I read an article in today’s newspaper and came away, asking myself, "Is there worse way to look for a job?" Evidently, there was a job fair downtown yesterday. 135 companies and/or employers were present and about 5,000 job seekers attended. Right off the bat, on a straight line average, that is about 37 applicants to every company. Second off the bat, I hate those odds. It all becomes just a glorified cattle call.
It was a very long article, and yet, two quotes stuck out in my mind. First, a company representative said something to the effect, "this is a great time for us to be here, as we can pick and choose who want." Second, a job applicant stated to the effect, "I just need a job, any job."
I was disappointed by the arrogance of the representative and profoundly saddened by the desperation in the job applicant's statement. The article quoted several more applicants and they all sounded the same theme of needing a job, any job. Of course, I am sure not all 5,000 folks there were desperate. Some, no doubt, were well qualified, well prepared individuals. But why quote them; they would not make for a very good narrative.
Back to my initial question, "Is there worse way to look for a job?" At the moment, I cannot think of another way worst than this. Sure, the success rate for mass mailing resumes to job postings online or in the paper is probably as low as finding a job at a fair. Yet, what people hope for the most in attending these things is also what can be the most crushing.
Most applicants think, "Well, if I can just see a live, breathing human being, I just know I can sell him on me." With that, people attend these sessions with hopes high and expectations great. And for most, the let down is just as bad. Because it gets back to the mindset of the representatives and recruiters attending, and that attitude is one of arrogance and, "great, we get to pick and choose the steers we want."
Life changing jobs and meaningful jobs come when the employer has a need and the applicant can feel that need. But to the degree possible it has to be on equal footing. The company brings its needs and problems to the table. The applicant brings solutions and answers to the table. Both sit at the table. At a job fair like the one held downtown yesterday, it was standing room only.
All that said, if you are going to attend a job fair, you must do, at the minimum, these things:
1. Get a list of companies that will be attending. With this list, narrow it down to the top ten you most would like to work for. If there are going to be 100 or 150 companies in attendance, you can make a second tier list of 10 companies.
For the first, ten companies; do some research via the internet and find some history on the companies. Look at recent articles that talk about their future plans, what their challenges are. Contact the firm organizing the job fair and secure a name of at least one recruiter attending for those companies.
2. Prepare a separate cover letter and resume targeted specifically to those ten companies. You want to take some generic resume to drop off willy-nilly, fine. But for the top ten companies, your cover letter and resumes must be targeted and addressed to them.
3. Wear your best suit to the job fair. I do not care how hot it is outside. You will be amazed by people who do not. Do not wear blue jeans or slacks or anything other than a conservative, two piece suit. This is serious and you must dress the part.
4. Get there early or get there late, but do not go in the middle. If you go in the middle, you will get lost. Be the first to see them and have your resume at the bottom. Or see them last and have your resume at the top of the pile, but do not leave your resume in the middle of the pile.
5. After you have seen your top ten, you can walk over to the second tier group, or just drop resumes off here and there. Actually, I recommend you go to the parking lot after you have seen your top ten and end your day. In the parking lot, immediately write out thank you notes to the people you saw and mail the letters that day; not tomorrow or the next week, but that day.
If you are going to attend a job fair, then be one of those who come prepared and has a purpose. Please do not be one of those, "I just need a job, any job, it has been so long…" applicants desperate for anything. Because if that is going to be your mindset, then I guarantee you will not be the steer that gets chosen.
Although not a job getting guru, H. Kim’s been around the block a couple of time. So, come over and take a look at some of the strategies, tips and advice, a few laughs and a couple of words of wisdom that he’s dispensing, plus his great list of resources at www.landingonyourfeet.com/resources/cover-letter-review"> Landing on Your Feet Blog.