I’ve just had my first experience manning a booth at a career fair. Now that I have gained only passing wisdom around this event, I choose to dispense concrete tips with guaranteed results:
You Don’t Have to Dress Up, Just Don’t Dress Down
The suit and tie looks sharp, but isn’t really necessary. A job fair is busy, kind of loud, and full of people. Most important is that you look (and smell) clean. You’re not going to win any beauty contest, but you don’t want employers to think you’re a slob.
Your Department’s Home Page Doesn’t Really Count
I usually ask prospectives “What experience have you had working with websites?” The answer an alarmingly high number of times is “I help maintain my department’s home page”.
I realize that not everyone has the opportunity to work at Amazon or CNN.com, but at least come back with something. Even running a personal blog involves at least a few principles of sound web programming.
Be Specific About What You Know
Don’t walk up and say “sooooo…what have you got?”. This is a dumb question, In this economy, you already know the answer is “not much”. Introduce yourself with “Hello, I’m Flavio. I’m studying linear algebra and am interested in a full-time programming job.” This helps the person zero in on how good a fit you might be. The people at the booth might be looking for linear algebra specialists, but when you only give them a general inquiry, they have little chance of learning that you’re a perfect match.
You Need Them More Than They Need You
If you’re participating in this cattle-call, chances are you’re not sweet enough to have attitude. Remember the part about there not being enough jobs to go around? You don’t need to approach on your knees, but don’t act offended if there isn’t anything for you. Just keep moving.
Have a Conversation
The point of the Job fair is human interaction. You could learn everything about an employer and position online and submit your resume there. You’re at the fair to stand out and maybe get an interview or job on the spot, thereby beating out all the digital posers. To do that you need to make your interaction unique but not flashy. Just having a detailed conversation will do that.
A quick fly-by to drop off your resume then pick up pamphlets and swag doesn’t do the trick. Do that and prepare to become a part of The PIle. Seize the opportunity to meet people face to face. Otherwise just apply online and save everyone the trouble.