What Job Seekers Do Wrong at Job Fairs, from a Recruiter’s Perspective

What are job seekers doing wrong at job fairs? The things that make job seekers stumble right out of the gate. And we all know how critical first impressions are.

I talk to hundreds of job seekers at each job fair, so the contrast between a smooth, polished professional and someone who’s a bit lost and unsure of themselves can be stark.

I have empathy for the nervousness and uneasiness of job seekers. But if that happens to describe you, it’s doubly important to get the basics right. Some of the items that job seekers were doing incorrectly:

Not knowing what type of work you’re looking for. If I ask you what type of work you are seeking, “Hey, what do you have?” is not a good response. Don’t expect me to figure out your career path for you at a job fair. Research the company and the positions they’re offering.

Approach me expressing interest in a particular position(s). Transitioning military are you listening?

Asking what does your company do? Do your homework first and find the companies attending the job fair and the positions they’re seeking to fill. Or do a quick search on your smartphone.

Asking what types of jobs does your company have? Once more, it’s about preparation and respecting my time. If you haven’t done any research ahead of time, do some quickly on site.

Handing a resume to me without a greeting or introduction. You may be shy. A job fair may terrify you or make you incredibly nervous. But you’re trying to sell yourself to a potential employer and you can’t rely solely on your resume. Your interaction with a me at a job fair is an interview. Courtesy and respect are required.

Not bringing enough resumes to a job fair. Be sure to bring plenty of copies of your resume with you to a job fair. I need something to reference while you’re having a discussion.

What’s the gist of these complaints? Job seekers who are not prepared and who haven’t done their homework. You have a very short amount of time with me at a job fair. Make the most of that opportunity by being prepared and presenting yourself as a polished professional.

Resume Employment Gaps

1. Nearly a quarter of the job seekers didn’t have a LinkedIn account. The biggest offenders: Younger job seekers! All the “mature” job seekers had an account and nearly half of them had their LinkedIn account on their resume.

2. Many job seekers had resume formatting issues. Boxes, shaded lines, a variety of colors. If I take your resume at a job fair, most likely we plan to scan it into our applicant tracking system. In either case your resume will not scan properly with graphics or multiple colors. Strive for simplicity. It’s easier to read and to scan.

3. Three individuals had been out of the workforce for a long period due to family care issues asked how to address that issue on their resume. If it’s a gap in the last 10 years or so, I recommend a simple sentence with dates and a comment such as “Resolved” or “Children now in school.” It’s better to address the issue up front than hoping that no one notices.

4. About 20% of the job seekers had their security clearance or critical certifications such as CCNA buried on the second page. Please put your security clearance upfront where I can find it immediately. And critical certifications are key to your getting a job, so don’t bury them at the end of your resume.

5. About 10% of the resumes were 3-5 pages long, listing every job held in the past 25-40 years. Unless you’re applying for a job that requires 25 or 40 years of experience, don’t include it. What’s really relevant for the vast majority of job seekers is what you have achieved in the past 10 years or so.

6. The transitioning military resumes displayed one of my top pet peeves — a focus on responsibilities vs. what they achieved with those responsibilities.