The job fair – the casual job interview
Attending a job fair may seem overwhelming and intimidating – who should you speak to about what? Sometimes it feels as if you are at a reception and you don’t know anyone.
THE ELEVATOR SPEECH
Imagine that you just happen to be in the same elevator as someone you’d like to get into contact with; you have a limited amount of time to introduce yourself. Write down your elevator speech and practice giving the speech in an authentic manner. Practice until you know it by heart. Think about the specific message you want to convey:
- Who are you and how can you help?
- How may the company benefit from hiring you?
- What sort of work did you do at university?
- Which results have you achieved?
Try to view a job fair as an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the real company, instead of seeing it through the filter of the presentation on their website. At the job fair, you will meet real people, who work at the company and have an opinion about their workplace. Surely, they are at the job fair as representatives for the Students’ Business Relations to receive both positive and negative input concerning their organizations.
Of course, having considered and prepared a strategy for your conversations with individual representatives of companies will give you an advantage – however, you should leave room for some free-styling and small talk. At a fair, you can do more than just apply for jobs; you may also look for an internship or a case for you to use when doing a research project, get ideas for relevant elective courses, or find out if a company has a graduate program. Inquire about information not listed on their website.
Prepare for the job fair
You may choose to view the fair as an opportunity to practice how to present yourself and to find out how the representative of a company perceives you. Keep in mind that companies are also interested in hearing about you and your specific skills! In other words, it’s a good idea to practice at home before attending a job fair:
What can you offer a company? You have to translate the courses you are following or the skills you have acquired to, for example, employability skills, which are relevant for the companies you wish to talk to. It’s also okay to talk to companies that seem to be out of your league!
Start off softly and listen to them as they explain what their line of work is. Do they have a say in matters related to their work day? How are working hours and working procedures planned? Which types of assignments do they typically get? Is it a good place to work? Depending on your specific field of study, the representatives from the different companies may also guide you in the right direction.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TRIP TO THE JOB FAIR
- If you are shy, you may want to start by visiting the booths that use free candy, key chains, or other goodies to attract students. Chat with them – for instance, you might ask them how many times they have attended the fair and what they have gained from the experience(s). Give them a chance to get to know you, too.
- You may start by approaching a company, which is actually irrelevant to your field of study; this way, the exchange seems less frightening, and you will be less afraid of saying something stupid.
- Once you’ve gotten comfortable, seek out some of the companies you’d really like to work with. You don’t have to be humble, but you should really listen to the replies you get. If the representative at the booth makes you feel comfortable enough to do so, you might want to leave your business card or ask for the
person’s contact information.
- Make sure to contact the company after the fair. Afterwards, you may feel relieved that you actually dared get in touch with them. Don’t end the process here; don’t just sit down and wait for them to contact you. If you are still sure the company is right for you, send them a follow up email.
- Practice at home, in front of the mirror.
- It’s okay to warm up, by talking to yourself, before initiating direct contact with a company.
- It’s also okay to ask again, if, initially, you did not understand the reply.
- You may write down questions on a piece of paper and bring it with you to the fair, if you are afraid of choking up.
- Bringing business cards is a great idea – preferably ones with your photo, so that they will remember you the day after. You might also ask the representative for their email address and contact information; after the fair, you then have the chance to write an email, in which you explain, in-depth, why you’d like to intern, apply for a student job, etc. at the company. He/she will then be able to forward your email and information to the HR department or whoever is in charge of recruiting.