Don't embarrass yourself at a job fair by not knowing the companies there.

Job fairs are loud, crowded hiring blitzes where after awhile, most every applicant starts to look the same to employers. If you want to walk out of a job fair with a job—or at least an interview—you have to stand out from the crowd and show potential employers that you’re the perfect person for the job.

Here are 10 ways you can make the right impression and maximize your job offers:

1. Research the Companies You Know Will be at the Job Fair

Start preparing for a job fair by looking at the list of companies that will be at the fair. Google each company and look at what they do. Look at their LinkedIN pages and see who works there, and what their job titles are. Decide which companies best suit your career goals, and learn as much as you can about those companies.

If you’re looking at big, national or international corporations, spend some time learning about the company’s history and who their customers are. Larger companies usually have an online employee manual or benefits website so you can research what a potential offer package might look like. The more information you have, the better.

You want to know enough about a company to be able to speak intelligently with their representatives at the job fair. The last thing you want to do is show up to the job fair without any knowledge of the companies represented there, and then ask, “oh, what do you do?”

 

2. Make Sure Your Resume Isn’t Boring

If you’re still using the standard MS Word template to make your resumes, it’s time to make a change—right now. Job fairs are full of candidates that show up with a stack of black-and-white, text-only, boring resumes and hand them to every company they see. Be ready to stand out in that crowd.

You can buy resume templates inexpensively on Etsy. Look for a colorful template that has spaces to highlight your skills and professional profile.

Avoid the “objective” line on your resume because everyone at a job fair has the same objective: to get a job. Click To Tweet

If you are applying for jobs in two or more different industries, make sure you have separate resumes for each industry. Each industry has specific keywords, so make sure your resume addresses them.

3. Prepare Your Elevator Speech

You need a 30-second pitch, or “elevator speech” ready for the job fair. In such a crowded space, you have to make an impression quickly. You won’t have a lot of time to convince the company representatives that you’re the right person for the job, so your best bet is to have a speech prepared.

The best elevator speeches highlight your qualifications as well as your knowledge of the company. You are trying to show that you’re extremely talented, confident, and a perfect fit for the company’s needs.

Here’s a template to get you started. Fill in the blanks and make it your own. Note that you should really prepare a few of these so you can customize them based on the company and industry you are trying to impress:

Good morning! I’m ________ and I am excited to meet you. I’ve followed your work on _______ for years, and I find it inspiring/exciting/amazing. I’m a __________________ with _____ years of experience creating __________. Like you, my work _______________. I have achieved _______________. I would love to talk to you more about your work and how we might collaborate in the future when you have time. Here’s my resume/business card. Let’s connect on LinkedIN, too.

Make it your own, but the goal is to show that you rock, you’re knowledgeable about the company, and you see yourself as an asset. You’ve got this!

4. Dress to Impress, and Remember Your Pop of Color

One of the first things employers will notice about you is how you dress. This isn’t the time to choose comfort over fashion. Wear your favorite power suit or dress.

No matter what you choose to wear, make sure you have a pop of color. If you wear a grey or black suit, wear a colorful scarf or camisole. Draw attention to your face with color.

You want to be memorable. You’re more likely to be remembered if a person can associate you with something you wore. Colorful accessories help you stand out in the right way.

When we go to job fairs and conferences, I typically wear a royal blue or purple dress with nude pumps. These are colors that work for me, but you likely have your own color palette that works for you. The worst thing you can do is dress in all black or another neutral color. You’ll blend in too much with everyone around you.

5. Be Conscious of What You Carry

Don’t be the person who drops a bunch of papers everywhere when she goes to shake hands with a potential employer. Don’t be the person fidgeting with her car keys while talking with a recruiter. Think ahead about what you are going to take with you into the job fair.

You will need a place to put brochures and business cards as you receive them from your new contacts. You also need something to write on, and a place to keep your resumes flat.

I use a leather portfolio when we attend business meetings. Something like this will work:

It has a pocket on the right for keeping resumes straight, a notepad for taking notes, and a smaller pocket for stashing business cards and brochures.

