This week, I had the opportunity to attend one of the largest Job Fairs here in the Seattle area. No, I wasn't LOOKING for a job... was helping a business partner staff their booth. It was eye-opening to me because I'd never attended one before. Yes, certainly I had the basic idea of what occurs in one, but having never attended, I wasn't certain.
My business partner is in the "business" of providing career development services to individuals and organizations. And, because of that, "we" were in the position of giving candidates advice on their job search. As a content-development partner for them, I had a first-hand look at how the advice I give professionals about their social skills is truly a strategic tool in their job search, and, frankly, at any point in their career.
Some of it is SO basic, or should be. Yet, too many people just don't have the right tools. For example, it takes 27 seconds to make a first impression. I had several job searchers approach our booth and the first sentence out of their mouth was, literally, "What jobs are you hiring for?" Uh, where's the foreplay? You could at least start with "hello" or introduce yourself. Of those valuable 27 seconds you had to make that impression, what picture did your opening sentence present to me? It is so simple to just use a few different words, a slightly different approach, and you'd have a better chance of getting a foot in the door.
Others asked what advice I could give them about being more successful at the job fair. Well, it became patently obvious that with 3600 job seekers coming through in a 4-hour span, not a single person was going to get hired on the floor. And nearly everyone was there to try to get their foot in the door with a prospective employer. It was gun-shot fashion.
So, my best word of advice was: don't do what others are doing. Everyone is there pitching themselves, and as I explain in my book, people have a natural aversion to being "sold." So, don't go to the Job Fair with the plan of trying to sell yourself.
Instead, consider just making contact with potential employers. I suggested they do this: ask the recruiter this question - "What are three things you would say an ideal candidate for your company would have?" Listen to what they have to say, and, make a note of it. Get a card, keep this information handy so that when you contact the recruiter to follow up a few days after the Job Fair, you have a way to connect with him/her in a direct way that is head-and-shoulders better than just foisting a resume on them.
If you follow up with a note later that says, in essence "I met you at XYZ Job Fair this week to discuss opportunities with you." Then, you indicate that the recruiter named three things/skills the ideal candidate would possess and then highlight how your job experience, skills or talents fit those ideal characteristics, you stand a much better chance of making a positive impression.
However, when you cite those three things, make sure they genuinely match who you are or what you've done. Don't stretch the truth because it will come out at some point in the interview process. You must be genuine. That also means being genuinely interested in the job they have. If you just want an informational interview, by all means say that. But don't lead them on just to get a foot in the door. If you don't fit their needs, don't waste your time...or theirs.
It's all basic Manners 101 -- "Treat others the way you want to be treated." It's very simple, but there are lots of ways you can use that in both your interviewing process and all throughout your career. That's how today's business leaders "...stand out and be successful."