Job Fairs: Matchmaking 101

Job fairs – a big speed-dating festival for job seekers and employers seeking their “one and only” who will be a perfect match…

Here are some tips to get the most out of your next job fair: 

1. Know what you want. As a job seeker, what kind of position do you wish to target? What kind of employer? Is that employer represented at this job fair? Find out by reviewing the ads for the fair – check out the sample companies represented at the job fair. Are they companies with whom you wish to work? 

2. List and research all the companies where you wish to work. I recommend creating “cheat sheets” for each company listing the following: company name, space for contact info (get a business card from each booth you visit so you can follow up), one or two things you learned about the company from your research, and three questions you want to ask them at the fair. This helps you stay on track, targeting the companies of your dreams, and also enables you to follow up with recruiters at the fair. Only one in 300 people ever follow up, so be the one who stands out. 

3. Dress professionally – just because recruiters are there doesn’t mean your attire can be sloppy, ill-fitting, and wrinkled. Recruiters get first impressions too. Make them good ones. 

4. Be prepared for a brief interview. As a former recruiter who’s attended lots of job fairs, we often had positions to fill immediately and were able to interview job seekers at the fair in a sectioned off interview area. Many of the other companies at the event did so as well.  

5. Have several CAR stories at the ready that demonstrate your ability to handle the job. CAR stands for “Challenge, Action, Result.” Since the majority of interviewers ask behavior-based interview questions, you want to be able to address them with specific examples of your expertise. 

6. Bring along several copies of your current resume. (No typos please.) Even if it is a job fair that provides an electronic copy of candidates’ resumes to each booth at the fair, the candidate should have plenty of resumes with him or her. Instant gratification is never a bad thing. And you’re prepared, in case you get a chance to interview on the spot. 

7. Smile. Just like dating, people are drawn to those who smile in a warm, friendly manner. And smiling keeps your attitude positive. As one HR manager told me, “I hire for attitude. You can always teach a skill.” 

Now, go get ’em. And let me know how your next job fair turns out. Good luck!  

The Great Thank You Note Debate

Thank You, Thank You Very MuchOh, you didn’t know there was a debate, eh?

The Do’s:

“It’s the right thing to do” – say multiple sources including recruiters, employers, and career coaches. I agree, but here’s how to say THANKS the right way:  

1. Always thank whomever for their time. Mention something personal, even if it is minor, that you learned about that person during the interview. If you are dropping the note to the secretary, mention how helpful or how pleasant they were during your wait.

2. Enclose a proposal or action plan regarding what you could do for the company. How you can SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM (whatever it was). You can mention accomplishments of yours that might be relevant to their situation. (Use your professional resume. There should be several listed from which you can choose!) This type of action plan makes you PROACTIVE. And shows how much you listened during the interview, how much you care about their company, and how much you’re dying to be a part of it.

3. If you interviewed with several people, you may wish to enclose a second resume as a MEMORY JOGGER.

4. You want your letter to show your enthusiasm for the position/company, your compatibility with their team, how their goals match your goals, and your desire for the job! People have actually LOST positions because they didn’t ASK for the job. 

“It puts the candidate at the top of the call-if-(the)-No. 1-(candidate)-doesn’t-work list. In 5 years at Harvard, I saw this happen at least once a quarter,” said Susan P. Joyce, Editor/Webmaster, at She is “pro” thank you notes. 

“As a former hiring manager, I would be totally impressed with someone who wrote an appropriate thank you card,” said Jason Alba of “It is above and beyond an e-mail, and shows a lot of thought. It is a gesture that would help me know that this person would take care of (internal and external) customers.” 

“In some situations, when considered with the interview, the thank you note had influence as to whether or not to extend an offer of employment,” said Steve Gallison, Professional Outplacement Assistance Center. 

As a former recruiter, I can tell you that Steve is right. I still remember getting a call from one employer saying, “Chris is fantastic! Do you know he FAXED over a hand-written thank you note right after his interivew? WOW. When can he start?” Yes, Chris got the job. The employer had never received a thank you note from anyone in the past. The note made Chris a stand out. Another client landed a job at Microsoft. The thank you note he sent got him over the top.

The Do NOT’s:

“Thank you notes are a waste of my time,” said one recruiter. “No one ever reads them.”

Not true. According to one executive recruiter, her candidate – who had aced the interview – lost the job offer. How? She sent a thank you note with spelling errors, typos, and bad grammar.

Of course thank you notes that just say, “thanks for your time” are a waste of my time, said one HR director.

Instead, use this key paragraph provided by Don Orlando, MBA, of The McLean Group: “I want to do more than just thank you for your time. I was thinking about your problems and I have some ideas to help solve them. I know they must be tentative, but I’d like to get your reaction to them.” Check out No. 2 above for strategies to back up your claim.

Companies hire people who can solve their problems. Demonstrate how you can do so – and you’ve got a greater chance of getting in the door with a solid offer.

Am I a fan of thank you notes? You bet.