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Tips to Make a Job Fair Manageable

Tips to Make a Job Fair Manageable

Adapted from the workshop “Prepare for the Fair” by Dara Riegel, Assistant Director of Employer Relations and Experiential Learning, Tompkins Cortland Community College

With job fair events coming up on March 14 at SUNY Cortland and on April 9 at Tompkins Cortland Community College, now is a good time to plan your job fair approach. Advertisements for job fairs often include the number of employers expected to attend, and these numbers can be intimidating. How do you talk to 60 employers? The truth is you don’t. There’s no way you can effectively interact with every potential employer at a job fair, nor should you.

Whether you are attending the job fair because you need a job now or to learn about careers and make future connections, here are a few tips to help you set realistic goals to get the most out of attending a job fair:


·         Update and make copies of your most recent resume. Cortland Works Career Center has staff eager to help, just call for an appointment.

·         Create or update your LinkedIn profile. The platform can help you connect with people who work in fields that interest you and is a good tool for following up with potential employers. See our previous posts about creating an effective profile.


·         Know what you’re looking for. Think about the kind of work you might like to do, the kind of environment you work well in, and what you want to get out of the job fair. Are you looking for a job right now? Looking for an internship? Exploring future careers?

·         Identify three to five strengths that you can talk about when interacting with the recruiter. See previous blog posts on preparing “elevator pitches” for tips.

·         Think about what you can realistically manage. Job fairs are typically held in large spaces with table placed relatively close together. Acknowledge the level of discomfort the space may cause and plan strategies for managing the discomfort, such as breathing exercises and taking breaks between table visits.


·         Most job fair organizers will publish a list of businesses that have registered to attend the fair. Once you have the list, use the information you’ve reflected on to identify potential employers you’d like to connect with. Visit their website. Familiarize yourself with the employer’s products, services, and business philosophy. Identify any questions you’d like to ask about specific job openings or the company in general. Be prepared to talk up your skills and connect them to the openings.

·         There are many reasons you might be considering a specific employer – proximity to where you live, great benefits, recommendations from friends or family. Even if you don’t have skills, experience, or interest in the main product or service the organization offers, explore peripheral jobs.  For example, manufacturers, health care facilities, and retailers all have business offices and require cleaning services. Research individual jobs that are available under the umbrella of each agency if where you work is a priority consideration for you.

·         Based on your research, make a list of the businesses you’d like to visit. Set a target for the businesses you’d like to connect with, and then set a stretch target. Doing so will help you prioritize your time and interactions.

At the Fair:

·         Get a map on the way in. Large job fair organizers usually provide a map with a table number or location for each employer in attendance. Take a few minutes to plan your route. You may want to head right to the employer that most interests you or you may want to warm up with an employer lower on your list to practice your pitch. Make a plan based on what feels most comfortable for you.

·         Introduce yourself and deliver your pitch to the potential employer. Leave them a copy of your resume and be sure to get a business card for follow up.

·         Take breaks when you need to. Give yourself permission to get a drink, go outside for some fresh air, take a few laps of the space, whatever you need to do to stay energized and focused.

·         If you run out of time or energy, make sure you pay a quick visit the employers you weren’t able to connect with and take a business card (and maybe a piece of candy or stress ball). You can email to express your interest in openings or visit the website to apply online.

After the Fair:

·         Send an email to the recruiters you spoke to thanking them for their time and reminding them of something specific you discussed. Even if you’ve left a copy of your resume with them, attach a copy to the email.

·         Connect with employers or individuals on LinkedIn to keep track of future opportunities.


Upcoming Events:

Spring Job Fair, hosted by Cortland Works Career Center, March 14, 12:00-2:00

Oven Fresh Job Fair, hosted by Tompkins Cortland Community College, April 9, 9:00-1:00

Attend the Prepare for the Fair workshop at Cortland Works Career Center, 99 Main Street, Cortland on Thursday, March 21 from 9:30-10:30am. No registration necessary!

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