The spring college recruiting season will soon be in full effect. In fact, companies are gearing up right now to scour universities for full-time talent and summer interns. Seniors — hungry for their dream jobs — and juniors — hoping to land internships — will be armed with resumes and dressed in suits. They will come face-to-face with corporate recruiters in logo polo shirts, doling out swag.
To many job seekers (entry-level or not), attending career fairs is a daunting but necessary task. And, once in the midst of a fair, you could quickly become intimidated or overwhelmed. That’s why having a strategy is important! Preparation is critical to maximizing your efforts and making the most of your career fair experience.
DEVELOP YOUR A & B LISTS
Most colleges or job fair vendors will post a list of all attending companies online or in local papers. A few days prior to the career fair, review the list and jot down your top 10 – 15 dream organizations. Then research each one of these companies.
Check out their corporate and career websites, conduct a Google search to see what you can find out, and review Indeed.com or Glassdoor.com to read what others are saying. Most importantly, know the positions that they’re hiring for and tailor your resume to each of these companies. On the day of the career fair, while you’re still fresh and energized, start with your A-list.
You’ll want to approach these companies and demonstrate that you’ve done your research. This alone will make you stand out from about 95% of all other job seekers! Introduce yourself and say something like:
Hi, my name is Soinso and I’m majoring in Suchandsuch. I was excited to learn that ABC Company was recruiting today and went to your career site. I’m very interested in your Analyst position and understand you’re looking for candidates with D, E and F, which I have. Can we talk more about this opportunity?
Now hand the corporate rep your tailored resume. Wow! That person is going to be impressed.
After you spend time talking with your A-list, be sure to ask for business cards. Now, you need to be realistic with your A-list companies, too. It could very well be that you’ve always wanted to work for ABC, but when you finally get the chance to learn more, you realize they don’t have any jobs in the location that you want to live. Or, that you don’t have the GPA for the type of program that you really want. Or, that the corporate rep was a real dolt and made you realize you’d never want to work there.
USE YOUR TIME WISELY & GATHER AS MUCH INFORMATION AS YOU CAN
Once you’ve visited your A-list, start checking out your B-list companies. These are companies that you want to learn more about so you can decide whether or not to fully pursue. Make sure you have a resume to offer the recruiter so that you can have a conversation about your experience, and then ask questions to see if they are looking for someone like you. Try to do some research on your B-list companies so that you don’t seem completely oblivious, and ask for a business card for following up after the fair.
THINK OUTSIDE YOUR LISTS & BE OPEN TO NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Even though you’ve planned your work and worked your plan, you should still give yourself plenty of time to peruse other companies. At first thought, some companies or industries may seem less sexy than others.
Maybe you’ve never considered working in auto insurance, with rental cars or in retail, but there are fantastic training programs and career opportunities within all sorts of industries! Have an open mind. It doesn’t hurt to talk to recruiters, establish connections and keep all of your options on the table.
YOUR WORK ISN’T OVER WHEN THE FAIR SHUTS DOWN
Hopefully, you took notes during the career fair and gathered a slew of business cards, because that information will help with your follow up. A free business app called CardMunch by LinkedIn allows you to take pictures of business cards and then save the contacts directly to your smartphone. Once the cards are uploaded, you can request to connect via LinkedIn.
Once you have your contacts in order, review your notes and the brochures that you picked up. Go back through your A-list and decide which companies to apply to. Most will require that you apply online. There’s no real way around that, so carve out enough time to thoughtfully complete required applications. Again, just a little reality check, some companies might require that you apply closer to the time that you’re actually able to start a job. If that’s the case, set calendar reminders and file that information away for another day. If you land something sooner, oh well, their loss.
CONNECT WITH COMPANIES & RECRUITERS VIA SOCIAL MEDIA
If you are genuinely interested in a company, social media is a fantastic way to stay connected and learn more. You can “like” their corporate and career pages on Facebook, @ message companies and individual recruiters on Twitter, watch videos on YouTube, and/or participate in discussions on LinkedIn. If you are a viable candidate, then recruiters will want to stay in touch with you. Creating and maintaining an online prsence is a crucial tool when your goal is to be headhunted by recruiters of your dream company.
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Article by Shannon Smedstad
Shannon Smedstad spends her days leading HR social media and employment branding at GEICO and has more than 14 years of recruiting experience. In 2013, she was named a Talent Warrior by Glassdoor.com for social recruiting leadership and innovation. Outside of the daily grind, Shannon is a work@home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, traveling and her morning coffee. You can connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. (Opinions are her own and not those of her company.)
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