Job fairs offer a great opportunity for business networking. Where else can you find a group of employers all in one room wanting to talk to you? But before you begin networking at a job fair, be prepared. This may be your best shot at getting your foot in the door with that company that you really want to work for. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you network your way to success.
- Networking is all about meeting a decision maker, making that person remember you, and--ultimately--hire you. To that end, the first step you must take if you are to be successful networking the job fair is to dress the part. You will be coming in contact with human resource people, managers, and perhaps even owners, and you want these people to know that you are serious about your career. Even though you may see many attendees who are dressed casually, if you really want make a favorable impression, you should wear business professional attire. Stand above the crowd.
- Be prepared to represent and sell yourself. If you are going to "close the deal," you need the proper sales aids. Topping the list of tools to help you sell yourself is your resume. Make sure that you have a quality resume, and plenty of copies to give away as you speak with various company representatives. But something that many people don't have is a calling card or business card. This card simply needs to have your name and contact information, and be simple, tasteful, and professional. Since the company representatives don't often see job seekers with calling cards, this is good way to make a memorable impression as well as open up conversation.
- Ask thoughtful, intelligent questions. As job seekers circulate, and the day wears on, the company representatives get asked many of the same questions: "How soon are you hiring?" and "How many positions do you have available?" or worse yet, "What does your company do?" or "How much does this position pay?" Recruiters are basically "panning for gold" at job fairs. They know they will sift through a lot of dirt to find those few nuggets. Be the nugget. Ask questions that show you have done your homework or that show your enthusiasm for working for them. Ask questions like: "How are you positioned to handle the rapid technological advances occurring in today's marketplace?," "What characteristics are you looking for in the person you hire to fill this position?" or "Your company mission statement is _____; how does the position you are filling help fulfill that mission?" Show interest, knowledge, and ability in your questions, and make a great impression.
- Make a friend. Let's face it, people hire people that they feel will fit in with the rest of the team. No company wants a "pure genius" who can't get along with his coworkers. This is a recipe for disaster. When you engage the company rep in conversation that builds rapport, you begin to win that person to your side. Remember, all else being relatively equal, people hire people that they like. In fact, even if all else is a bit unequal, with you on the light end of the balance scale, people still hire people they like. You should follow Dale Carnegie's advice and "win friends and influence people."
Believe it or not, if you follow these few simple steps, you will be doing more than 85% of the seekers at the job fair.