Navigating the Career Fair

Tips to get the most out of a Job Fair.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #27

Do you know what the number one mistake that’s made by attendees at job fairs?

Believe it or not it has nothing to do with communication skills. According to the recruiters I’ve spoken with it’s bad breath! (Really!)

Today, job fairs are becoming more commonplace. And with the current job market, job fairs are getting more crowded. I thought I’d share some tips to help you stand out from the crowd and make the most of a job fair.

Regarding the malodorous mouth, be careful not to drink coffee; smoke a cigarette; or eat garlic, onions, or tuna before attending a job fair. It’s best to always use strong mints before interviews. That way you’ll have peace of mind and confidence that your interviewer won't be distracted by stinky breath. The House Call Doctor has an entire episode devoted to getting rid of bad breath, so please don't let it stop you from getting a job interview.

Research for Results

Next, find out ahead of time which companies will be represented and do your homework. Review the company websites, the positions they currently have open, and news related to them and their industry. Consider making a cheat sheet to bring with you that outlines the results of your research.

What if there’s a company you didn’t expect? Cruise by the table, pick up literature and then read it (of course, out of view). That you at least know something about the company. Recruiters are always impressed with prepared candidates. They are unimpressed with people who don't have a clue about their company. By the way, this is the second biggest complaint I hear from job fair recruiters.

Recruiters are always impressed with prepared candidates. They are unimpressed with people who don't have a clue about their company.

Develop Your Ex-Factors Pitch

At job fairs, you don’t have much time to make a good impression, so you'll need to be able to quickly, clearly, and concisely explain your background and how you might fit in. Don’t just memorize and deliver the same monologue to every potential employer. Since each company is unique you'll want to highlight different things for each company.

Your pitch should include your “ex” factors. That’s “e-x” for your experience, expertise, and excellence. I talked about them last week, but again, just briefly.

The experience part is the high-level summary of your most relevant work history and education. Most likely this part will be the same for every employer, but not always. Next, is a summary of specific, quantitative or qualitative results that you’ve achieved. Prepare five or six different expertise sound bites. Then for each interviewer choose one or two that fit best. End your pitch by describing two or three skills or traits that make you who you are. Again, have five or six ready to choose from.

It’s best to rehearse each of the elements as separate sound bites. Then you can spontaneously mix and match as appropriate. This way each time you present your pitch it will sound fresh, and more importantly it will be customized for each potential employer.   


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.