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Tapping the Job Fair Market

By Laura Sweeney

Job fairs are an undervalued job search tool. Follow these tips for a successful trip to the job fair.

Working your way through a job fair is a great way to get your resume into the right hands at lots of companies, and very quickly.
To land a job, most people pour through classified ads and Internet postings, network with colleagues and friends, and send out as many resumes as they can. But very few people take advantage of one of the most time-effective job search tools around: the job fair.

Job fairs are often regarded as nonproductive or targeted to entry-level job seekers. In fact, there are fairs for every industry and every level of experience. And best of all, companies send representatives to job fairs because they're actively looking for new talent; there is hiring going on!  Check with your school's career center for information about career fairs that might be relevant for you.

Working your way through a job fair is a great way to get your resume into the right hands at lots of companies, and very quickly. Talking with recruiters can inform you about what direction the industry is taking, and the qualifications employers are looking for. You'll also have the opportunity to test your marketability.

Here are some basic tips to follow to get the most out of your trip to the career fair:

Do your homework. Research the companies that will be at the fair beforehand. That way, you can impress the recruiter with intelligent questions. You won't be just another face in the crowd! Also, you'll learn whether a company is, in fact, a match for you interests. If you're looking for a human resources position and end up at a high tech career fair, your wasting valuable job-hunting time.

Brace yourself. Expect a frenzied environment packed with job hunters hoping to impress recruiters. Don't be overwhelmed. Review your floor map and mark the companies you want to visit. Visit less attractive companies first to build your confidence before you approach your number one prospect.

Dress professionally. Recruiters will be sizing you up in a matter of minutes, and your appearance definitely plays a factor in their impression of you. Also, carry as few things as possible so that it's not awkward to shake hands.

Just a reminder. We shouldn't have to tell you this, but bring plenty of copies of your resume with you.

Have an objective. Approach a recruiter with confidence by introducing yourself to him. Do not lamely browse the display until he notices you. Be prepared to describe your skills quickly in what might be a noisy environment.

Be memorable. Conversations may seem casual, but you are actually being evaluated. Be direct and visible so recruiters will remember you and what you said. Show as much enthusiasm as you would in a regular interview.

Follow up. Get in touch with the companies you spoke with immediately after the job fair to reiterate your interest. Inquire what the next step of the hiring process is.

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