As a cleared, transitioning veteran, you have two distinct advantages when you meet employers. A security cleared career fair is one of the best ways to gain access to them. But while they offer the opportunity for face time with potential employers, the impression you make hinges on the prep time you put in before you meet them. If you walk in the door with hope and a clearance, you may get lucky. But you up your chances by adding strategy. The nature of the job market is changing all the time. Anymore, great impressions come down to relevance and memorable conversations. If you can stand out, you have a better chance of getting in.
Forget the elevator speech – That two-minute presentation you’ve been taught to practice works great in job interviews because you have the hiring manager’s full attention. But a job fair is different. Company representatives will talk to hundreds of job seekers and their attention will be divided. Instead of the elevator speech, think Super Bowl ad. In thirty-seconds, introduce yourself by name, relevant experience and career goals. Clearly and in short form, provide the most critical details; who, what and why. This allows for more conversation and frankly, it’s easier on both of you. A good example: Extend a hand shake with, “Hello, my name is John Smith. I’m a security cleared software developer with eight years of training and experience in the Army. I’m interested in continuing in my field and specifically, I’d like to work for Company X.” That’s enough information for the representative to assess immediately. It opens for the door for more exchange and perks their interest in learning more about you.
When it comes to introductions, think about a 30-second Super Bowl ad – make a clear presentation of your top skills, as quickly as possible.
Investigate your targets – Once you learn about a job fair, take some time to investigate the companies that are participating. Use their websites to learn more about what they do, their size, locations, work culture and who they hire. Take names and let them loose on social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. They offer profile information and relevant, updated details about subjects they are interested in, write about and post. Start making a list of the companies that appeal to you and notate some of the reasons why.
Tier the requirements – Once you’ve got a list, map it out by priorities. If you only had an hour, which of the companies would you like to get to first? That’s tier one. It should include between four and five companies. Your second tier would include four or five companies that appeal to you almost as much as the first tier. Finally, list some contenders; companies you’re not familiar with but still interest you. That done, that’s your map for the event.
Tailor your resume specifically to your list – It matters that your resume is typo-less and reader-friendly. But it’s equally important to tailor your resume to the companies whose representatives you’re going to meet and want to impress. You may need more than one type, depending on how you plan to present your skills. Once you’ve decided on which resume or resumes you’re going to need, look at the number of companies on your list. Consider having at least three copies per company and a few extras so you don’t come up short if a particular company is manned by two to three individuals.
It’s not over when it’s over – There will be plenty of take-aways from a job fair, but among them should be a handful of business cards and contact information. The final task is to continue making a great impression by showing a little gratitude. Follow up with a thank you email. Along with indicating your pleasure about having met them personally, indicate your interest in working for them. If possible, add a line about something a representative said or something you learned. This shows vision, keen interest and attention to detail. Making it personal often has a professional benefit.