Job fairs connect you directly to the hiring managers. Follow these job fair tips for success. [TWEET]

Job fairs: love them or hate them, they are the springboard for most post-college careers. It is at these events that students mingle with business executives, hiring managers, and recruiters representing organizations ranging from the Fortune 500 to the small business down the street.

Career fairs are offered in a variety of formats. Some are pre-scheduled on campus for college students, while others include industry-specific positions for professionals. All have one purpose – a chance to connect companies with potential job candidates.

Are you preparing for a job fair? To make the most out of these events and put their best foot forward, students – and non-students alike – should set aside time to take the following steps.

The early bird gets the worm.

One of many job fair tips is this: register early for the event. This opens up more availability for first-come-first-served meetings and training sessions. Some job fairs even allow pre-registrants to submit a copy of their resumes to attending companies, a major advantage over other job seekers.

Do your homework.

As you prepare for a job fair, research the companies you want to visit. There may be well over a hundred companies attending the fair, so use your time wisely and efficiently to increase your chances of success. Look for each company online and check out their available job listings. Pay attention to the company’s About Us page, its mission statement, values, and employee commitment statements, which will reflect whether the work environment will be a good fit.

Visit the office supplies store.

Most hiring managers and recruiters want to see your resume. A smart job fair preparation tactic is to take the time to look it over and update it before each career event. Hiring a professional resume writer would also be a wise step. They can give your resume a polished design that will stand out from the competition. Business cards and portfolios are another nice touch. Leave your business card with every recruiter with whom you speak. Be proud of your accomplishments and prove what you can bring to the company.

Dress for success.

Hiring managers report that dressing inappropriately is one of the most common mistakes attendees make at job fairs. Attendees treat the event as a shopping trip rather than an interview opportunity. Jeans and T-shirts are not appropriate for this event. Dress as you normally would for a job interview. No need for formal dress. A nice, buttoned-up shirt or blouse with dress pants (and a tie for the guys) work best. Keep this rule in mind; dress for an interview, but remember to stay comfortable. You may be on your feet for several hours.

Practice makes perfect.

When preparing for a job fair, practice for potential interviews. This helps relieve nervous jitters and those awkward moments when you don’t know the answer. Read blogs like TopResume to review interview guides and question blogs. Be prepared for the weird questions. Some career coaches recommend standing in front of a mirror or practicing with a friend. Prepare a list of questions and do a mock interview. Ask your friend to be brutally honest.

Follow up with your new connections.

After exchanging business cards, providing a copy of your resume to everyone who will take it, and interviewing with potential employers, make sure to follow up. Many employers like to wait and see who takes the initiative to make first contact. Others simply have so many applications you may get left out without a reminder. Send an email or personal letter thanking them for the opportunity about a week afterwards.

Job fairs are potentially one of the best career marketing strategies for job seekers. Rather than search hundreds of classified ads or spend countless hours filling out applications and emailing resumes, attendees are connected directly to the hiring managers and recruiters. There is no need to spend time on go-betweens. To make the most of the event, start preparing for a job fair by practicing interview questions with a friend and researching the companies. Make sure you have a plan. And, most importantly, bring multiple copies of your resume and business cards.

Need help getting your resume ready for an upcoming job fair. Request a free resume critique today!

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