Selling Yourself At Job Fairs
by Tom Washington

Even in recessions employers are looking at all the possible ways to find high-quality candidates. Job fairs are one cost-effective way to accomplish that. Here are some reasons why you should attend job fairs:

  • There are real jobs there.
  • You get a chance to practice your “Two-Minute Sell.”
  • You get a feel for what employers are seeking in the current market.
  • You’ll gain solid interview practice by having several low-stress interviews.
  • You can scout out organizations that you may be interested in.
  • You’ll come away with a nice collection of pens, Post-it notes, yoyos, and other trinkets.

Granted, job fairs can be disappointing when few employers show up or when most have very few openings. After you’ve attended a couple, you’ll be able to sense whether going will be worthwhile. Some offer job finding workshops which can as valuable or even more valuable than the job fair itself.

Before attending a job fair, determine who you most want to meet. A few days before the job fair, an online ad or an ad in the major local paper, will usually list which organizations will attend, and will provide a floor layout indicating where each organization will be located. Often there will be links to the websites of the organizations attending. At a company website you should be able to read about the organization and learn what their current openings are. Sometimes an organization will hold a job fair all on its own, usually at its own facility.

After reviewing a company’s website, you should know what they are looking for. If not, many organizations will post at the booth a list of the types of positions they are filling. Most organizations will spend a few minutes with anyone willing to wait in line, so if you are really interested in the organization but don’t have a background they are currently seeking, stand in line anyway. While they will quickly realize your background does not match current openings, if they see potential in you, they will still give you some quality time.

You’ll meet all kinds of people at a job fair. One organization may send a recruiter who has been on the job for six weeks and knows little about the organization or the openings available. Others will send hiring managers who are there to conduct serious screening interviews with top candidates. Most will rely on their HR people who will be knowledgeable and helpful.

With some recruiters you’ll sense that they are trying to get to know you and your capabilities, in order to assess how well you might fit into their organization. With others it will appear that they are just collecting resumes. Some will not only tell you about the organization and the available positions, but will screen you by asking two or three interview questions. The more closely you appear to meet their needs, the more time they’ll spend with you.

You’ll get about five minutes with a recruiter, so make the most of it. You’ll usually begin by presenting your two-minute sell—your well-rehearsed-but-not-canned-sounding sales presentation. Pack as much valuable content as possible into two minutes. Each recruiter will speak to 8-10 people per hour during a ten-hour job fair, so you have to determine what will have the most impact. Your goal is to cause the recruiter to attach a note to your resume recommending that you receive an in-person interview or at least a telephone screening interview. The recruiter will typically not know all the details about the jobs available or those that will be available soon, so it is especially important to sell the fact that you work hard, you’re a team player, you have an excellent background, and you’d fit well in the organization.

If you give your two-minute summary and answer a couple of questions, you’ll probably have time for only one or two questions about the organization. Determine in advance what you want to learn about it. Having visited the website will help.

Be sure to get the business card of the recruiter you speak with. If you are truly interested in the organization, state that you look forward to an on-site interview. Add that you’ll call the recruiter in a couple weeks if you haven’t heard from anyone. Then follow up as you stated unless they give you other options.

If they don’t have any appropriate openings for you, ask for the name, title, phone number, and e-mail address of the manager who would hire someone with your specialty. Or, ask for the same information about a recruiter who specializes in people with your background. They may not supply you with names, but remember, if you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Steps For A Two-Minute Sell

Every job seeker should develop a two-minute sell. At job fairs, in telephone screening interviews, during on-site screening interviews, or when talking to someone at a professional association meeting, your two-minute sell will open doors for you. A two-minute sell is simply a prepared spiel that quickly covers all of the key things that employers and others should know about you.

For greatest impact, do not memorize your two-minute sell. Modify it to by adding or deleting certain points. Go with your internal sense of what will prove most useful to cover.

Those who produce the best two-minute spiels have spent time examining past accomplishments and contributions, and have identified their very top skills. Your competitors who try to create a two-minute sell without having examined their accomplishments will not be as effective.

Identify 4-6 key points you want an employer to know about you

These points might include:

  • Your education, degree(s), major
  • Why you’re interested in the position or the type of work
  • Why you’re attracted to the organization
  • A summary of your work/volunteer experience with emphasis on successes
  • A brief description of your current or most recent position
  • A brief description of the job you’ve held that is most similar to the one you’re interviewing for
  • Two or three major strengths with one key example that demonstrates all of them
  • Contributions you’ve made in jobs, in internships, or in voluntary roles
  • Quantifiable results
  • Awards
  • Paraphrasing letters of appreciation from internal and external customers
  • A paraphrased description of job reviews, mentioning only positives
  • A summary of a project that demonstrates key skills

List the points you want to make. Do not write your two-minute sell word for word. Then begin practicing. Hone it until you can give it in two minutes. Ask yourself: Is it interesting?  Will it hold the attention of the interviewer?  Is it well organized?  Have I instilled a visual image in the person’s mind that will help that person remember me?  Have I sold key personal qualities? Have I convinced them I have the necessary technical skills?

Continue to improve your two-minute sell throughout your job search.
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