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Thoughts Job Fairs - Everything Else

In my last post, I talked about what to wear at a job fair to help improve your chances of success. In this post, I’ll mention a couple of tips to keep your resume out of the trash.

Don’t be weird

I would hope this goes without saying, but just don’t be weird when you’re meeting all of these companies. You’ve got 1-2 minutes to make yourself memorable and entice these people to tell their bosses to interview you. If you’re an oddball, it probably won’t happen.

I can only explain this with examples:

  • One guy talked to me about a job, but he had his two young children running and playing around him (and thus me). If you’re looking for a job, leave the kids at home with your spouse, parents, babysitter, whatever… They’re really distracting.

  • Interviews are a two-way street, where each person should be interviewing the other to see if there is a mutual fit. The same goes, to a lesser extent, for meeting company reps at a job fair. I want to know if you’ll be a good employee, you’ll want to know if my company is good to work for. I had one person who spent about 5 straight minutes aggressively (almost angrily) GRILLING me about my company, business, opportunities, interview process, timelines, etc… I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise, but this gave me a perfect look into his very dominant personality and I knew I would never want to work with him.

  • Much like in interviews, leave out comments about age, gender, politics, religion, nationalities, etc…

JFG (job fair goer) [reading my nametag] “Suresh Joshi… What’s your background?”

Me - “Umm… Indian?”

JFG - “Oh, I wouldn’t have guessed. You’re too light…”

Me - [WTF?]“Oh, well, I’m north Indian, and I guess we’re lighter up there” [insert my very quizzical expressions]

JFG - “Oh, is that how it works? Ohhhhh”

Me - “Umm… Yeah?”

JFG - “Well, I’m. Just. Plain. WHITE!”

Me - “…”

The problem is that this guy was actually a really good candidate before this interaction. Then I wrote “Nice guy, kinda weird” on his resume.

Read the blurb

I came up with a theory about job fairs, so over the past few years I’ve kept track of the stats every time I’ve been an employer at one. My theory was “if you just know what the company does, you’re better than 85-90% of the other applicants”. What this means is that when you’re at a job fair, and they hand out the booklet listing all the employers, if you just READ THE BLURB, you’ll already be in the top 10% of applicants.

I’ve met well over 500 people directly at these job fairs, and under 40 people knew what was written about my company in the company description. What that means is that over 460 people asked “So, what do you guys do?” to a job that they then submitted a resume to.

That is frickin’ ludicrous! By reading 5 lines in a book, people increased their chances of getting an interview with my company by a factor of about 10.

Also, the quality of applicant at a typical job fair is depressingly low. On a grading scale of A, B, C (‘A’ means it’s a definite follow-up and interview, ‘B’ means to re-review the resume more closely, ‘C’ means to immediately recycle the resume), I gave out maybe 10 A’s in total… That means there were 10 people out of 500 who impressed me enough for me to want to say ‘Yes, I want to speak with you more’. That is so sad, it’s funny. There were about 150 B’s, and the rest C’s.

Before anyone thinks I’m just really harsh, I’ll point out two factors that really hammers home my lack of A’s:

  • About 5-10% of the people I met, I had actually already met and chatted with at a previous job fair (same company). They would give me their pitch, forgetting we had met 4-6 months earlier, and when I told them, the response was “Oh okay, well I’m still looking and I saw that you had some positions posted”

  • About 60% of the C’s came as a result of this statement, in response to me asking “So, what do you want to work on at [COMPANY]”: “I’ll take whatever there is”.

If you ever hear yourself saying, “I’ll take whatever there is” when a potential employer asks you the question I asked, just take back your resume, and walk away. It’s a waste of paper otherwise.

What SHOULD you do?

I’d love to have one of those “11 things to do to guarantee yourself the job” kind of posts, but frankly, it’s easier than that. Just do the three things I mentioned:

  1. Dress well, but not too well

  2. Read the company’s blurb

  3. Be a human

Honestly, that’s it. Do that, and you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.

Another little tricklet I would highly recommend is to select 5 companies that you want to work for (in advance of the job fair). From there, learn everything you can about them and the jobs they’re hiring for, and then write a custom resume for each of those 5 companies. Nothing generic, but rather something targeted at them.

That would be a distant 4th recommendation.