On top of this, I usually carry a small purse for my wallet and car key. Look for a purse with a shoulder strap. You always want to have one hand free for shaking hands. It makes you seem approachable.

A simple, black folder from the dollar store works better than nothing, so if you’re short on cash, use that as your back up. Make sure it doesn’t say anything on it. Nothing is more unprofessional than folders that say “Trapper Keeper” or have psychedelic Lisa Frank unicorns on them.

6. Use Your Time Wisely: Target 5 Companies

Depending on the type of job fair, there could be as many as 200 companies ready to meet potential applicants. You should have five companies in mind when you walk in the door. Talk to those companies first before you turn your attention to other potential employers.

It’s better to make five excellent impressions than 100 half-hearted ones. Focus on your favorites, and then walk the fair with an open mind. You never know when you’ll see a potential employer you overlooked that might be a perfect fit.

7. Smile and Offer Your Hand for the Handshake First

When you approach a company’s table at the job fair, smile at the representatives and extend your hand for the handshake first. This shows that you’re confident and someone they definitely want to get to know.

After the handshake, you can lead the conversation with your elevator speech and see where it goes. Even if you’re nervous, smile and be engaged with the company’s representatives.

8. Ask the Right Questions

A job fair is a good time to “feel out” a company to see if they’re a good fit for you, so make sure you have a good list of questions to ask. The right questions are ones that are focused on how your goals and the company’s goals might align. This isn’t a time to ask about vacation time and medical benefits, but instead ask about what the company’s goals are for this year, and how they’re measuring success. Try questions like:

  1. I read about your XYZ project on your website. It sounds fascinating! How are working towards that goal?
  2. There seems to be a lot of potential to _______ in this field. How is your company approaching it?
  3. I would love to learn more about how your company is achieving __________ this year. What steps are you taking?

If you have time, you might also ask the representatives what their favorite thing about working for the company is. The answers to this question will tell you a lot about the company.

9. Always be Closing

Keep your eye on the prize. You are at the job fair to make connections, land interviews, and receive job offers. Keep that in mind with every conversation.

If the representative isn’t scheduling an interview or saying they’ll be in touch soon for one, you should approach the topic yourself. Ask, “Is there a good time we can connect in the next week or so to discuss the position?”

Try to nail down a time to chat, or at the very least, try to get the name of the hiring manager, if he’s not present at the job fair. You want to walk away with something firm, not just, “we’ll be in touch if we’re interested.”

10. Send Follow-up Emails the Following Day

When you leave the job fair, you will have a good idea which companies you want to work for and which you don’t. Even so, you should send follow up emails to the people who took the time to talk to you. Thank them for their time and tell them how great it was to meet them. Ask to connect with them on LinkedIN and to keep you in mind if they see a position that suits your skill set.

Make sure to ask for business cards or contact information if it’s not offered to you. Job fairs are excellent places to network, so even if you don’t walk out with a job, you should at least walk away with a dozen or more new contacts for your network.

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How to Rock and Job Fair and Walk Out with a Job  10 Ways to Rock a Job Fair


 

Employers are rejecting as many as 98% of all online job applications and resumes. It’s a shocking statistic, but it should also make you think a little harder about how you’re searching for jobs. You can’t just fill out a bunch of online job applications and think you’re going to find a job quickly.

Just filling out online job applications is like only betting on a single number in a game of roulette. Once in awhile, you will get lucky and land an interview, but most of the time, your application will be rejected in a blink of an eye. You must have a job search strategy.

Don't play roulette with your career

Online job applications are still vital, though, because it’s the only way most companies accept applications. Your online application has to shine, but you have to take a few strategic steps to ensure your application is seen by the person with the power to hire you.

Make Sure You Meet the Minimum Qualifications—and Your Application Shows It

In most cases, your application will be automatically rejected if you do not meet the minimum qualifications. Many application software systems are set to auto-reject applicants who do not meet minimum qualifications before human eyes ever see the application. The bottom line: If you don’t meet at least the minimum requirements, you’re wasting your time in applying for a job online.

