Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Veterans: How to Avoid 5 Fatal Job Fair Mistakes

Orion Navy NCO and SNCO Recruiter Sultan Camp recently published a blog post for Every Veteran Hired that illustrates five job fair mistakes that veterans often make. Check out an excerpt below and visit Every Veteran Hired for the full article.

It never fails. I’m at a job fair looking for high-performing, motivated professionals to place into great opportunities with our Fortune 500 client companies. Yet I walk away every time shaking my head in disbelief at how many seasoned officers and NCOs blow their chance to get hired.
Here are five fatal mistakes most military job seekers make at career fairs, and how you can avoid making them:

1. You Have No Idea Why You’re Here

Most folks think the key to job fair success is to “dress smartly and bring lots of resumes.” Well, what if I told you that you don’t go to job fair to get a job? To go a little further, DON’T BRING ANY RESUMES!!!
You’re probably a little shocked right now, because this flies against everything you’ve been told in your transition. I’ll ease your inner conflict and tell you that job fairs are an absolute must on your to do list, but not for the reasons you think. (As for the resume thing, we’ll get to that in a bit.)
One of the critical first steps of your job search strategy is to have a targeted list of companies. Before you invest your time and money to attend a job fair, you must have a sense of what industries and companies can utilize your skill sets and have opportunities in your geographic preferences.
Many folks disregard the smaller companies they’ve never heard of before. This is a HUGE mistake! You should actually target and start off with the smaller companies. Why? Well, let’s get to the basics of business. Job fairs cost a lot in terms of money and time away from the office. If a smaller company is willing to invest that level of commitment and resources to a job fair, it’s far more likely they have an immediate vacancy they’re trying to fill. Even better, there’s a very high probability that a hiring decision-maker will be present at the booth.
Another mistake many job seekers make at a job fair? They wait in the long lines at the front of the fair to speak with the “big box” employers. Instead, be smart and start at the physical rear of the job fair and work your way forward. Here’s the strategy behind this: Some of us recruiters don’t want to pay the big bucks to get the prime real estate at the front. We’re typically twiddling our thumbs, because everyone is bottlenecked up there. Your reward for taking this approach is that you get more one-on-one interaction time, while your less-informed competition is wasting precious networking opportunities standing in line to talk to someone who generally doesn’t have any authority to hire them. Your win.
You may be wondering why I said you weren’t at a job fair to get a job. Well, your reason to attend a job fair is to grow your professional network. (Click here to tweet this thought.) If, in the process, a genuine connection is made, that’s serendipity at work and you’ve become the one-in-a-million job fair hire story. Always remember this so you stay focused on your reason for being at the event.

2. You Can’t Tell Me What You Can Do for Me

Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re watching TV, and a commercial comes on that looks like a resume (and sounds like one, too). How long would it take for you to change the channel? Likewise, you have about 10-15 seconds to give me a reason to continue listening to you. You have to craft your elevator speech towards the positions you know my company is typically hiring for, while at the same time expressing how your skills match.
And please don’t give me the “I’m a transitioning…yada yada.” That tells me that you haven’t done anything with your elevator speech since you practiced it in a transition course, and it “sounded good” to someone who has never hired or placed someone in years — or possibly ever. There’s no substitute for hard work here. That’s why focus is important.
In 2014, in the age of smartphones, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to tell me about what my company does and how you can add value to my clients and customers. You should be seizing on the opportunity to use all of your branch of service’s outplacement resources to test drive your elevator speech before you even get to a job fair. Those professionals will provide you with frank, candid feedback. Trust me, your friends and family will tell you that your elevator speech sounds great, but my fellow recruiters and I have to mentally check out when you tell us you’re a “leader” and that you can “manage.”
We recruiters don’t like dealing with generalities. So, how do you engage our attention?Lead off with your technical skills — such as your degree, certifications and hard skills — before you even think about talking about the transferable ones. Take it from me, save sharing your transferable skills until I’m really interested and ask you to elaborate a little more about yourself after your 10-second promo. Please don’t wing your elevator speech. If you do, you’re likely to be tuned out.

Want to read about the next three mistakes, so you can avoid them? Click here to read the full post.

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