will certainly make your table a hot commodity, unlike a poster about leadership characteristics. To really set yourself apart, bring small gift items for job-seekers to the fair. These gifts will help to ensure that the best talent remembers your company and will be reminded to get in touch with you when they get back home. These gifts do not have to be large or extravagant. However, you may like to take this opportunity to set your company apart even more with a unique offering. Consider handing out a bit of swag that isn’t predictable, and you will improve your engagement and responses at every career fair from here on out.

Career fairs can be a little hectic with both recruiters and candidates on the hunt for that perfect fit. One of the most important things is to speak with confidence about your company. Paint a realistic picture of your company’s work environment by being honest about the level of work, but also the level of perks that might encourage someone to apply. In short, put your best foot forward as most of the applicants will be doing the same.

If you want to find a job, you have to express interest in the job. One of the best ways to do this is to send a professional email to a potential employer. This sounds like a simple task, but it’s actually something that requires quite a bit of time and effort.

How to approach prospective employers at job fairs

Let’s take a quick look at how to write an email to a potential employer:

  • Start With A Professional Email Address – This is rule #1. Always create a professional email address like [email protected] or [email protected]
  • Don’t Overlook The Subject Line – The subject line is your first impression. Grab their attention and let them know that you mean business. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
  • Address It To The Right Person – Get on Google and scour LinkedIn to find the the name and email address of a real person who you can email. If you’re stumped, start with some like Dear Sir or Madam, or To Whom It May Concern,.
  • Express Interest In The Job – Tell the employer why you are emailing them.
  • Identify Why You Are An Asset To The Company – Without repeating your resume you need to sell yourself to the company by telling them why you will help the business achieve great things. Use specific numbers, skills, etc. to show that you’re the real-deal, stand-out, job candidate that you claim to be.
  • Finish Strong – Let the recipient know that you are happy to provide them with any additional information that they might need.
  • Say Thank You – Always say thank you. Tell them that you really appreciate their time and that you look forward to hearing back from them.
  • Use A Formal Sign Off – Always use a pro sign off like Sincerely, Respectfully, Kind Regards, etc.
  • Is Your Email Signature Good To Go? – At the bottom of every email you should have an email signature that gives the recipient your contact details, web presence, and other pertinent information.

These Email Mistakes Make You Look Wildly Unprofessional

Overall, writing an email to a potential employer is a pretty simple thing to do. Remember to customize your emails for every employer you contact. Before you hit send, always re-read your email to ensure that you’ve used full sentences with proper grammar. Double check there are no typos. A good thing to do is to read your email out loud. You’ll be surprised at how many mistakes this little trick will help you catch.

If your email can grab the recruiter’s attention, impress them, and leave them wanting to learn more about you, then job well done. With any luck a well written email to a potential employer will land you a job interview and hopefully a job too.

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You can do yourself a great disservice as a transitioning or veteran job seeker by not dressing up to meet prospective employers – whether at job fairs, other types of multi-employer hiring conferences, or one-on-one interviews. Most people dress better for the one-on-one’s than the jobs fairs, but many show up under-dressed for all occasions.

This article deals with the “why’s” of dressing up, without going into much detail of exactly what to wear. The article gives nine reasons for not dressing up for a military-to-civilian job fair, and the responses that a recruiter at the fair would make.

1. I didn’t know you were supposed to dress up.

Part of what you learned in the military was to be prepared going into an engagement. Another part was to take responsibility for your own preparation as a member of a unit. You need to take similar responsibilities in civilian life; you did not do that if you did not get the word on dress.

Most organizations that produce military-to-civilian events offer plenty of advice on preparation on their websites; and there is a lot of similar advice on the Internet. Also, veterans who transitioned fairly recently must have heard something about how to dress for interviews during their Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success) sessions – or, in the case of earlier transitions, their Transition Assistance Program (TAP) sessions.

2. I don’t want to dress up – that’s just not me.

I don’t want to pretend to be somebody I’m not. Recruiters for organizations that regularly hire veterans understand – and so should you – that, when you dress up for a hiring event, you are not “saying” that you dress that way all the time. In addition, you are not committing yourself to dressing like that at work – companies have dress codes or customary ways of dressing, and you can discuss that subject during interviews.

