Attending a job fair is one of best ways to meet employers in person to build rapport and exchange information.

By Kim Thompson

SFGATE, August 4, 2016 —

Time management plays an important role in your job search and is one of the success factors that distinguish those who land a job early and those lingering in the efforts. One of the questions often asked about attending a job fair is the time it takes to participate without a guarantee that you will land a job.

If the guarantee portion keeps you out of attending a job fair you could be over-looking the secondary benefits that candidates because they are so focused on the employers rather than the networking that leads to good information.

The notion of spending an entire afternoon at a job fair almost cost a recent job candidate a networking connection who led them to their new employer. Tracing back their job offer, it began with an introduction at an employer’s booth that developed into a good conversation with the recruiter.

The next day a follow up call was made to the recruiter who in turn set up an interview and the rest is history. The best part of the offer were an increase in pay with a more flexible work culture. Of course none of this would have happened if this person didn’t take the time and effort to attend the job fair.

Attending a job fair is one of best ways to meet employers in person to build rapport and exchange information.

The key to success is not only managing where you will spend your time but preparing a communication strategy in advance to make the best impression.

Visualize a job fair as a large networking event with the caveat that employers are there with real positions looking for qualified candidates.

As with all networking events the quality of your discussions and who you meet will far outweigh the quantity involved with handing your resume out to everyone you meet. Given the amount of time recruiters have in meeting applicants it’s important to think of your introduction as a verbal business card, leaving them with the desire to continue the conversation.

Most candidates find it challenging to talk about their background within a short time frame, especially with possible competition standing right behind you. The truth is recruiters can tell candidates who are self- aware of their strengths compared to those who show up at the last minute unprepared and hoping to influence the interviewer.

Here are some ways to reap the benefits from attending a job fair.

• Personal introductions should last one or two minutes. The goal is to share enough information to generate attention from the recruiter without losing them in unimportant details such as explaining gaps in employment. Save the details for later during an extended interview.

• Know your “why” when talking about your value to recruiters. Why was the company better off with you being there? Why do you want to work for this employer? Why would they hire you from five other candidates with similar titles/backgrounds?
• Impress the recruiter by having a direction to your search. It is difficult to stand out from the crowd when you are looking for any job, don’t make the mistake of thinking a recruiter will help you with a career direction.
• When talking about your background, use facts to back up your accomplishments. Since no two people have the same facts, you will stand out in a memorable way.
• Persistence pays off. Follow up with those you met during the job fair by taking the initiative to ask for their contact information. You might be surprised at the number of candidates who end up waiting for reply’s rather than being proactive in following up with them. Before leaving the conversation, clarify the next steps in the line of communication.