Job fairs are in season, are you ready?

Spring college graduations bring a season of job fairs. Here are tips from local and national experts on putting your best foot forward at a job fair.
by Heather Warlick Published: March 5, 2013

“Professional dress says to the employer (for college students) ‘I'm ready to get out of my college clothes, I'm ready to go to work in the real world,'” Scott said.

A job interview or job fair is not a place to make a fashion statement, Scott said. So dress as conservatively as possible.

Be organized.

“After you talk to several employers, everything starts getting a little fuzzy,” said Debra Vaughn, director of Student Employment and Career Services at OCCC. She recommends that after each employer you meet with you step back and write some notes about the exchange. If an employer gives you a business card, make sure and keep it with your notes.

You don't need to carry a briefcase but do bring a sleek looking portfolio to hold your resumes, college transcripts, letters of recommendation, examples of your work, and a notebook to take notes on after each meeting. If you can showcase examples of your work on a flash drive that you hand to employers or you can provide links to your work on a website you create for potential employers.

Flush your Facebook

While employers may or may not take the time to look at information on a flash drive or on your own website, it's no secret that many employers go straight to Facebook to get a feel for an applicant's real personality and lifestyle.

Look through your posts with a critical eye, considering the impressions your posts and photos could give someone who doesn't know you.

Check nerves at the door.

You're going to be nervous, facing dozens of employers and almost certain rejection from at least some of them.

Scott advises that you practice an introduction and “elevator speech” about yourself.

“Hi, my name is so-and-so. I'm graduating in May. I read about your company on the Internet and this is exactly what I want to do,” is what Scott told her daughter to say to every employer she met at her first job fair.

You'll also need a short “elevator speech” for when employers ask you to tell them something about yourself. Pick several interesting items about yourself, such as your top five work, school or personal experiences. These items should follow a formula: What was the situation, what action did you take and what were the results? Whittle these items down to one paragraph, then prioritize them based on the themes that come through: these themes could be growth, customer service, education, innovation, creativity and many others. Pick your top themes. These are the things you want the interviewer to remember about you. Now, put it all together into about a two-minute speech (about 350 words). Briefly cover your college experience but devote most of the time to getting your top themes across. And save time at the end to mention your goals.

At the job fair, practice your pitch with several employers who may not be your top choices. Save your No. 1 choices for later, when your nerves are relaxed and you've had a chance to practice your speeches.

Remember your nonverbal cues.

The best speech writer in the world can't overcome bad body language. Remember the importance of nonverbal cues you're sending. Greet employers with a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, stand tall and smile. Don't lean against the wall or stand with your arms crossed, and avoid frowning, texting and talking on the phone.

After visiting with a few employers, give yourself time to rest, have a quick snack and rejuvenate. Meeting with dozens of employers in one day is exhausting, Vaughn said, and you'll need to plan to spend plenty of time making the rounds.

Follow up!

If you had a positive conversation with an employer, and especially if they gave you a business card, you must follow up after the meeting. Email is the best form of follow up, Vaughn said. All that a follow up note should say is that you enjoyed meeting them at the job fair and that you are very interested in the position and hope to have an interview.

“If you are the candidate who follows through, you might be the person who is invited in for that interview,” Scott said.

by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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