By Steven Porter
Spring means flowers, green grass and warmer weather. Just before seniors get ready to graduate, there's another big spring event to prepare for - the college career fair.
In a JobsIntheUS.com poll, 43 percent of employers said that the two largest groups that they recruit from at job fairs are: college students and passive, employed job seekers. As a student, you must learn the rules of the game to compete and get hired.
I've participated in nearly 100 career fairs, including annual events at the University of Rhode Island, Roger Williams University, Rhode Island College, Johnson and Wales University, New England Tech, and others. I see many great, young candidates miss out on wonderful opportunities because they are simply unprepared and/or overwhelmed.
Here are a few simple tips to ensure success at your first career event.
Visit your career services office before the event and ask for a list of attendees. Research each one to see the skills and types of candidates they seek. Create and rehearse an elevator pitch.
2. Take It Seriously
Remember - it's not a social event. Leave the jeans, flip-flops, cell phones and extra large coffee cups in your dorm room and arrive dressed in proper business attire, prepared and ready to conduct business.
3. Bring Stuff / Take Stuff
Bring several copies of your resume and your portfolio, if applicable. A notebook, a pen and even a breath mint or two are essentials. Each table will offer lots of free information in the form of handouts and brochures. There will also be free pens, notepads, and all manner of trinkets you can take - but please don't horde the freebies.
Recruiters agree that the best entry-level candidates are those with confidence, who project leadership and who possess many diverse skills. So, don't be afraid to brag! A single recruiter might speak with dozens of candidates at one event, and attend several events each month. Plan to make an outstanding impression so your resume stays on the top of the pile.
Plan to visit every table. Ask questions, keep an open mind and learn. Recruiters at these events all tend to know each other. If they think you are a great candidate but you don't fit their profile, odds are that they will know another recruiter who can use your talents.
6. Follow Up
If you find a company that interests you, ask for the recruiter's business card and send them a thank you note. You can also follow-up with an email and another copy of your resume.
Most tables are staffed by recruiters, not HR managers, and typically they don't have the authority to hire on the spot, so don't expect your "dream job" offer on that day. And remember, companies participate, often at great expense, not to find just any candidates, but to find the best candidates!