Ensuring Success at a Job Fair

Tony writes:
I will be attending a job fair to seek employment opportunities in human resources.
I have a few questions regarding this job fair to ensure I am as successful as possible.
First I sent an e-mail to the point of contact for the job fair and asked for an
advanced list of the employers who will be in attendance. My purpose was to do
some research on each employer so I could be more knowledgeable when I spoke
to their representative. However I was told at the request of their company
sponsors (as to avoid massive “pre job fair calls” to participating companies)
they were are not at liberty to release that information to me. What should I do?
Second regarding resumes and cover letters should I include a cover letter when
I provide copies? If so how should I address them if I don’t have a specific
name to address it to. Other research has told me to never address to “To
Whom It May Concern.” Should I print them on official “resume” paper and
place in a “resume” folder to hand out?

The Career Doctor responds:
I always appreciate job-seekers who do their research and I applaud you for
your diligence in trying to make a positive impression at this job fair.
To your first question. I find it extremely odd — and a bit worrisome — that
the job-fair organizer would not provide you with the list of organizations
attending. Seems kind of shady to me. You are absolutely correct in your
belief that it’s important to conduct research on the prospective employers
so that you can stand out from the crowd at the job fair. That’s just one of
many strategies job-seekers can undertake to help guarantee success. I
would either try calling back and talk with someone different or see if the job
fair has a Website. While it’s true employers don’t want to get bogged
down with phone calls all want informed job-seekers and ideally most of
these organizations have Websites where you could conduct your research.
To your second question. No need for cover letters at job fairs — and yes
never address a cover letter to whom it may concern. If you get the list of
employers the ideal scenario is to tailor copies of your resume to each
employer also taking along some copies of your generic resume in case
there are last-minute additions to the hiring companies there. I think most
employers are fine with getting resumes on plain printer paper but if you
want to stand out a heavier weight paper often does make a nice first
impression — and that’s especially important at a job fair. No need for a folder
because all the resumes they collect will go in a pile (or two) but do be
sure to have them in a portfolio or folder before you present them so that
they stay as pristine as possible.
Find more advice and resources related to job and career fairs in this section of
Quintessential Careers: Job
Expo and Career Fair Resources

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