You are saying that you understand the appropriateness of dress and behavior in various settings; and you are sending out a strong message that, if you got a job at a given recruiter’s company, you would dress and act in a manner that would be in the best interests of that company.

Think of it this way if you must:

(1) People who dress up make a favorable impression on recruiters.

(2) Recruiters use the appearance of job candidates as a rough indicator of whether those candidates would make good employees.

(3) Recruiters commonly eliminate from consideration those candidates who are poorly dressed.

(4) You might think that this elimination process makes no sense.

(5) But that doesn’t matter; so, to survive the process, you should dress up.

3. People just wear shirts and jeans around the office in the business I’m going into, so why should I dress up to talk to a recruiter for a company in that business?

In almost every job, there will come times when you will need to wear a suit or a business casual outfit. For example,

you may have to participate in a sales presentation or a product demonstration at another company’s place of business

you may get invited to a business luncheon or party where most of the people will be dressed up

your company may want you to attend meetings of a professional or industry association

if you work for a large company, your supervisor may ask all department employees to dress up for a visit by a company officer

If you are a candidate for an entry-level job, you may not see much of that happening soon. But it could, so you may need to show recruiters for companies in that business that you would represent those companies well.

4. I am an older veteran who has worked outdoors all my life, and I want to continue to do that. If I came to an event or an interview for an outdoor job in a business suit, I would give the wrong impression.

This veteran should stay formal for the first contact with the employer. If he makes a good initial impression, he will almost certainly be invited to a follow-up interview.

He should then ask for details about the follow-up. If it is to be a field visit, a recruiter and other company personnel might show the candidate the equipment, stock, and materials on hand, describe the company services in detail, and take the candidate out to a couple work sites. In this case, the recruiter might ask the candidate to show up dressed for outdoor work. If the recruiter does not do that, the candidate may have to ask directly how he should dress.

5. I am going to a job fair more or less to look around and see who might have a job that would interest me.

I don’t have to dress up to do that. The serious applying will start when I go home and access the careers page at the employer’s website. You might miss a golden opportunity. At many job fairs produced specifically for veterans, almost half of the job candidates say that they will secure interviews as a result of attending. And candidates are sometimes hired on the spot.

6. My qualifications are so good that all I have to do is briefly describe them to a recruiter and hand him/her my resume.

The recruiter won’t care what clothes I have on. Someone whose qualifications are just as good as yours, but who makes a better impression otherwise, might talk to that same recruiter. Why take the chance?

You would never regret the disservice you did to yourself, because you would never know about it. A recruiter is extremely unlikely to tell a candidate, “I would like to consider you for employment, but you just don’t look good the way you’re dressed.”

7. I have been to plenty of other job fairs, and I have never seen any more than about 25% of the candidates dressed up.

Recruiters at military-to-civilian events expect to meet job candidates who have characteristics associated with the military. Those include a military bearing, military-like grooming, a mode of dress analogous to a formal military uniform (there’s the suit again), and a clear, direct manner of speaking. When recruiters meet candidates who have strayed far from the above, they may wonder what happened to them.

8. Once the recruiters get back to their offices and start looking over the resumes, they won’t remember what anyone looked like anyhow.

Many recruiters write down notes about candidates who made especially good first impressions. In many cases, by the time the recruiters leave a job fair, they have already selected a small number of candidates for follow-up.

There would be no outward sign that this filtration process is going on. So you might think that the recruiters are just describing their companies to the candidates – and that very little having to do with actual hiring is going on. And if you are not well-prepared, that will indeed be the case when they are talking with you.

9. A lot of recruiters at job fairs don’t wear suits or business casual outfits, so why should I?

How the recruiters dress has no bearing on how you should dress. The recruiters are not looking for a job – you are. Consider this: A sales representative who visits a customer’s office might very well be dressed more formally than the customer personnel he meets. At a job fair, you want to sell the recruiters on the benefits of hiring you.