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Wednesday, 02 September 2009

Getting the most out of a job fair

Written by Miles Cooper
You spend days preparing for that big career fair, where you'll meet your dream employer who will throw lots of money your way because YOU are the one they've been waiting for.

However, the reality is that many people who attend job fairs are left disappointed, frustrated and jobless.

Here are some pointers to help you get the most out of your job fair experience.

Don't expect to get a job at a job fair. The description "job fair" is a misnomer. Typically, a recruiter at a job fair will glance over your resume, spend about five or ten minutes talking to you, and then move on.

The job fair is like a dance -- it's an opportunity to scout what's out there and pursue what's interesting. It is not a place for the candidate or the recruiter to fall in love with each other upon first sight.

1. Don't be afraid to leave your CV at every table.

The human resources representatives present at job fairs typically do all the recruiting for their respective organisations. If the company isn't offering anything in your desired field, it doesn't hurt to leave a copy of your CV in case something opens later. Think of it as performing a mass broadcast delivery of your CV in person.

2. Bring along a cover letter. Remember, at most job fairs, recruiters see dozens, if not hundreds of candidates.

A cover letter keeps your name fresh in their minds, and helps the recruiter better place you within their company, especially later on if they want to share notes with managers within their companies.

3. Don't grab the goodies. Many companies offer a small premium item to keep their name in front of candidates.

If you're a collector, think for a moment about the message you're sending. If you show up at a table with a bag full of goodies that you've gathered from other tables, it makes you look as though you only came for the giveaways. Still worse, if you approach a recruiter with chocolate, or some other flavoured treat clearly visible on your teeth, lips or breath, do you think a recruiter is going to take you seriously?

4. Know what you want. When times are tough, it's not uncommon for the person who's been unemployed a while to be less discriminating about the employment they'll accept.

In reality, your willingness to do "anything" the company has to offer is more frustrating than you realise. You can't expect the recruiter to read your mind and find the perfect role for you; you need to meet them halfway by offering a hint as to where your interests lie.

Career fairs are an excellent way to network, not just with recruiters but with people who might be able to help you advance your career. Make good use of your time and you're bound to get positive results from a career fair.

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