As the snow starts to melt and the flowers begin to blossom, the calendar turns to one of the most exciting parts of the school year. JOB HUNTING SEASON! This is the time of year when students preparing to leave college and begin the exciting process of meeting other school districts and learning all about the networking process. But, what types of things should be considered when attending your first job fair? Dress, Resume, and Conversations should, of course, be in the front of everyone's playbook but there are several others that are equally important.
Here are 10 things that you might be thinking about as you prepare for your next job fair or interview. . . plus one very important bonus tip that I highly recommend you consider.
11 Things You Should Consider When Preparing For Your Next Job Fair
Prepare … Prepare … Prepare
When attending a job fair or interview, it can not be overstated enough. Prepare ahead of time for the big event. Make sure you have everything you need the night before.
- Have your resume's prepped, proofed, and printed and put in a folder so they don't bend.
- Make sure you have your clothes ready and pressed. If you are someone who has a habit of sweating, it might be best to take a second shirt with you.
- Check out the schools ahead of time so you know who will be there and what positions they have available. You want to make sure you are going to be hitting the right schools for you early in the day.
- Are your business cards in your jacket pocket so you can take them out at a minutes notice? They should be put in your pocket in just a way that when you reach in and extend your arm, it is properly presented to them so they read it. (it's a nice touch)
Dress For Success
There are several ways of saying “business casual” and “dress to impress.” For many, you should dress for the job you want.
- Make sure your shirt is clean and pressed. (be careful of what you have for breakfast)
- Wear comfortable shoes… you will be on your feat all day.
- Remember that you may be carrying a backpack or other item with your papers in it… don't over pack… if you need to run to your car to reload …. do it, rather than carry a heavy bag that will exhaust you during the day.
Nail Your Introduction
Your first 60 seconds with a potential employer is the most critical. You should have your game face on and be energetic, happy to be there, and overall, showing confidence.
Be prepared to answer some of the standard first questions:
- How are you today?
- Tell us a bit about yourself?
- How are you enjoying the job fair today?
- Did you travel far to get here?
- How are things these days in ____(fill in your current school district)_____
You should have canned answers for all of these questions. These questions are to get you talking. Your answers should be designed to invite those across the table to answer questions. The quicker you can engage in conversation, the easier it will be for you to relax through the interview process.
It's also best in your into to quickly mention that you have expertise in something that the school is proud of or currently deploying with their staff. It will give them an opportunity to bring up additional questions for you to converse over.
Do Your Homework
As stated in the first section, you should go in with a handful of schools you WANT to interview for. Have them well scouted. Know who their Superintendents are and the names of their Human Resource staff and perhaps the principals. It is always a great first impression when you sit down with a recruiter and ask how Dr _____ is doing.
You should also have some basic facts about the school districts prepped ahead of time:
- How many schools do they have?
- How is their building grades broken down?
- What is their mascot?
- Are they a Google or Microsoft School? (read why under the next section)
Of course, during a job fair, you may find yourself sitting in front of a school that you had not prepared and that is totally fine. This is why you have Google and can always duck in a corner to do a quick search before approaching the table with resume in hand.
Quick Tip: If you are a job fair, have someone you can trust at home prepared to feed you some important info about a school district. It's easier to use THEM for the Google search rather than doing it quickly on your phone.
Be Strategic With Your Resume
Your paper resume should be one piece of paper. I'm not a big fan of saying that it should be only one page. If you have a rather lengthy list of accomplishment, you should absolutely tout them.
Your resume should be engaging and entertaining, but it should also be something that invites questions about your history and experiences. A resume is simply a list of conversation starters. Plan your list as if it was the most important document you have ever created, but also create it as a story that your reader will use to flow through a conversation.
Think About Your Online Presence
While speaking at a local University, I once had a student tell me that their professor strongly suggested that they delete their Facebook page before they applied for future employment. I was a bit shocked at that suggestion and while I didn't know the student, nor know what was on their Facebook page, I highly recommended that the students not follow that advice.
Your online presence is vital these days as you apply for a job. Every employer is going to Google Search your name and background. Rather than telling students that they should be deleting their profiles, it is important that we teach students how to create positive online profiles.
The idea of having a paper resume combined with a strong website that goes above and beyond the information found on a single sheet of paper is what will give you the edge over another. Your resume, as stated above should be created in a way that brings on a positive conversation about your experiences. Your website is where you take those experiences and showcase them using rich media such as videos, or photo galleries.
There are many things that should be considered when creating your online resume:
- What have you done with your students?
- What types of projects have you worked on that you can showcase and talk about?
