By Rich DeMatteo
Career fairs have recently been seen as a colossal waste of time for both job seekers and hiring organizations.
But regardless of the moans and groans from both job hunters and recruiters, they still remain as a strategy on both sides.
It’s easy to explain the overall problem and source of frustration behind career fairs:
What ends up happening is an incredibly long line builds up at the career fair, resulting in a limited time for job seekers to meet with the company representative. It’s just not enough time to make a lasting impression. It’s overwhelming for the company, and it’s tiring for the job seeker.
It doesn’t matter if your resume is amazing. It’s sitting there in a pile of 100 or more resumes, and you’re just hoping the recruiter or hiring manager will look at it later.
Most recruiters will tell you they have a three-pile system for career fairs, usually made up of the Green Pile, Yellow Pile, and Red Pile. The Green Pile will probably get a second look, the Yellow Pile is a maybe, and the Red Pile has no shot.
Regardless of their organizational skills, it’s tough to have the resume noticed after the career fair.
We’ve addressed why career fairs normally don’t work out. Now we can talk about how you can be different, make an impression, and possibly start hearing back from recruiters after career fairs.
Follow these next steps for instant success:
Don’t just attend any career fair. Research the career fair and organization running the event. Do they look slick and have solid companies attending? Great, go to it, and make sure you keep following the next steps.
Focus is key in your job search, and the same can be said for career fairs. Attending a career fair with no idea of who you want to work for will only waste your time. Pick three companies that are attending, and target ONLY those three.
Call the Human Resources department at the company, and try to find out who will be representing them at the event. If you can’t get through, try Linkedin or sending a general email to HR. Do whatever you can to make sure your name is familiar. Phone contact is best here, but an email or social media connection works just as well.
No matter your level of success in Step 3, send your resume to the company. Address it to Human Resources as well as the department where you’d like to work. In your cover letter, state that you’ll be at the career fair to continue the conversation.
If you’ve been successful with Step 3 or Step 4, the company should be happy to see you. While every other job seeker is a "new" person to the company representative, you are someone they have had contact with, and they’ll want to talk to you longer because of that. This extra time is where you’ll be able to make a lasting impression, and why your resume will move to the top of the pile.
Treat it like a mini-interview. Send a written thank you letter, and make sure they know you appreciated and enjoyed your time speaking with them. You’ll also want to include your resume again with the letter.
Following the above 6 steps will greatly increase success at career fairs. Remember, be specific, and have a clear idea of the top three companies you want to target. Once you do that, everything is much easier, and you can spend more time making an impression on those companies.
Rich DeMatteo is a Philadelphia native with 5 years of agency and corporate recruiting. He’s the founder of CornOnTheJob.com, an award winning job search and career blog. Most recently, Rich has co-founded Bad Rhino, Inc., a social media agency. Follow @CornontheJob on Twitter, or be his buddy on facebook.com/cornonthejob.