Job Fair – Yes or No?

Have you been wondering whether or not to attend job fairs? Well here are some reasons why I think you should:

You’ll have an opportunity to speak with a variety of recruiters from a variety of companies that are looking for a variety of individuals who have the potential to meet their employment needs. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions, to give answers, and to tell your story: what you’re looking for and why, to people who are there for no better reason than having a chance to meet you. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Should you attend if you’re thinking about looking for a job and haven’t fully committed to the idea? Absolutely.

If you’ve been giving some thought to the maybe of a job search and have yet to begin the process, you’ll have an opportunity to “dry-run” your resume; to find out what recruiters are looking for, to do a self- assessment that can determine if you’re really ready for prime time or still in the tire- kicking phase of career definition.

Should you attend if you don’t have a current resume? Yes and No. Yes, attend if you’re the reticent type and need to wade into the water rather than take the plunge.  No, don’t attend if you expect a prospective employer to be impressed with your tentative preparation and limited eagerness to move to the next level in your career. Let this employment fair be the impetus you need to get yourself in gear. Go ahead and get yourself ready. Update your resume and start to figure out what you want to achieve. While you’re at it, update your LinkedIn profile too.

Once you’ve decided to attend a job fair, you want to make the best of your limited time and energy. How can you do that?

Get there early to avoid the heavy foot traffic that tends to compound itself around the lunch hour. Make sure you have plenty of copies of your resume and business cards. Wear your interview clothes and comfortable shoes because you’ll spend much more time standing on your feet than sitting on your hands.

How should you look? You want your words to speak louder than your clothes so dress conservatively and professionally. Have a well-groomed appearance, your clothes fresh and pressed, your hair cut, clean, and combed. Like to wear big jewelry? Leave it home. Like to wear heavy perfumes or colognes? Bad idea. Like to smoke? Air out. Chew gum? Take it out. You want to be a total package, not just the wrapping paper.

If your time is tight, do a walk-around before you jump in the first available line. Think of the fair as you would a wonderful buffet. Everything looks appealing. If you fill-up on the first thing you come to, you might not have time, space, or appetite for the best of the rest that is yet to come.

Be courteous to everyone around you. This isn’t a big holiday sale at the mall. The people behind these counters aren’t going to wait on you first because you pushed your way to the front. Company reps are assessing talent as well as fit, and rude behavior doesn’t define fit anywhere, anytime.

Chat with the folks in line with you. Find out what they’re looking for and search strategies they’ve found successful. You’re likely to find a number of people who are interesting and helpful, the kinds of people you’d like to stay in touch. In fact, they may be good networking possibilities. Give them your card and ask for theirs.

What if you don’t have a card, or if you do, it has your current company’s name plastered across it? Get some personal cards printed, either at your local print shop or on your personal computer. Keep it simple: name, address, telephone numbers (home and cell), and email address.

What should you say once you’re face to face with the recruiter? “Hello, my name is ____ , and I’m interested in learning more about your company.” The rest is about opportunity. Be sure to make the best of it.

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Joyce Richman ( has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce has appeared regularly on WFMY-TV and is the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at