- How are you showing that you are an expert in your field?
- What have others said about you online?
Let's take a look at that last one for a moment. It's very easy to ask someone to draft a letter of recognition when looking for a job. However, to have someone go on LinkedIn or other social feeds and say something wonderful is another because there is total transparency in who said it, and what is being said. I would put much more into a LinkedIn reference than any paper letter of rec for that reason.
Remember that your resume is to be created not only as a conversation starter but as a document that entices your reader to check you out online after the interview. Make it easy for them to do this. Include your links, twitter, and perhaps a QR Code for them. Don't hide anything, let them know how awesome you are.
Social Media: What Does Google Tell Them About You?
Just as it's important to have a strong web presence, it's equally important these days to have a strong Social Media presence. These two things may sound like the same, but they are very different in several key ways.
- How are you using Social Media?
- Are you just “on Twitter” but not active? It's important to not only have these accounts but know how to use them to build a learning community for yourselves. We are still living in a world where several employers are dominant to the powers of Social, but more and more, you are finding this is not the norm.
- Who are you following?
- I'm not saying that you shouldn't have the right to follow silly parody accounts, but if all you do is go on twitter to pick on the president or out for your favorite sports teams, you aren't showing that you are using it for professional reasons.
- What are you contributing?
- This is probably the most important of all. Are you showing off how much you are an expert in your field? Are you sharing photos of your recent birthday party? There certainly can be a dividing line between professional and personal, but remember that everything you put online is fair game when being considered for employment.
Your social media is simply an extension of you. Treat it wisely and treat it with respect. Remember that nothing is hidden on the internet so you should start from the beginning down a path of positive personal, and professional, responsibility.
After the job fair, you should be prepared to follow up on your interactions with the school districts. After each sit-down interview, you should take any business cards that may be at the table and once out of sight, write down some important things about the interview so that you can create a personalized follow-up email to that school district.
Should you email, or send a letter?
If you are interested in a position in a school district, an email saying thank you is always a great idea. It's an easy way to directly reach the recruiter to say thank you. However, you should also follow up with something that they can hold and read such as a letter. You, of course, shouldn't over do it and send flowers, but a simple card with your contact information would be great and could go a long way to having them remember who you are when they have several hundred applicants.
Leave a Lasting Impression
Always remember that your job fair experience starts the moment you park your car. All eyes are on you all of the time. You never know who you will meet in the parking lot and because of a friendly “hello,” you may land a long lasting conversation or future interview.
There are several tricks that I have used througout the years that (hopefully) put an extra coat of shine on interview experiences:
- Is there something about your business cards that is memorable? My cards for example have a QR Code on one side which often leads to a nice conversation about technology.
- If you know something about the school district, you should always bring up in conversation something about their sports teams, or someething academic they are known for. It shows that you have taken the next step to invest in their programs.
- Ask to follow them on twitter, or even better, follow them on their social channels before you sit down with them. It could be a plus to say “I just noticed that you tweeted about (something wonderful), that's pretty awesome that you are doing those types of activities in your schools…. I'm looking forwrard to being apart of your team.”
Always remember that recruiters are there looking for future members of their school faculty and family. Anything you can do to show that you are a team player is a bonus that could set you apart from others and land you that second interview.
Don't Get Upset … Get Them Next Time
Like everything else you do, prepare… do your best… and then put it behind you. There are many job fairs each year and if you don't succeed the first time, you have plenty more opportunities. It's not uncommon for someone to interview with a school district at several job fairs. Taking the time to bring something different to the table is a good sign that you are interested in a particular position.
If you don't get any call backs after your first job fair, just keep going. Everday is an interview. Every Edcamp is a networking experience. If you are someone who needs to learn how to be a good interview, bring some reflections back home and try again.
Bonus Tip: Practice … Practice … Practice
As a bonus tip, I would strongly suggest that, if the calendar presents itself, try attending a job fair in a county a bit out of your travel radius. Not only is this a great opportunity to test yourself, but you never know …. you may just end up being offered a job you hadn't even considered.
I have said it time and time again …. I have never interviewed anyone for a single podcast … I have always brought people together and engaged them in meaningful conversations. This is one of the best pieces of advice that I can give anyone when preparing for their next interview of job fair. If you sit down and wait for someome to ask you questions, you will no doubt set yourself up for “being interviewed.” You should always go into these situations as prepared as posssible, and as confident as possible. Confidence equals collaboration and collaboration equals the strong potential to land a second conversation in their next round.
I hope this brief list has been helpful. I would love to invite you to use the comment section below to share your interview or job fair experiences. Good luck this year!