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If you’ve been to a few job fairs and come away with nothing to show for your time, you may think they’re obsolete. Not so, according to Business Insider writer Jacquelyn Smith. As she writes, people “still use career fairs to network, make positive first impressions, and learn about companies and what it’s like to work for them,” and what’s more, companies still set up tables with hopes of finding talented, qualified employees.

What you get out of a job fair, Smith insists, depends on what you put into it, and with that in mind, she made a list of “11 Tips to Get Something Useful Out of a Job Fair.” Scroll down to read her valuable recommendations.

1. Have a Plan — Before you go, make a list of which companies you want to meet with. Just be sure to leave a little time for “wild cards,” as there are bound to be some companies not previously on your radar that catch your eye.

2. Dress For Success — In a way, job fairs are like interviews, so you should dress accordingly.“If you’re not dressed professionally, that’s just one more hurdle you’ll have to overcome,” says Katharine S. Brooks, executive director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University. “Employers notice details; some complain about wrinkled ties, scuffed shoes, or inappropriate jewelry.”

3. Do Your Homework — Knowing what companies will be at the job fair isn’t enough. You should also have a sense of what types of opportunities are available.

4. Ask Smart Questions — Don’t waste the recruiter’s time with questions that can easily be answered online. Show up with smarter queries and prove that you’re really interested in the job.

5. Network, Network, Network — Be sure to grab business cards and chat with lots of people. At some point, if you decide to apply for a position, you’ll be able to reference your conversations and get leg up on the competition.

6. Get Ready to Talk About Yourself — When you approach the table, you’re sure to get the question, “Tell me about yourself.” “Be concise; you don’t have much time to make your impression before the recruiter is on to the next person,” says Brooks.

7. Keep Those Ears Open — When you’re in line, listen to the exchanges between the recruiters and the people in front of you. If you can work bits of their conversations into your own chat, all the better.

8. Show Some Enthusiasm — Lead with a firm handshake, make good eye contact, and as you talk to the recruiter, don’t play it cool. Show you’re enthusiastic about the opportunity at hand and give them a reason to remember you.

9. Apply Before You Go — If possible, apply online for jobs you’re interested in before heading to the convention center. That way, you can tell the recruiter you’ve already taken the first step, and that’s a huge advantage.

10. “Wow” ‘Em — If you simply say hello and hand off your resume, you’re not going to distinguish yourself from the dozens of other people who did the same thing before you. To stand out, you need “the wow factor.” “Tell the employer your unique story, career accomplishments, and what sets you apart from and above all other potential candidates,” Hazelwood writes.

11. Email Afterward — Follow up with recruiters by sending thank-you emails. Again, your looking to establish personal connections, so be sure to mention your conversation.


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