Job fairs are a great way for employers and job seekers to meet face-to-face without having to spend a lot of time and effort coordinating a typical interview.
However, for the job seeker, the convenience of being able to meet with multiple hiring managers at a predetermined time and place doesn’t mean that preparing for the interviews will be any easier or require any less effort — in fact, it’s just the opposite.
Better for Them, Tougher for You
In the minds of the hiring managers who attend a job fair (and often pay a fee for the privilege), the more potential candidates they are able to meet with, the better. They understand that the more people who interview for a specific job, the more selective they can be and the more likely it is that they’ll find the perfect fit.
Unfortunately for the average job seeker, the odds are most definitely not in his favor.
The hiring manager at the job fair will be meeting with dozens of potential candidates for a few open positions. He will also be on a tight schedule and only be able to spend a few minutes with each person.
This means two things:
- You have less than a minute to make a strong, positive first impression.
- The majority of the work must be done before and after the meeting.
Here are some tips on preparing for a job fair interview and standing out from the crowd:
Before the Interview
- Research. Learn everything you can about the company, its customers, its products, and its competitors. Even learn the names of a few of its top executives or managers. Know where the company is and where it does business.
- Dig deeper. Search online for other sources of information about the company. Read articles, press releases, and other media coverage. Try to learn how outsiders view the company.
- Develop your “pitch.” Write and recite a clear, concise statement about who you are and why you would be a great employee. This 30-second elevator pitch should include your unique strengths and abilities, but only as they relate to either what the company does or what the job requirements are.
- Dress the part. First impressions begin the moment someone lays eyes on you. Dress neatly and professionally for every interview.
During the Interview
- Keep it short. You do want to make sure the interviewer knows about your skills and accomplishments, but keep the discussion short and sweet. What he really wants to determine is whether you can help his organization today.
- Ask smart questions. Your research should have provided you with basic information about the company. Don’t ask questions with obvious answers. Take some time to really think about how the business operates. Prepare two or three questions that show that you understand what the business does and are willing to invest time and energy into helping it achieve even more.
- Respect the interviewer’s time. There’s nothing wrong with politely asking how much time you will have during the interview. If possible, find out before your meeting starts. Pay attention to any cues the interviewer may give you. When the time comes to wrap things up, do so quickly and professionally.
- Repeat your interest. Thank the person for taking the time to meet with you. If you haven’t already done so, make sure you give him or her a copy of your résumé or CV.
After the Interview
- Collect and capture. As soon as the interview is over, take a few minutes to quickly jot down some notes from the meeting. Pay attention to small details, including the questions you asked, the answers the interviewer gave, and any other interesting facts or ideas that came up during the conversation.
- Confirm your facts. Spend some additional time researching the company. Verify the things you learned during the interview. Confirm dates, names, and addresses.
- Respond. A thoughtful, timely thank-you letter (or email) should help remind the interviewer who you are and what you intend to provide the company if you’re hired. Use this opportunity to briefly restate important facts or answer any specific questions that may have come up during the interview.
Career fairs and other centralized recruiting events are efficient ways to get in front of several potential employers. Just remember to do your homework beforehand and make the most of the time you have with the recruiter. Be prepared, be memorable, and above all, be yourself.
About the Author: Stirling Cox is the managing director of AlphaSights USA, a company that connects today’s business leaders with the insight and expertise they need to prosper. The company assists a global client base, including private equity firms, asset managers, strategy consultancies, and corporate executives, in making more informed decisions.