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Getting an Employer to Notice You at Career Fairs

4/6/2018 10:30:00 AM

It’s career fair season opener in Minnesota.

Career fairs offer a great opportunity to connect with employers. Those connections could lead to a job interview, and expand your network. Don’t underestimate the power of networking: Eighty-five percent of jobs are filled through networking, according to a LinkedIn study.

DEED’s career fair calendar was packed in 2017:

  • The 17th annual Get Jobs Career fair held in Eagan attracted 109 exhibitors and more than 1,100 career seekers.
  • The 8th annual Northland Career fair in Duluth attracted 116 exhibitors and over 550 career seekers.
  • The 11th annual Veterans Career Fair in Bloomington brought in 183 exhibitors and more than 600 career seekers.
  • The State of Minnesota Career Fair in St. Paul brought together 30 state agencies and more than 3,500 career seekers.

Make the Most of the Career Fair Experience

How can you put your time attending a career fair to the best possible use? How do you persuade an employer to give you a networking meeting or make a contact that will get you closer to that new job? How do you find career fairs in your area?

First, post your resume on MinnesotaWorks.net before the career fair. Put your resume in a format (such as chronological or skills-based) that best presents your accomplishments, skills, experience and education and is error-free.

The MinnesotaWorks.net system template and resume match feature are both designed and work best for a chronological resume. When you upload a resume into MinnesotaWorks.net, the resume data will be pulled into the ‘chronological’ formatted template.

The resume match feature also produces the best results for a chronologically formatted resume because the algorithm applied which makes the match to the best-fit job postings will weigh the order of the resume jobs and skills. Priority is given to the most recently acquired skills and experience. If you prefer a format that is skills-based or functional, use the “create a resume” option and copy and paste your resume narrative and paragraphs individually into the MinnesotaWorks.net format.

Next, check your local WorkForce Center to look for free workshops about job search.

Most career seekers use some form of social media. Employers notice frequent users of LinkedIn, for example. Among the benefits of LinkedIn, is its feature that enables you to search and follow companies.

Select a Career Fair

  • You can learn about a wide range of career fairs across the state here. The day, time and location of events are listed with links for more details.
  • Register for each WorkForce Center-sponsored career fair, using your MinnesotaWorks.net username and password. If you can’t register in advance, come anyway.
  • Select events to add to your calendar and receive reminder emails or text messages.

Before the Career Fair

  • Develop and practice a 20-second introduction, including a greeting, your expertise, accomplishments and areas of interest. Offer a way you can help the person you’re speaking with. Start a dialogue.
  • Research participating companies. Learn about a company’s products and services, size, financial situation and mission statement. Use company websites, press releases, career information websites and regional public library system. Also, Glassdoor provides information about companies, job postings and certain job interview questions. This is particularly helpful if you are invited for an interview.
  • Prepare questions that show interest and knowledge about the organizations.
  • Arrange for others to take care of family responsibilities, such as daycare, while you will be attending.
  • Get your portfolio ready. It could contain resumes, letters of recommendations, certifications/awards copies, work samples and extra networking cards. Networking cards are like business cards on steroids. They contain your name, email address, phone number, LinkedIn address and description of your profession. Your home address is optional. You can use both sides of the card to promote yourself as a candidate or give a short list of your strengths. If you leave one side of your networking card blank, that gives you room to write the contact information of a company representative.
  • If you are planning to apply for different types of positions, create separate resumes for the employers you are approaching. Remember: MinnesotaWorks.net allows career seekers to load up to five resumes. Employers might not accept resumes, but career seekers should still use the opportunity to network and stay in touch. Bottom line here: Bring some resumes, but don’t load yourself up.

During the Career Fair

  • Go alone, or if you go with others, walk the floor by yourself.
  • Be professional. Use your introduction, demonstrating interest and enthusiasm.
  • Dress as you would for an interview.
  • Ask relevant questions and answer questions clearly and concisely, showing the knowledge you acquired about the company.
  • Focus on value you can bring to the employer, especially if you have a disability. This isn’t the time to tell the employer about your physical or behavioral limitations. Here is guidance to help you determine the pros and cons of your disclosure timing options.
  • Collect company information, request a business card, and ask about follow-up procedures.
  • Repeat your interest in the company, and thank employers for their time.
  • Ask recruiters if you can connect with them using LinkedIn.
  • If held at the career fair, attend workshops for career seekers and get advice on your resume.

After the Career Fair

  • Send a thank you message as soon as possible.
  • Contact the employer afterward to remind them of your continued interest in employment opportunities, preferably with a phone call. If you don’t receive a response, call again.
  • If you’re on LinkedIn, look for the “Ask for a Referral” feature which allows you to do that with a button next to job ads from companies where you know someone.

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