Convention Connection

Your next job may be as close as a professional conference. Here's how to work it on the job fair circuit.

interviewing other candidates, and many times it comes down to the small differences.” If you expect to move beyond the conference booth, remain cognizant of the expectations of the recruiter. Here’s a peek at what recruiters are looking for in recruits:

  • Style of dress. “Some recruiters may be [dressed] business casual, for example, but that doesn’t mean you should be,” says Carr. Specifically, this refers to the job fair. However, when not at a job fair or another event that requires a suit, for example, it’s better to be conservative in khakis than to be too casual in jeans.
  • How you sell yourself. Competition is fierce, so recruiters are looking for individuals “that can state their skills without defining them too narrowly,” says Small. For example, “if you’re more than an engineer, say a material engineer with a concentration in polymers,” then say so. You’ve got to be very zealous, Small advises, and one way to do so is to expand on your skills through your résumé.

“The golden ticket is always a well-prepared résumé. It should be two pages, max, and it needs to be done in a format that’s simple,” says Balun. “Make sure it’s scannable. Don’t use special fonts because they may [reproduce poorly]; limit the amount of [boldface type] and [don't make your résumé too wordy.]” Highlight areas that directly reflect your contributions in various positions you’re applying for at the conference. For example, point out management or leadership roles. Also, if you’ve worked on projects, make sure the recruiter can find the information quickly; they will show that you’re a team player.
Show your interest. Ask questions about the company and don’t regurgitate a company brochure. From a recruiter’s point of view, Carr says, “the true gauge [of your interest] is actually talking to people who work with the company. Ask the recruiter, ‘What is it that [your company] is looking for?’” That way, you know if what you offer fits with the company’s goals.

In short, “Everything you do up until the point where you’re offered a job goes into their database,” says Portia Kibble Smith, an executive development recruiting manager at Sprint in Overland Park, Kansas. “So you want to make sure every interaction that you have with a potential employer is a positive one.”

FOLLOW-UP
There is a way to say thank you. Send a note. Identify who you are and the function where you met the recruiter, and say thanks for the advice, talk, interview or even time. It’s a gesture of courtesy to the recruiter, and it gives you more points over the competition. (See “Perfect Your Follow-Through,” Powerplay, this issue.)

Now that you know what to do to get a job at a professional conference, put the info to use and work it on the job-fair circuit. Happy hunting!

Strictly confidential
Unsure about how to keep your job search on the down-low?
Follow these tips to secure a new job without jeopardizing the old one in the interim:

  1. Tell the recruiter that your conversation is in confidence.
  2. Don’t job hunt openly
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