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We all know that searching for a job is difficult in today’s economy, and attending job fairs is a method of obtaining employment that is growing in popularity. A job fair, also known as a career fair or career expo, is an event for employers, recruiters, and schools to meet with prospective job seekers (you!). To ensure your trip to a job fair is successful, there are three steps that you need to follow: assess your audience, conduct some research, and prepare your portfolio.

1) Assess your audience. The first step in maximizing the effectiveness of your job fair experience is to assess your audience – the employers that will be attending the fair. Is the job fair industry-specific, or is it general? Determining what industry the employers are in will help you in the preparation and customization of your resume and other career-related documents.

2) Conduct some research. When applying for a job with a specific company, knowing some background information about the company or the job itself can impress employers. Consider looking on popular job boards (CareerBuilder, Monster, Indeed, etc.) to see what jobs are currently posted by the companies attending the job fair, and then determine if you are interested in them. Researching a company not only demonstrates your dedication, it also shows potential employers that you have a genuine interest in the company’s future. This can go a long way in securing an interview.

3) Prepare your portfolio. Once you know what employers will be at the job fair, and some information about the company/job you are interested in, you can prepare your portfolio accordingly. For a resume to be effective, it needs to show employers your skills and abilities relevant to their company and/or industry. If the job fair is hosting companies that operate in the aerospace industry, for instance, you should tailor your cover letter, resume, and other documents specifically towards the aerospace industry. Most job fairs, however, include a diverse range of employers in several industries. To prepare for this, have multiple copies of your resume with you that are targeted towards the different areas you specialize in. For instance, if you specialize in marketing, HR, and sales, have multiple copies of each resume (marketing, HR, sales) with you to hand out to employers, based on the jobs they have available. Submitting custom-tailored resumes will greatly increase your chances of getting an interview.

In summary, spend some time planning your next trip to a career fair. By evaluating the invited companies, performing a little research, and bringing customized versions of your resume to the event, you significantly improve your marketability and personal brand.

By Drew Roark