Even more, your application materials need to show, very clearly, that you do meet the minimum qualifications. Here’s how:

  • Make a list of the minimum and recommended qualifications listed in the advertisement.
  • Draft a cover letter that explains how you meet the qualifications.
  • Go through your resume and make sure your professional profile or summary lists the qualifications listed in the ad. Echo the wording the employer uses in the ad.
  • When you’re filling out the application, make sure the descriptions of your previous jobs use the keywords the employer used in their qualifications list.

Remember that your goal is to show the employer that you’re the perfect person for the job. Take the time to make sure all of your application materials show you’re qualified and the right people will see your application.

Get an Internal Recommendation: Network Your Way to an Interview

One of the best ways to ensure the right people see your application is to get an internal recommendation from someone who already works in the company. Internal recommendations hold a lot of weight with employers because if a current employee does excellent work, the employer assumes that the people he or she respects enough to recommend with do excellent work, too.

Bigger corporations have special employee recruitment systems built specifically for internal recommendations. Some companies even guarantee an interview for applicants with internal recommendations!

Many companies offer referral bonuses when an employee makes a recommendation and the recommended applicant is hired. I made $500 when I recommended a fellow instructional designer for a contract job at a big corporation. It’s a win-win for everyone involved: The employer gets help weeding through applicants, the person making the recommendation gets a bonus and the satisfaction of helping a colleague, and the applicant gets a job.

There are a few ways to go about getting an internal recommendation. Start by asking people in your network if they know of any open positions at the places they work that would be suitable for you. Many positions are advertised internally before they are advertised publicly. Don’t be afraid to ask—that’s the purpose of building a network!

Next, as you’re looking through job advertisements, use LinkedIN to see who you know, or who in your network knows someone that works at the companies advertising jobs you want. Make connections and ask for internal recommendations.

Follow up with the Hiring Manager

If you are applying for a local company or retail store, you should find out who the hiring manager is and follow up with him or her within a couple days of filling out an online application. If it’s a retail job, you should go to the store in person, introduce yourself, hand your resume to the hiring manager, and tell them you’d love to work there and how you’re highly qualified for the job.

With a local business, you might start by finding the hiring manager’s email address and writing a kind email introducing yourself. Explain that you’ve already applied for the job, but you wanted to personally reach out and let the hiring manager know how excited you are by the opportunity to potential work with the local company. Give a short summary of your qualifications, attach your resume, and say thank you.

The point is, if you have the opportunity to make a personal connection, you should do it. 

Do whatever you can to stand out from the giant pile of other applicants. Meet people, make an impression, and let them know you’re kind and qualified. Click To Tweet

Keyword Optimization

Modern application software allows HR representatives and hiring managers to comb through applications for specific keywords. They may search your application for your previous job titles to see if you’ve worked similar jobs in the past. They may search for specific skills they need from applicants, like industry-specific software. Be aware that employers have the ability to search through applications this way and prepare for it.

If you’ve tooled your cover letter, resume, and application to show that you meet the minimum qualifications for the job, you already have a good jump on keyword optimization. The process is very similar:

  • Read through the job advertisement and make a list of specific skills, software, job duties, and other qualifications that stand out in the ad. These can all be keywords.
  • Go through your resume and retool the language in your previous job descriptions to match the keywords from the job duties listed in the advertisement.
  • Retool the language in your cover letter and resume’s personal profile or summary to make sure you’re hitting keywords for specific skills and qualifications.
  • When you list previous jobs and skills on the job application, be sure to use keywords from the ad.

The goal is to use as many keywords from the ad as possible. Sometimes keywords aren’t in the ad, and you will have to know your industry and the company to add them to your materials. If you don’t have a good list of keywords from the advertisement, you can always use LinkedIN to look at profiles of people who work at the company and use keywords from their qualifications.Visit our etsy shop for a resume makeover

Avoid Scoring System Pitfalls

Modern application software sometimes use a “scoring system” to rank applicants based on keywords, qualifications, and experience. If you’ve done everything we’ve talked about so far, you should be scoring quite well in these systems. However, employers can set other factors besides skills, qualifications, and experience as part of the scoring system.

