June 19, 2009
Search functions: Preparation, presentation are keys to succeeding at a job fair
Special to NWjobs
As a communications professor at Seattle Pacific University, Renée Detteck taught interview strategies as part of her curriculum before being laid off earlier this year. Now she’s walking the walk at local job fairs.
Detteck arms herself with copies of not just one résumé, but five. With a background in business, education, human resources, media and management, she wants to be able to pull out just the right version depending on who asks for it, even if it’s not the kind of job she is ideally in the market for. “You have to be able to think outside the box,” she says.
Local job fairs are drawing record numbers of job seekers this year, according to Jobbernaut representative Sean Paul. For many of the unemployed legions standing in the snaking lines, such as Detteck, it’s their first time — and those people may lack a strategy for getting the most out of the event.
Although it’s encouraging that companies are still recruiting, the larger and more diverse pool of candidates means it can be even harder to stand out in a crowd. The most recent Greater Seattle Job Fair, held April 22 at Qwest Field Event Center, drew an estimated 5,000 people. Some, including those who wandered among the booths in baseball caps and flip-flops, stood out for all the wrong reasons.
Knowing how best to prepare to meet dozens of recruiters — who will talk to thousands of people in several hours — is difficult. But if you go beyond simply dressing professionally and taking a stack of résumés, you’ll arrive ready for just about anything.
Jobbernaut, which sponsors quarterly Seattle-area job fairs including the one in April, lists the exhibitors on its Web site before each event. This allows attendees to research companies they’re interested in so they can prepare tailor-made pitches.
Many job fairs, such as this week’s Seattle Career Fair, do not promote the names of participating companies. The most important thing to do in that situation, says Paul, is to go with a positive attitude.
“People out there are getting discouraged,” Paul says. “Everyone who walks through that door wants a job, and everyone has a résumé. But if you want to stand out, don’t explain how you lost your house. Say, ‘Hey, I’ve always wanted to come work for your company, and now I finally have the chance.’ ”
Abhi Sheth, who was laid off from his job with a private commercial lender, recently attended the first job fair he’s been to since college. He prepared by interviewing himself, posing questions he thought a potential employer might ask and writing down his answers. He rehearsed his “elevator pitch,” describing himself and what he could offer in 30 seconds; ate a good breakfast; and put on a nice shirt and blazer.
In the end, Sheth didn’t come across any prospects he was particularly interested in. But he did attract some encouraging attention from recruiters, and the event gave him a chance to talk to a lot of people, shake a lot of hands and get in the mindset of marketing himself.
For that, Sheth considers it time well spent. “It’s just good practice for the interview that really matters,” he says.
For more info on job fairs, plus a listing of workshops, networking meetings and other career-related events, visit the NWjobs.com Events calendar.
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