Careers

5 things I did to stand out—and get hired—at a job fair like Amazon's

Aarrow Sign Spinners representative Kyle Nicely demonstrates sign spinning at the Choice Career Fair in San Antonio, Texas.
Matthew Busch | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Aarrow Sign Spinners representative Kyle Nicely demonstrates sign spinning at the Choice Career Fair in San Antonio, Texas.

Job fairs can be exciting. They're a perfect opportunity to impress recruiters from the top companies across the world.

According to Glassdoor, 90 percent of colleges and universities host these fairs year-round, and 75 percent of U.S. employers report recruiting from them. And they aren't just for college students. Amazon is hosting the country's largest job fair today and is looking to fill more than 50,000 full and part-time jobs.

But job fairs can also be scary. There are hundreds of candidates, with years of experience, talking to recruiters and applying to the same jobs you are.

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I attended a job fair in May, and while it was a bit overwhelming, I followed these tips to stand out — and landed the job.

1. Know why you're there

Well, it's a job fair. You're there to get a job. But what job? With who? When, where and why?

There will likely be several companies in attendance for different reasons not all are advertising a job. Some are only looking for summer interns and some are just checking a box off their human resources list.

You'll need to make the most of your time. Prioritize the companies you want to speak with.

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I was actually surprised by the number of times I heard candidates ask a recruiter, "So, what positions do you have open?"

Don't do that.

The school or organization hosting the fair will likely have a list of attending companies. Look at that list in advance and condense your own list from it. Figure out which companies you'd like to work for and where'd you be the best fit — but don't stop there.

Go to each company's website and check out their open positions. It may turn out they're filling positions that match your qualifications, or, it may turn out they're not. Either way, you need to know this beforehand so you can spend your time talking about a specific job, instead of wasting it on small talk.

2. Know what to bring

You've narrowed the list of the companies you want speak to and you know what they're hiring for. Now, customize your plan.

Companies aren't looking for cookie-cutter candidates, so you can't use a cookie-cutter resume. Depending on your field of interest, you may need a resume, cover letter, examples of your work or all three. Be sure to thoroughly update these files and tailor them to the job you're applying for.

Handshake at interview
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I heard the line, "I'm really impressed with how prepared you are!" more than once — that's a good start. Present your portfolio neatly in some type of folder that stands out and that you can give away. There was actually one candidate who pulled a crinkled resume out of her shirt pocket. That's a bad start.

3. Know what to say

It's not enough to have the itinerary and the portfolio. You also need an elevator pitch.

It can be intimidating to pitch yourself to a stranger and list the reasons you think they should hire you, not to mention doing so while 20 other candidates are standing behind you, listening and waiting for their turn.

But you have to push through. When I first arrived to the fair, I went to two or three tables that I was semi-interested in or not interested in at all. It cut into some of my time, but it loosened me up and allowed me to practice what I wanted to say to the companies I was really pursuing.

When talking to the recruiter, be knowledgeable about the position you're applying for and how your experience relates, but use that knowledge to create a few concise talking points.This will make the interaction feel more like a conversation and take the pressure off you to memorize and recite too much information.

Also, smile and make a joke or two. That could break the ice.

4. Know what to wear

The attire you wear will vary on the industry you're in, but you definitely want to look sharp. I wore a shirt with a tie, slacks and a suit jacket, but you'll need to tailor your outfit to the circumstances.

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If you're pursuing a job in financial services or at a bank, for example, you'll probably want to dress more traditionally than if you're looking for a job at a tech start-up.

5. Know how to close

After you've made it through the fair, handed out your resume and talked about your experience, you'll need to follow-up.

The recruiters have spent hours talking to hundreds of hopeful candidates. Yes, you made yourself stand out, but you have to seal the deal. Within 24 hours of the fair, be sure to send a follow-up email, with your portfolio attached, re-emphasizing your interest in the position.

It's not easy to land a job at a career fair, but it is also not impossible, and if you're serious about getting hired, it's worth it.

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