Written By Shea Ki
As a hiring manager at employment centers for almost ten years, employers often shared what they were really thinking of the job seekers that they interviewed. While helping them set up for a job fair, recruiters and other hiring professionals told me their hiring problems.
Here are the most common recruiting issues I have heard from employers when attending job fairs.
1. "If I get handed one more resume I might explode!"
Most companies now have an online application system and handing them a piece of paper only adds to their load. Although they may smile to your face, you may have just insulted their efforts to be a green company that helps the environment. Instead, demonstrate that you did not do your homework by visiting their website to learn about the steps of their hiring process. Save handing them a resume for the interview unless they ask for it at the job fair.
2."They need to stop asking me if we are hiring."
Of course they are hiring, that is why they are at the job fair. If they are not trying to fill current positions then they are at least on the look out for qualified candidates for future needs. Deliver a more engaging introduction than the usual question "are you hiring" that puts the ears of an employer to sleep. They are eager to know what you can do for their company, not what they can offer you-at least not yet. Begin instead with what you like about their company or congratulate them on a recent success they posted on their website or in their annual report.
You have to get on the talent radar of the employer first.
3. "Did you see that guy in sandals? Really? It's a job fair-not a summer carnival!"
The atmosphere of a job fair can seem more casual with its give-aways, huge company signs, lines, and loud noise. Don't be fooled by appearances. Be sure to look sharp but also be comfortable. You will likely walk around a lot and being sweaty or annoyed by that tie that is too tight or heels that hurt is not going to impress anyone.
4. "I'm not sure if many of them are really listening or even want to be here."
Remember that your nonverbal body language will be speaking volumes and using it strategically is one way you can usually separate yourself out from other candidates who don't look engaged. Be mindful to keep your shoulders straight (not slumping over), walk with a purpose (rather than aimlessly around), and smile often while in line (rather than grimacing about the long lines).
Employers who are giving their time at a job fair also love feeling heard. In between questions you may have, take a moment to paraphrase back to them some of what you learned from the conversation so far. Exchanges often have to be quick and to the point since so many job seekers want their minute with the employer. You have to turn up not only your voice but also your active listening skills when talking with an employer at a job fair to connect. Your goal is to leave behind a positive, professional impression rather than a rushed, meaningless one that got lost in the noise.
5. "I always feel bad when someone is following up with us who has applied already."
Job fairs are usually not the place where an employer has time to look up the status of those who have already applied to the job. You want to be one to bring up the energy of the employer, not be a mood killer by asking them to help you with something not up their alley. More of their purpose these days is to give the employer an opportunity to share with the community how their application process works. That is why you may hear over and over again at the event, "visit our website" or they may ask you if you have questions about their process.
6. "Some come by the table so quickly that it's a blur."
It might be making you feel better that you hit every table, but results come from quality introductions and focused questions asked to the employer. You can wait to attend the tables of your top picks towards the end of the event. This may seem counterintuitive but it is often when the employer has more time and the crowds have thinned. Make an opportunity to build a relationship instead of begging for a status on your application update. Ask questions about company culture, what the recruiter likes most about working for the business, or what strengths their ideal candidate would bring to the table if they had a magic wand. As the event is winding down, you can offer to carry some of their materials back to their car or bring them a much needed water. They may decline, but creating these types of moments where you are demonstrating initiative helps to build a memorable impression with the company.
7. "I wish they knew what they were looking for so I could better help them."
"I'll take any job!" and "I want an internship!" are not specific enough for the recruiter, manager, or human resource representative to be able to picture where your goals and skills match up with the company's needs. With so much information on the internet, be sure to look up the mission, values, and goals of your target companies. If you spend more than a minute exploring around on the site, you'll often be able to find how the company is organized by department or other functions. Instead of skimming through the pages, absorb the diagrams, org charts, or other structure of the company. Determine one or two areas or positions you could see yourself growing and succeeding. Going this extra mile with your research on the company can show the employer you are serious and passionate about working with them to find out where you fit best.
Not sure what your target companies are yet? Take a couple of hours to do a career assessment online or at a local employment center to determine which fields your unique interests and skills line up with. After you have your top fields, you can dig further on internet search engines to find out what companies of those industries are in your area and what it would take to work there. Showing up without this self-awareness and goal-planning sends a red flag to most companies. Being too open to "working anywhere" can alert to an employer that you do not have a plan for your future and you are not ready for a real paycheck.
Your turn-Do you think attending job fairs is a waste of time or worth the hassle?
Add your thoughts about job fairs or how to impress an employer in the comment section below.
Most of all, believe in you!