3 things to have in your job fair toolkit

Job fairs are excellent opportunities to network with interesting employers and fellow job seekers.

Job fairs are excellent opportunities to network with interesting employers and fellow job seekers.

Setting your expectations before the job fair

Before any major step of your job search, it's important to set realistic expectations. Even if you're in desperate need of a job, having unrealistic expectations will set you up for failure. In other words, if you go into a career fair expecting to walk out with a job offer, you're probably dreaming. However, job fairs can still be incredibly beneficial, and the right strategy can help you move onto the next stage of your search.

Securing a new job is the ultimate goal of your strategy, but what's the immediate goal of attending a job fair? For most people, it's all about making connections. As Payscale reported, 7 percent of job seekers receive a personal referral from an employee already working at the company, yet referrals account for 40 percent of hires. Therefore, your main objective at a job fair is to make an impression.

"When attending a career fair, be confident, open minded, and dressed professionally," says Tristan Marchette, Senior Managing Consultant with Beacon Hill's Technologies Division in Boston. "Be confident to approach people, be open minded to various industries that you may not have yet considered, and dress the part to ensure you come across poised and ready to impress a potential future employer."

If you've been on the hunt for a new job for any significant amount of time, there's a good chance you've read all about how powerful networking can be. A job fair is the perfect opportunity to make this tactic work for you. Before you leave the house, make sure you have these three essential tools in your kit:

1. Elevator pitch

To maximize your time at the job fair, you'll want to meet with as many of the relevant employers as possible. That goal means you're going to be introducing yourself a lot. Inevitably, you'll be asked that age-old interview question: "What can you tell me about yourself?" If you want to truly stand out, you'd better have a good answer. That's where a practiced elevator pitch comes in handy.

An elevator pitch is simply a succinct, focused statement about yourself as a professional. In the days leading up to the job fair, write down a list of your professional accomplishments, aspirations and skills. Then, condense them into an active statement that explains what you can do, how you've done it in the past and how you can use your skills to bring value to employers.

Putting the requisite preparation into your pitch beforehand will also help you with your delivery and a key part of job fair success – confidence. "Be confident. I attend numerous college career fairs along the west coast and the biggest mistake I see amongst students is their lack of confidence," says Haley Chapman, Corporate Recruiter for Beacon Hill's Corporate Recruiting Division. "When you walk through the aisles, hold your head high, make eye contact with employers and if they connect with you, walk over and introduce yourself. Something that always impresses me is when students initiate the handshake. This not only shows confidence, but assertiveness and the ability to start the conversation. All of which are skills we hire for."

For an in-depth look at developing an elevator pitch, check out our guide.

a crowd of people at a convention

2. Professional clothing

On the day of the job fair, dress as if you are attending a professional interview. According to career coach Lisa Quast, writing for Forbes magazine, hiring authorities see interview attire as a test of the candidate's familiarity with the industry and the employer. Considering you'll meet with many employers at a job fair, it's best to dress more conservatively. A suit is usually a good option, but if the weather is unusually warm, don't feel like you need to suffer in a wool suit. Pressed linens can also make a professional impression.

If possible, research which companies you want to meet with before you go to the fair, and then check out their websites to get an idea of their corporate culture. For example, you may be able to dress slightly more casually if you're meeting with a brand that features individuality as one of its core values. For more dressing tips, check out this infographic.

3. Resumes and business cards

When you attend a job fair, bring ample copies of your resume and a stack of business cards. If you're in a creative profession, it may be wise to bring along a copy of your portfolio, as well. Remember, your main goal is to make an impression, and your resume will serve as a reminder after you shake hands and part ways with an employer. If you aren't sure how to best lay out your resume, check out these helpful hints.

Carry these items in a slim, professional portfolio. You don't want to pull a crumpled resume out of a backpack. Additionally, you should carry a small notepad with you to take notes.

Need more help ramping up your job search? Consider talking with an expert recruiter today. Visit BeaconHillStaffing.com to learn more.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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