For example, we’ve seen some government jobs where applicants are automatically rejected if they answer “yes” to the “do you use tobacco products” question. Some are rejecting applicants who have been arrested (without reading explanations). Still others are auto-rejecting applicants who have been fired from previous jobs.

Auto-rejection isn’t fair. If you are rejected for a job quickly, in so short a time frame that you’re pretty sure no one looked at your application, you can try emailing an explanation to the HR department and see if it makes a difference. The worst thing they can do is tell you that your application is still rejected, so you have nothing to lose.

Keep Trying and Don’t Take it Personally

Just because a company rejects your application once doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try applying there again. As you practice making lists of keywords specific to the job advertisement and retooling your materials to fit them, you will get a lot more interview calls. Keep practicing and honing your application skills!

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How to land a gig with an online job application 98 percent of job applications are rejected - don't let yours be one of them Stop getting rejected from online job applications


 

 

Dear HR,

I’m a college student about to graduate and enter the workforce for the first time. I’ve worked a couple jobs around campus, and I did a summer marketing internship at a beach club, but I have no other experience at all.

I’m applying for sales jobs, mostly, but I’d really like to work as a broker or trader. Money is my passion, and I majored in finance.

Who should I ask to be my references? How do I go about asking them? Should I get reference letters too, or just contact information?

Thank you,

Big Money Dreams

 


Who should I ask to be my references? How do I go about asking them?

Dear Big Money Dreams,

Congratulations on finishing college and joining us in the “real world!” Finding your first real job can be tough, and you’re doing the right thing to think about it before you graduate rather than after.

Have you met with your college’s career center yet? They probably have a list of companies who are hiring new graduates. Talk to your professors, too. They know people in your industry and may be able to make introductions for you. Add your professors to your LinkedIN network, too.

Make sure you have a good support group of fellow graduates. Big companies often hire for many positions at the same time, so you can share leads within your support group and find a job faster. Create a Facebook group for this purpose, and then invite people to it. They’d be fools to turn down this kind of invite!

Now, with that bit of advice out of the way, let’s talk about your references. You should be gathering as many as you can because you are going to be applying to several different kinds of jobs, and like resumes, references should be targeted to the job for which you are applying. Here’s a list of who and how to ask:

Ask Your Previous Managers for References

The best people to write references for you are the managers of your on-campus jobs and internships. Employers usually want to hear from at least one person who has managed you so they can ask questions about your attendance, how well you treat customers, and how you handle difficult situations. They also like to ask whether or not your previous manager would hire you again if they had the chance.

To ask a previous manager for a reference, start with an email. If you haven’t seen them in awhile, start by telling them how much you enjoyed working with them and when. Ask how they are, and tell them that you’re about to graduate and you’re applying to jobs. Then ask if they would mind acting as a reference for you. The email might look something like this:

Hi John!

How are you doing? I really enjoyed working with you last summer during the marketing internship. I learned more in the three months I spent with you at the beach club than I did the first two years of college! It was an amazing experience, and I’m recommending it to incoming freshmen.

As you may remember, I am graduating in a couple of months and I am starting to apply for jobs in the finance industry. Would you mind acting as a reference for me? It would be a big help, and I would truly appreciate it.

Thank you,

Your Name

In most cases, you don’t need previous managers to write formal recommendation letters for you unless you decide to work in education or a similar industry. Do gather their email address, phone number, and information about where they work now, though. Keep in touch with them as you know employers will be checking your references so they are prepared and watching for the phone call, email, or survey.

Most every employer will want to talk to at least one person who has managed you, so be prepared to include them on most every job application.

Ask Your Professors for References

Remember when we talked about how your professors have contacts in the industry that might help you find a job? They make great references, too. Even better, they write a lot of references, so they won’t mind at all when you ask them.

When it comes to professors, ask them about it in person. Go to their office during office hours and have a candid conversation about the kind of jobs you are seeking. Ask them to make recommendations on places you should apply or people you should meet. Then, ask them if they would mind acting as a reference, and in this case, ask them to write you a reference letter. If you decide to go on to an MBA (from a very good college, or it’s not worth the money) in a couple of years, you will need reference letters from former professors.

