Fall is just around the corner if you can believe it! I don’t know about you but September always feels like the start of a new year coming off of the summer months where we put our careers and job searches on the backburner a bit.
Organizations do the same, recruitment goes on hiatus or really slows down during the summer. Which means it picks up in September again! The fall is one of the busiest hiring seasons of the year (January is the other). It is also Career and Job Fair season!
Going to Career and Job Fairs is a great way to build your network – not only are you interacting with recruiters and hiring managers who are hiring RIGHT NOW. But you are also getting great practice at delivering your Elevator Pitch and learning how to get people invested in your career.
Want to make sure you stand out and leave a great impression? Well here are 9 keys to success before, during and after the fair.
Before the Job Fair:
1. Research, Research, Research
Most fairs have an online list of the organizations that are attending. Make a list of the companies you want to make sure you get to and prioritize the list by importance and interest. Take a look at the company websites to gather some information that you can use when meeting with them. Don’t forget to see if they have any interesting job postings!
2. Prepare Yourself
Get your elevator pitch ready to go! Use my handy How To guide to help you out and practice. Focus on sounding authentic, practice different iterations of it depending on who you are talking to (recruiter, hiring manager, potential peer) and their company. Try saying it on the fly.
Also, be prepared to be interviewed. Career Fairs offer interview rooms for companies, I remember using them and them being use! When someone great came along that I knew was a perfect match for an open role, I would ask if they had time to be interviewed. We would go to the room and I would do a typical telephone pre-screen interview (a mostly resume based interview). I never expected the person to interview perfectly because it was so last minute so don’t stress too much. But be prepared and ready for anything.
Also prepare your outfit. The dress for success moniker really works here. Depending on the industry you may not need to wear a suit but you definitely need to wear business/business casual.
3. Get your documents in order
Print off your resume (making sure it is Modern and set to Win), making sure you bring enough copies. A good rule of thumb is to bring two per company that you really want plus a few extra!
also recommend getting some business cards printed with your name and contact details as not all companies collect resumes.
Bring a notebook, this will come in handy to jot down any names, instructions or notes.
During the Job Fair:
1. Have Patience
There are going to be lines, be prepared for that. Do NOT try and cut to the front that will not look good on you. Have patience and keep your cool as you wait.
As a recruiter, I loved Career Fairs but they were also exhausting. I would talk to hundreds of people and would need to try to give each and every one of them my complete interest and attention.
Don’t forget that. You only have to talk to 15-20 people probably, a recruiter is talking to 10x that at least. So cut them a bit of slack. Advocate for yourself in a clear and concise manner but don’t stress if you spend a minute less than someone else or they don’t seem as engaged – it isn’t you, they are just tired! Be kind to them.
I have had people who were so sick of spending 5 minutes in line and just weren’t happy with how engaged I was with them and they would take it out on me, getting irate, abrasive and sometimes insulting. I get it, the job search is hard but you will never get hired treating people like this! If you find yourself getting upset while in line, leave, calm down and come back.
2. Make the Most of it.
You will probably spend 1-2 minutes with each individual so plan your time effectively. Offer a firm handshake which gives a great first impression. Deliver your elevator pitch again focusing on being genuine and not robotic. Be prepared to answer a question or two. A common question that I used to ask was “what brings you here today”. Answer it showing you have put in the work so tailor it to your skill set and interests to be in alignment with theirs.
Ask a couple insightful questions, again showing your research and fit for the role and company. And finally ask what any next steps would be.
You can ask for a business card but don’t be surprised if you don’t get a personal one, most companies have generic ones printed specifically for career fairs. If they don’t have it then ask them for their full name, this way you can find them on LinkedIn.
3. Go off plan.
So I’m going suggest something weird. As soon as you arrive don’t make a beeline towards your number one company, instead go to the company you are least interested in, the one that wasn't even a contender for your list. Why? Use it as a practice ground for the 1-2 minutes. It will allow you to clear the cobwebs in a no pressure situation as you aren’t interested in them at all.
