Personality and presentation key to career fair success

How to prepare for the upcoming Black Press Career Fair in Langley on May 11

GT Hiring Solutions says being prepared for a career fair can make or break your chance at impressing a potential employer. (Jenna Hauck/Progress file)

First impressions can make or break a job opportunity.

So, when planning to attend the Black Press Career Fair on May 11, taking some extra time to prepare beforehand will go a long way.

There will be dozens of potential employers at the fair, each looking to recruit for their companies. To stand out from the crowd, there are a few tips job seekers should keep in mind.

“People always say be yourself,” says Danny Horner, a facilitator for GT Hiring Solutions (WorkBC) in Chilliwack. “I agree to a certain extent. But for an employer if you’re going to have 1,000 people walking through the doors, well, what is it about these people that is going to make these employers say yes?”

He tells his clients to dress business casual for career fairs. For those who aren’t sure what that means, he has this advice.

“If you don’t know what it is, Google it, find some images, and wear that,” he says. “At the very minimum, you will look like you care about yourself, and that tells them you’ll represent their business.”

While Horner says it is somewhat overused advice, it’s crucial to remember to be clean, tidy and organized.

“This is the first thing they are looking for,” he says. “People are evaluating or judging, and if you don’t pass that first initial test of, ‘I take care of myself’, then they’re not going to be interested.

That goes for all types of career fair visitors. Horner says fairs are great for students looking for career ideas, for people who want to improve their employment, and for those who are entering or re-entering the work force.

Job seekers should be ready with resumes and cover letters in hand, tailored to the industry they are looking to enter. And students should come prepared with a notebook and pen, along with questions to ask recruiters.

“You should have questions in mind and have an idea of the employers you want to go see, so the conversations are good and effective,” Horner says.

And it’s important to remember that employers are looking for more than just skills and qualifications.

“They are looking for the two Ps,” Horner says, “Personality, but also your presentation.”

They are looking at your body language, your communication skills and confidence.

“As a job seeker, you’ve got to know what job you’re going after. Know your focus,” he says. “Find the employers that fit your focus.”

From there, he recommends building targetted resumes for those employers. Bring those to the career fair, but also bring along some general resumes. Career fairs can open a job seeker’s eyes to an industry or employer they hadn’t considered, and it’s good to be prepared for that as well.

WorkBC (GT Hiring Solutions in Chilliwack) is a resource available to all British Columbians, adds Horner. And connecting with their offices can help with the job search immensely.

“We provide resources for people who may not have internet access, phones, copiers, at no cost,” he says. They also provide case management and workshops for their clients and the general public focused on improving anyone’s work situation.

“For example, I do this workshop, called Check Up From The Neck Up,” he says. “We go through the different categories of our lives. We ask, ‘Where do I want to be in the future? One year from now? Five years from now?

He said it’s not just about the job search, but using the time to improve a client’s life overall. And it’s impossible to know when someone’s career path may change.

“It’s not uncommon at least one time in a person’s life, for whatever reason, to be job searching,” he says. “The cool thing about our industry is we’re not always necessarily fixing somthing that’s broken. There’s always stuff we could all brush up on. It’s about working with people strengths.”

The Black Press Career Fair takes place on Thursday, May 11, at the Langley Events Centre (7888 200 St.), from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., featuring more than 100 employers ready to hire and give career search advice and post-secondary direction. Check out our Facebook page for more details.

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