Ask Peers for References (the Right Way)

Remember how we talked about the fact that you need a good support group of your fellow graduates so you can chase job leads together? You will have one person in that group land a job first. Once that person is in, he or she becomes your reference. Many big companies offer referral bonuses when an employee recommends someone and they are hired. So, it’s a mutualistic relationship—you get a job, and the other person gets $500-2000 as a bonus for referring you.

Use your support group, LinkedIN, Facebook Messenger, or email to ask for this kind of reference. Go to the company’s website and see the positions for which they’re hiring, and let your peer know you’re interested. After they refer you, use their contact information as one of their references. They should be cool with it since they’re referring you.

Seriously, if you don’t start a graduate support group right now, you are cheating yourself out of one of the most valuable networks you could possibly have.

Don’t Ask Your Mom for a Reference

This should go without saying, but don’t use family as references, especially your mom. Most places won’t even accept this sort of reference, and your application will end up in the trash bin. Don’t ruin your chances because you’re too lazy to ask the right people to act as references.

You Have a Network. You’ve Got This. 

Now you have a good pool of people who can act as references for you. You have previous managers (I count at least three from your letter), professors (20 or so in most degree programs), and peers (50+). Go out there and network your way to a fantastic job!

Best of Luck,

HR


 

Intern to Jumpstart Your Career - Featured Image

Becoming an intern, even when you aren’t paid, is a great way to break into the career of your choice. Believe us when we tell you that your education is not enough. Employers want to hire candidates with work experience. The best way to gain experience is to intern.

Find an Internship; It Won’t Find You

Internships are not hard to find, but no one is going to walk up to you on the street and say, “hey, do you want to be an intern?” You have to take the initiative to find the right internship for your career goals.

Start by doing a quick internet search for with the word “intern” and your location. Companies often list internships on websites like Internships.com, but don’t limit yourself to just the internet. Pick up the phone and call companies and ask if they have internship opportunities available. If they say “no,” ask if you can shadow someone in your career field at no cost to the company. Tell them you’re eager to learn, and you want to learn with them because they are the best.

Join people on social media who work in your chosen career field and ask them about internships. LinkedIn is a great place to start, and most every career field has a group you can join. 

Don’t forget to tap your college network, too. If you are a current college student, talk to your instructors. Many have contacts in your career industry. Some will be able to offer you research assistantships, too. If your college has a career center, they often keep a list of local internships. Alumni are always welcome at the college career center, too! Local community colleges offer career services to their local community, so even if you have never attended college, don’t be afraid to call and ask for advice.

Try It Before You Hate It

Internships are an excellent way for you to gain first-hand experience. The experience will help you decide if the career you have chosen is a good fit for your personality and learning style. Remember: Most people change careers five times. If you can figure out that a career isn’t right for you while interning, you can save yourself a lot of time.

Network Like You Mean It

One of the essential elements of an internship is networking. During your time as an intern, you meet a variety of coworkers, supervisors, support staff, and managers. Make a good impression on everyone, and keep in contact with everyone you can. You never know who will be able to help you find a job later.

Networking goes beyond the company where you intern. If you are attending a training or conference with other companies, you can gain valuable additions to your network. Your network can help you if you find yourself needing a new job. The people in your network can also serve as references when you apply for jobs later.

Remember that networking is reciprocal. It’s not just about what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network. If you see a job that is the perfect fit for someone in your network, you should recommend it to them. Look for ways to help the people in your network!

Work Your Resume

Internships help build your resume to make you the ideal candidate for a position. Many job postings have the tag “experience in…” Your internship fills this experience. Also, the company may not need to spend extra money or time training you if you learned job-related skills as an intern.

Make sure you are constantly updating your resume. It should be modern, and should reflect the standards in your industry. Research!

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Make Your Career Intentions Clear

Often, internships lead to permanent employment. When the company is looking to fill a position, they will look at interns first, as hiring outside would require more time and money. However, don’t assume the company with whom you are interning will automatically see you as a potential employee. You have to let everyone know how much you would love to work there, and how well the company fits in your career path. Make sure your manager and the HR department know your intentions. They are not mind readers!

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