After you have gone to your top companies, walk around the fair, check out some of the companies that didn’t make your shortlist. If something seems to call out to you then follow that, go up to their booths and chat. You just never know what can happen!
After the Fair:
1. Take Notes
As soon as you get home, if not sooner. Write down notes. Go through each company you visited and write down tidbits of the conversations, answers they gave, questions they asked. You spoke to so many people you want to make sure you don’t forget the key information! If you didn’t get a business card, recheck their names in your notes to make sure you got them right.
2. Respect any Instructions
Did anyone give you instructions on next steps – apply online, immediately email in your resume, send an email to schedule an interview? Following through on those is your first priority.
3. Follow Through
This is a big one and an oft overlooked step! I went to countless Career Fairs and met thousands of individuals as a Recruiter. You know how many follow up emails I got? Probably less than 100, and I think that is a generous estimate! Those people who followed up were definitely more likely to get called in for an interview. It is an easy way to sell yourself and stand out from the crowd.
If you got a business card, then send those individuals a thank you email reemphasizing your interest in the company and your fit for any open roles (or an ask to be considered for future roles).
If you didn’t get a business card, then look them up on LinkedIn! Send a connection request with a short note thanking them.
Worst case scenario – you don’t get an email or a name. Well don’t worry! Mail the HR department as actual thank you card! Again thanking them for their time and outlining your fit. Don’t include your resume, but do include your contact details!
Do you feel more confident about attending any of the upcoming Career and Job Fairs this fall?
There was this one interview I had that I remember so clearly. Not because I aced it but because I was an anxious wreck! It was for a role within my field at the time, a one-on-one counselor with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton. I wanted the job so much as I would be working within a camp that focused on creating a safe and fun space for children to enjoy their summer.
The funny thing was, I knew I was qualified – I had worked in camps before and I had worked with individuals needing mental health and life skills support. But that didn’t matter, I was straight up nervous.
I got into the interview and while I was able to answer the questions, I just could not calm my nerves down. In fact, my hands were shaking so badly that one of the interviewers even paused the interview to say I was doing great and that the role was pretty much mine and that I didn’t need to be so nervous. Talk about embarrassing!
I was lucky that they saw past my nerves and gave me the job but I know many Hiring Managers who wouldn’t be so kind. They would be concerned that you wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of the job, that they would need to hold your hand anytime something challenging came up or that they could never depend on you to be the face of a role (with internal or external clients, management/senior leadership, etc).
So while nerves are a completely normal part of the interview process, it is vital that you are able to calm or redirect those interview jitters! Here are 9 tips to do just that.
1. Practice makes Perfect
I am a big believer of foundational preparation for interviews. Before you begin your job search you probably have a sense of the types of roles you will be interviewing for. So at that point think of all of your stories, such as your Tell Me About Yourself answer.
If most of the work is done before an interview request comes in then that initial flood of panic and anxiety won’t happen (or be as strong at least) and you can just do a quick review and tweak of your stories and spend some time preparing for why you want to work there.
2. Prepare for the Worst
I constantly prepare myself, my clients, even my loved ones for the roller coaster of life. That includes the interview. No interview is ever perfect and that is OKAY.
Spend some time reflecting on what normally happens during an interview when your nerves get the better of you.
Do you go on a rambling spree? If yes, prepare for how you will handle it (apologize for going off topic, blame your excitement or passion and then come back to answering the question and please don’t forget to state the result!).
Do you clam up and freeze? If yes, how will you handle that? (take a sip of water, ask them to repeat the question, say you need a few seconds to think it through, even ask to come back to the question).
Now think about the interviewers’ behaviours – what if they seem distracted? Or displaying negative body language, or asking very direct and unnerving questions? How will you handle that without it impacting your performance? You don’t know what is happening in their life – maybe they can’t stand interviewing, or got some bad news right before, aren’t feeling good or simply just having a bad day. Their behavior could have NOTHING to do with you! So if you prepare for how you will handle it, then you are more likely to still shine in the interview.
