It was 2:30 a.m. The sky was black as pitch, and yet there was a line near the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. No, these weren't hard-core gamblers waiting expectantly for a chance at millions. The people in line at the Florida State Fairgrounds were waiting for a job fair that didn't begin until hours later!
Job fairs are popping up all over the country. Opportunities for a face-to-face encounter with a real live company representative abound. The fair mentioned above was specifically for people interested in positions at the Seminole Hard Rock, but most feature a number of companies. With so many fairs and so many companies, how do you ace the job fair interview?
Brent O'Bryan, vice president of Learning and Development at AlliedBarton Security Services in Tampa, posted some tips on shrm.org, the website for the Society for Human Resource Management. His post is titled "The Realities of Job Fairs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly."
O'Bryan notes that you should do some homework before you sign up for the job fair. Knowing which companies are going to be there, what they do and what types of jobs they are offering is the beginning. With that information you can decide which is the best match for you. He suggests that you take a good inventory of your education, skills, experience and prior employment, and then focus on what you have to offer these specific potential employers. Remember, you are "selling" yourself and they will be asking questions that help them determine if you are a good fit for their company and for the jobs they offer.
O'Bryan also reminds applicants to "dress for success." Think about the type of job you're applying for. People in technology fields rarely wear dresses or suits to work, so clean, neatly pressed shirts, blouses and slacks are probably just fine. On the other hand, most corporate office jobs and jobs in the hospitality sector call for suits and/or dresses for women. Don't forget your hair, nails, breath and general grooming. Remember that first impressions can make or break you.
Here are more tips that will help you.
Remember your manners. Address the person you're talking to as Mr. or Ms. Don't use first names unless they ask you to.
Follow up with an email through LinkedIn or, better yet, a hand-written note sent to the interviewer's office address is always appreciated.
Feel free to ask questions. Find out how the position you're interested in fits into the company's structure, what training and advancement opportunities are available and how your special abilities (speaking/writing foreign languages, experience working on certain machinery, etc.) might benefit the company and help you ace the job fair.
Marie Stempinski is president and founder of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations and marketing as well as business trends and employee motivation consulting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website howtomotivateemployees.org.