At a recent job fair at the Fresno Fairgrounds, approximately 10,000 people sought positions from just 120 employers. With more unemployed Central Valley job seekers attending job fairs, and fewer employers participating, it's important to maximize your opportunities with some advanced planning.
Do your homework. Find out which employers will be attending the job fair and make a list of those you must see. Call ahead or check the website of the sponsoring organization (chamber of commerce, college, state agency, etc.). Randomly wandering from table to table wastes time and may cause you to miss out if a good prospect leaves early.
Prepare your resume. Bring multiple copies of your professional, error-free resume on quality paper. Be sure that your name, address, and contact information are included in the heading of your resume.
Be prepared to fill-out applications. An application completed and submitted on the spot is twice as likely to result in an interview as one picked-up and mailed later. Bring a paper or index card containing all of the information required on applications which most of us can't remember - addresses and telephone numbers of schools and past employers, dates of employment and supervisors' names, contact information for any volunteer work you've done, etc.
Prepare a solid introduction. Tell the recruiter your name, the type of position you are seeking, and your two or three most important qualifications. Focus on what you can do for the employer:
"Hi, I'm Sara Jones and I'm interested in providing administrative support. I have a Business Office Assistant Certificate from Fresno City College and I'm proficient in all Microsoft Office programs."
Practice your introduction and your handshake with a friend - be sure to make eye contact!
Bring pens, note pad and your planning calendar. You will come across as professional and ready to work if you have materials for completing forms, writing down contact information, and scheduling follow-up meetings and interviews.
Dress appropriately. Many employers at job fairs express disappointment in the unprofessional appearance of attendees. This is your first contact with a potential employer - and first impressions do count. Business attire will help the recruiter picture you in the position and help you stand out from the crowd.
There is an old saying that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. By being prepared, you can make the most of the opportunities available at job fairs. You may even be "lucky" enough to get an interview and a job offer!
Autumn Bell is an instructor in the Business Division of Fresno City College. The Business Division offers courses leading to an associate's degree, as well as career training, retraining, and short-term programs with immediate employment in mind. For more information visit www.fresnocitycollege.edu.