3. Get your ZZZ’s
Sleep is so incredibly underrated, and I can go on and on about it but I’ll save that for another day! All I’ll say is to have a good night of sleep the night before – go to bed at a reasonable hour, aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep (which means go to bed 7.5-9.5 hours before you want to get up). This will ensure you are feeling your best which means you are less likely to feel nervous.
4. Move Your Body
Plan to get to the interview with some time to spare and then go for a quick walk. Fresh air and movement are proven to help you calm down as it releases those wonderful endorphins!
The morning of or evening before do some exercise that will bring you value – run, strength workout, yoga. Do the one that you know will leave you feeling strong, confident and ready to take on the world!
I think I’ve already talked about how meditation can help you get ahead in your career. It will help you slow down the nervous mind, recognize the spiral of thoughts that accompany it and help you notice when you are slipping into bad, nervous habits during the interview faster allowing you to self-correct.
6. Put on your cape
A few years ago a TED talk by Amy Cuddy introduced the world to the concept of the power pose before important meetings. Amy has since backed up her original findings with a new study that continues to show that effecting a power pose can impact brain chemistry which is amazing!
Find a place where you won’t be disturbed (bathroom stall?!), put your hands on your hips and stand there like Wonder Woman or Superman for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Imagine yourself, no one can stop you, you got this. Take a deep breath and go show those interviewers what you can do!
7. Power Up with Power Songs
Do you have power songs? You know those songs that pump you up and lift you up? I have tons, in fact I have a whole playlist of them that I play whenever I feel like a need a boost. Like Sia and David Guetta’s Titanium or Forever by Drake, Eminem – which are two of my go tos.
On your way to the interview, play a couple of them and let them excite you and fill you with power and confidence.
8. Food for Thought
I remember in first year Biology, our professor telling us to eat a mini chocolate bar right before all exams. She said the combination of caffeine and sugar was a sure way to activate our brain allowing our sense of recall to be quicker. I’m not sure about the science behind it but who is going to say no to that!
For the longest time I did that, but in the last few years I’ve begun having bananas before important meetings or presentations. It started because that was what I would take before a race (running, triathlon, obstacle course) and I really felt a positive impact. For me, it provides me the energy needed and it also calms me down.
So while you are on your quick walk or on the way to the interview grab a mini chocolate bar, banana or other small snack.
9. Fake it til you Make it
After that disastrous interview I decided to really focus on channeling those nerves into excitement. I re-framed those feelings. You know what I’m talking about: your hands are slightly shaking, your heart is racing, you are sweating. The same feelings happen when you are amped up and excited to go, so I tell myself I’m just super excited instead of super nervous.
Before going in, I would do is bounce on my toes a bit, give myself a pep talk and use that adrenaline in a positive way. I know others who make funny faces in the mirror, who do a full body shake or just repeat “yes, yes, yes” in their heads.
There is something to this idea, as one thing I’ve learned over my 15 years is that Hiring Managers love to hire people who are excited and enthusiastic to work for them.
At the end of all my preps, I always say “Good Luck. Have Fun. Be Yourself.” After all, I want the interview to be an enjoyable experience!
I do understand that nerves can be debilitating, and if none of these tips help then maybe customized interview training and prep will – reach out to me and we can work on this together.
You want a job. You know you need a resume but you think “how do I write a resume”, maybe you google it and then are lost in a sea of conflicting information! Should you do a super formatted “fun” resume that you see all over Pinterest? Or a super pared down resume to get past those resume bots known as Applicant Tracking Systems. I’ve already answered some of those questions but in short, you should have one resume that will get noticed by an ATS but also one that is aesthetically pleasing because after all a human will eventually read it.
But what information do you actually need in a resume?!
I’ve got you covered. I have a list of what you must have in your resume and what you might have in your resume that will ensure that it leads to interviews, and lots of them!
Must Haves Resume Components
1. Contact Information
I know that this seems obvious but you would be surprised! Make sure that your email is professional, that you list your cell phone number. Otherwise some optional pieces of information would be to include your LinkedIn profile link and your address, you could just put the city you live in and leave it at that.
There are some differing opinions on this. However for me it is mandatory. Not everyone will read it (like me for instance) but there will be a lot of people that do. It sets a nice tone for the resume and I like how it looks in terms of the format.
