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Job fairs are a great way to check out the job market, especially for designers who just graduated from college or are looking for a different design perspective. You’re able to make connections and have the opportunity to get your dream job. However, going into these fairs can be a little nerve-wracking — for both the job-seeker and the employer!

Job-seekers want to impress employers just as much as employers want to impress job-seekers. So, take a deep breath and follow these tips to help you stand out, no matter what side of the table you’ll be standing on.

As a Job-Seeker

If you’re a job-seeker, you’ll want to stand out among the other candidates who may be also talking with the employers at the fair. Designers are eccentric by nature, (yes, I said it) and we must work even harder to make our presence known.

Bring materials.

You’ll want to be prepared with multiple copies of your resume and even business cards if you have them. If you have decent CV, it wouldn’t hurt to have it along as well. Put these items in a nice folder to stand out and look professional as you approach businesses. Leaving something with the business will help them remember you and give them something to look at when you follow-up with them.
Here’s a tip: Design both sides of your business card. Consider a logo on one side and your contact information on the other.

Dress to impress.

Dressing the part is very important at job fairs. Walking up to businesses in sweatpants and a t-shirt isn’t going to give the greatest impression. Wear a nice business casual outfit to look professional and serious about your job search.

Make a game plan.

Taking a look at the list of employers before the fair gives you a huge advantage. Review who is going to be there and make a list of companies you definitely want to get to. If you have enough time, start with businesses you aren’t very interested in so you can gain confidence and be your best once you get to the more important ones. It also never hurts to talk to the other companies. You never know which business might need a person like you or where you might fit best!

Take notes.

You’ll be talking to a lot of businesses. Some might ask you to apply online, and some might ask you to call or email. After each company you visit, make a note about what the next step is. This way you won’t get confused about who told you what, and you will be able to follow-up with everybody.
You can also stand out by jotting down notes about what you and the employer talked about. Anything out of the ordinary can help the employer remember you if you mention it in the follow-up.

Follow-up.

Following up is the most important part of a job fair. If you never follow-up, you might as well have never gone and stayed home watching Netflix. Take some time shortly after the fair to thank whomever you talked to, apply or send your resume if necessary and put your name out there. Making connections is the whole point of the job fair, so keep in contact with the people you talk to!

As an Employer

When you attend a job fair as an employer, you also have some things to do to ensure you attract the best talent for your company:

Arrive early.

As an employer, it’s important to get to the fair early to set-up your table and prepare your materials. If you aren’t there or aren’t set-up when job-seekers come up to your table, they’ll walk right past. You want them to be prepared, so you should do the same.

Know what you’re looking for.

It’s a good idea to know what positions in the company are currently open and how the market is for other positions. You can give job-seekers a truthful response when they ask about job openings. You’ll also want to decide whether or not you are accepting resumes and who you will tell people to contact after the fair. Knowing this information will help the fair go smoothly.

Have business cards or promotional items.

Having business cards to hand out to job-seekers will help them be more engaged and increase the likelihood of them contacting you. Businesses who don’t give job-seekers a card definitely won’t stand out and probably won’t be remembered. Have an inviting display, possibly iPad/tablet stands with interactive information about your company. In addition, having freebies or promotional items at your table will not only help draw people in, but it will also put you first in their mind when they think about the bu sinesses they interacted with.

Be active.

Sitting behind a table isn’t going to work very well. You’ll want to be standing, engaging with job-seekers, shaking hands and talking to people. If someone hands you their resume, take the time to review it and ask them questions. Be prepared to answer questions about your company and also to ask questions about the job-seeker.

Job fairs can be beneficial for both job-seekers and employers, but it takes a little effort. Keep these suggestions in mind and get ready for a great experience.

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