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Dress for a Job Fair not The Beach

For a while, I thought that I might start a blog about the job-hunting tips I learned while I was unemployed. Still, it never really got off the ground, and I have a hard enough time making sure I have new(ish) content for this blog, so it died a quiet death, but I do feel I have a few useful hints (IMHO) for folks, so I will be sprinkling these tips in over the next little while.

This current post was triggered by another blogger posting 6 Tips for Working a Career Fair, which is one of the places you should be frequenting if you are looking for a job. These events are effectively cattle calls and you don’t expect to get a job when attending this kind of event, but you might make contact or meet someone you know who may help you out later, so I think following these is not a complete waste of time.

I have worked these events from both sides (candidate and hiring company), and I can assure you of a few things that will quickly get your resume and contact information moved to file 13 very quickly (look this up, it’s an old Mainframe term):

  • Dump your resume on the desk or table and walk away. I don’t care if you are not a “people person”. You need to introduce yourself at least, say hello and attempt to have at least a 1-minute talk with who(m)ever is working the booth. If they give you the brush-off, that is fine. Maybe don’t leave your resume, but YOU are looking for the job, not them.
  • Arrogance, which is not well-founded, is a killer for me. If you are good at what you do but act like you don’t want my job, and you tell me that, I’ll grant your wish (i.e. I will lose your resume). You can be confident and sure of yourself, but it is a fine line between that and arrogance.
  • Simply show up and start taking the “swag” from the table before talking to anyone. Yes, it is supposed to be free stuff, but come on, you need a free pen that bad?
  • Dress like you are going to the beach.
Flip Flops
Great for Squashing Bugs, not so much for Job Fairs

That last one is my pet peeve. I have had other recruiters tell me that it doesn’t matter to them if potential candidates are dressed highly casually, but it does to me. If you show up wearing “flip-flops” (or thongs to my Australian friends), jean shorts and an unbuttoned shirt, what am I to think? I am most likely standing there in a “business casual” outfit, and you are saying to me, “I am this good that I don’t need to dress up to get this job”, or worse, “Your job is so unimportant to me that I can’t find a decent outfit and some shoes to find out about it”.

I did have one young woman walk in dressed like this, and I asked her, “… were you off to the beach today?”, and when she gave me a blank stare back, I explained my point of view, to which she walked away without leaving her resume (oh well).

What Should You Do?

Go to the Job Fairs, make connections, collect cards from folks, and talk to other folks to find out how they are searching for jobs (but remember, don’t spend too much time talking to other unemployed folks. They don’t have jobs, you should be talking to folks who DO have jobs). Please dress like you want a job (not want to go to the beach).

Other Job Hunting Tips

Feel Free to Comment

  1. what’s worse is when someone comes to the interview and looks great and then shows up on the 2nd day with a whole bunch of piercings in their face and you can’t do anything because of antidiscrimination laws

  2. How you present yourself at these fairs will mean success or failure. It starts with what you wear, but your resume and any discussion will leave a lasting impression. Simply said, it shows how serious you are about the position or looking in general.

  3. Dumping a resume is like showing up for class. Nobody really notices unless the class is really small. If you are the only person dumping your resume, it will get noticed. But at a career fair, you are competing for attention with hundreds of other resume dumpers. Anything that gets attention without making you look unprofessional or undesirable to an employer is fair game. At very least try to talk to whomever you can. Leave them something that will leave an impression, besides your resume (if possible). Try to set up an appointment to meet later, without getting too pushy. Get their business card and send a follow-up letter, just as you would after every interview.

    Grab their attention and show your enthusiasm, yes. Dumping your resume will at best, not grab their attention – at worst, show a lack of enthusiasm.

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