If you’ve never been to a job fair before, you may not know how to prepare or what to expect. Large-scale hiring events can be intimidating: they’re big, busy, and loud. You might feel like a face in a crowd—job fairs can attract hundreds of hopeful applicants. Happily, they can also be fun, exciting, and productive, especially if you spend some time preparing for the experience. Read on for suggestions on how to do just that.
Research the Job Fair
Just as you would research a company before you applied for a job, you’ll want to do as much research about the job fair as you can. Figure out the basics, like where it is, what time it starts, and how you’ll get there. Will you have to pay, either for the job fair itself or for incidentals like parking? Is the fair designed for general job seekers or a more specific population? What companies are planning to attend? You may not be able to answer all of these questions, but the more you find out beforehand, the better your job fair experience is likely to be.
Plan to Go Early
If possible, try to arrive during the first half of the job fair. It’s even better if you can be there as close to the start time as possible. It will likely be more crowded if you go early, but if you arrive later, employers might be tired, out of materials, or ready to go. If you can’t get there early, it’s still a good idea to go!
Choose Appropriate Attire
Job fairs are more casual environments than interviews, but you should still dress as though you were interviewing. You want the company reps to remember you as polished and professional, not as “that one person that was wearing sweatpants.” Sometimes companies will even interview on the spot, so go in prepared for that possibility.
Have a Plan of Action
If you found out ahead of time what companies will be in attendance, it’s a great idea to make a top-10 list to ensure you visit the employers with whom you’d be the most interested to work. Can’t find out who’ll be there? Spend the first few minutes walking through the venue, taking note of who’s there. Then you can go back and talk to your key prospects. If you have time afterwards, you can visit more tables—you never know who might have a great opportunity for you.
Job seeking is hard, and job fairs are no exception. It will still benefit you to maintain an optimistic outlook. Be open to opportunities, and try not to be discouraged. Always, always be polite and professional. This is your first impression—make it a good one.