Showtime! Nailing Your Career Fair Performance

Posted by The Editors on April 29, 2011
Showtime! Nailing Your Career Fair Performance
When job seekers hear a big career fair is coming up, their first instinct is to run down to Kinko's and make 100 copies of their resume on fancy paper.

But hold on a minute. Making the most out of a career fair requires more than simply showing up, handing out resumes, and picking up some company brochures. In fact, preparation for impending conversations is key: You’ll need to have a well-crafted elevator pitch, responses for any tricky questions, and good questions to ask recruiters.

If you've done your research and identified the employers you'd like to learn more about, it’s time to rehearse so you can hit the stage and deliver a confident and memorable performance.

Practice Your Lines
Because career fairs are busy places, you won't have a lot of time to talk to recruiters (probably no more than a couple of minutes). So in those precious moments you’ll want to achieve two things: (1) make a good impression, and (2) learn something about the recruiter, the company, or the position that you can use when following up.

This can be a tricky task, especially because recruiters meet hundreds of people over the course of a fair. But you can stand out. To that end, it's very important that you spend time practicing your lines.

Start by developing a compelling and brief story about how your experiences and skills have prepared you to add value to the organization. Then be ready to follow-up with one or two good questions that allow you to learn something about the organization–and demonstrate your research. "If they know my industry," says one recruiter, "and they know how they fit in, that certainly has a positive effect."

Remember, it’s also important to be well-rehearsed but not sound like you’re reading off note cards. Try to establish an easy rapport by conversing with, rather than making a speech to, each recruiter.

Prepare Good Questions
Questions can be an excellent information-gathering tool. But recruiters warn us that questions come in two flavors: good and bad. "I hate it when people ask me questions that could easily be looked up," says a recruiter. "I like questions like, 'What is your culture really like?' or 'Who do you compete with?' I want questions that give me the chance to add value to their time." A good question, says another recruiter, is "asking something that is current and topical." If you've done your research right, you'll know what challenges the company is facing. A good question shows you’ve work.

To help you out, we talked to some recruiters and got the low down on their favorite stand-out questions. Below are some examples:

•  What are three things you find hardest about your job?
•  What's the culture like?
•  How do people do things? Is it a team-oriented place?
•  What are the most important characteristics of the person you are looking for?
•  What are the priorities for the job right now: the top five things you'd like to accomplish in the next six months?
•  I'm very interested in [relevant skill]. I've had [relevant experience].
•  Would it be better to apply for a job in [department X] or [department Y]?

Finally, make sure to ask for contact information for follow-up communication and how the recruiter prefers to be contacted.

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