The key to an objective statement is that it is 1-3 sentences long and gives a brief overview of who you are and what you bring to the table (think of it like a micro-elevator pitch).
3. Skills Summary
The skills summary is all about those resume bots. Applicant Tracking Systems are very keyword focused and the skills summary is a great way to increase your chance of making it to the ATS’ list of recommended candidates.
Just don’t make it too long please! Have 6-12 skills and focus on matching the words to the words of the job posting.
You want to start with the most relevant education first so that is what gets noticed.
Are you a New Grad? Then feel free to include further details like course names, GPA scores, scholarships and awards. If you are not a New Grad then please do not include this information, your experience is what matters not the courses you took.
Further training, like courses, certifications and memberships could all be included under the Education section.
This is probably the most obvious section of your resume! The key is to follow the Reverse Chronological with your most recent job at the top.
What gets confusing for individuals is how to format this section and how to explain different working situations. Also, there are tricks you can do to highlight certain details that you want the reader to be drawn to. Ask yourself, what do you want the recruiter to notice first – the job title or the company name? Whatever your choice is put that on the first line, and maybe add some colour! Here is how it could look:
Company Name September 2015 to present Job Title (part-time/contract)
Notice how I used months. As a recruiter I hated it when people didn’t use months, at least for the last 5 years. Why? It doesn’t tell a complete picture. Let me outline why. Say I see the dates 2017-2018. I don’t know if someone worked there for two months (Dec 2017-Jan 2018), one year (March 2017-March 2018) or almost two years (Jan 2017-Dec 2018). I’m less likely to call someone for an interview when these sort of questions are raised.
Now to the content, the hardest part of the experience section. There are two things to focus on: your examples of how you made a difference and your accomplishments that will benefit your potential employer. Think of what you did that you were proud of (in terms of tasks, responsibilities and accomplishments) what skills, knowledge and experience did you use?
Most experts’ state to use an accomplishment based resume and while I fully agree, I also know that nothing about the job search process is black and white. There are many jobs that are very tasked based where you could be doing a disservice by ignoring that in your resume.
The next five components of a resume are completely optional but what I mean by that is for each of them there is a time and a place when they should be included (and when not to).
While volunteering is one of those things that are good to do that doesn’t mean that you need to include it on your resume.
So my first caveat is that if you volunteer and you have some room to fill out on your resume (say it is 1.5 pages) then by all means include it. If the Volunteer section means you will be going on to the next page and it doesn’t add any significant value then don’t include it.
What do I mean by significant value though?
Industry: There are certain industries that value volunteer work (education, arts and culture, not for profit, healthcare) and for those industries I would highly recommend including it.
Volunteer Relevance: If you are applying for a role that requires a skill set that you only used while volunteering then include it.
Career Story: Most entry level, new grads and individuals with a career break lean on volunteer experience to round out their time working, skill set and experience and in those cases you should always have a volunteer section.
I did want to note that Internships and Volunteer are not the same thing, even though both are unpaid work. An internship belongs in your experience section, just note it as such using the brackets (internship).
2. Memberships/Professional Associations
This section is only added when you are a member of a professional association common in industries like Supply Chain, Finance, Human Resources, Engineering, etc.
For streamlining purposes I do find that including them in your Education section is most effective.
List all languages spoken fluently, can included conversational as well if relevant for the job. Can also list in the Skills Summary to save space.
4. Technical Skills
This section is typically used in replace of the Skills Summary for individuals in the IT space.
In 98% of cases I recommend not including interests, even for New Grads. However there are times when it does add value. For example, if you are applying for a job in the arts and you are dedicated to that community include it. If you happen to know who the hiring manager is and their interests then definitely list any shared ones! But this is another section that should not put you onto another page, if it does then please leave it out!
Take the must haves, sprinkle in the optional components that make sense for you and your job search and you will end up with a winning resume that will lead to interviews.
I also have a handy checklist that you can download for free that will help guide you while writing it. Sign up here to get it!
I’m curious, what optional sections have you included that really added value to your resume?
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.