Hiring events, like career fairs, can be fantastic ways to meet and learn more about local employers… and for them to get to know what you’re like beyond your resume!
There’s just one thing — networking can feel like a daunting task especially if you’re looking for a job. Even just the mention of it can be enough to stir up the feeling of butterflies. While it gets easier with a little time and practice (I promise), in the meantime it’s useful to have a toolkit of tips you can use to help you prepare for these events.
Here are some of the strategies that I’ve used in the past — they’ve helped me walk into hiring events feeling more comfortable, confident, and ready to make a great impression.
Find out who will be there
Whether it’s a recruitment fair, a networking event, or a panel, be sure to check out the event page to find out exactly who will be in attendance. Another great way to find out who you can expect to meet is to check out social media. Companies will often post which events they’ll be attending, and you can easily stay updated by following their career pages and social media profiles.
While there are sure to be lots of employers you’ll want to meet, it’s not realistic to expect to be able to make contact with each and every one of them. Identify the companies you’re most interested in and make a list. When you get to the event, make it your priority to go to them first. This way, you’ll make the connections that matter to you and if you still have time, you can go learn about other employers as well.
Once you’ve figured out who you want to talk to, put your detective skills to work and do some more research on the companies you’re interested in. Look at their websites to learn about what they do, their values, their culture, and of course, what jobs they’re hiring for!
Have a look at their social media profiles too — employers will often post about their team, company events, and projects that they’re working on. Look for @mentions in stories or hashtags in posts to learn more about the people you could be working with and to get a feel for the culture from their perspective.
Pro Tip! Try to find out if there is a hashtag that’s used when team members share posts about their own experiences with the company — for example, check out the #TeamThinkific hashtag on Instagram. It can be a great way to get an inside look at the culture directly from the source!
Ask thoughtful questions
One of the most common mistakes that people make is to ask superficial questions, like “What does your company do?” or “What are you hiring for?” Recruiters and hiring managers hear these questions countless times at career fairs and there are a couple of reasons to avoid them.
These are probably the first things that come to mind when you’re first thinking about a company, which means they’ll also be the first thing that many other people at the event will be asking about. When you put more thought into your questions, you show companies that you’re interested (because you’ve done some research already) and you have a better chance of sticking out from the crowd (because you’re not asking the exact same thing everyone else is).
You also want to be making the most of your face time with companies at these events. If the answer to your question is something that you could find on your own through the company website or by doing a quick Google search, then you’re wasting an opportunity to dig deeper and find answers you won’t find online. Instead of asking how long the company has been around for, ask a specific question about a role you’re interested in, or about something you’ve seen on the website that you’re curious to learn more about.
What to remember
If you’re looking for a job, it’s always a great idea to bring some updated copies of your resume (and a portfolio if you have one). Keep in mind that most companies now use applicant tracking systems, so not every company will take a copy and you may be asked to apply online instead. Don’t be discouraged by this — it’s not a reflection on you but instead, is a way to streamline the process (as you would probably be asked to apply online later anyways).
While you want to make sure you’re able to make a great impression with a company, another important consideration is people’s time. Remember that at these hiring events, there are lots of other attendees who are looking to make their own connections as well. Recruiters typically also want the chance to connect with these candidates and spread the word about working at their companies. Choose one or two impactful questions to ask, listen intently, and then thank them for their time to allow them to chat with the next person in line. Manners matter!
The day is over — you’ve gone to the event, met everyone you wanted to, and have finally made it home but the work isn’t done quite yet. You’ve got to follow up!
One of the easiest ways to do this is to look up the people you spoke with on LinkedIn and connect with them digitally. Whenever you’re connecting with a new contact, be sure to include a personalized message to stand out. Recruiters get connection requests all the time (especially after events) so you’ll want to mention where you met and include something from your conversation to help them remember you.
Most importantly, never assume that a connection at a recruiting event is enough — show initiative and take the necessary steps to keep the conversation going. If you receive a business card, take the time to send a thoughtful email to thank them for their time. If you’ve discussed a specific role at a company and are asked to apply, go to their careers page and apply!
Whether you’re getting a feel for job opportunities out there or you’re ready to make your next career move now, hopefully these tips will help put you at ease for the next hiring event you head to!
Dalena Nguyen is the Talent Branding Specialist at Thinkific. Connect with her on LinkedIn, check out more posts on Thinkific’s culture blog, and learn about the career opportunities for talented tech professionals at Thinkific!