How to ‘work it’ at your next hospitality career fair
Wouldn’t it be great if you could introduce yourself to multiple hospitality employers in a face-to-face setting within a single day? You actually can! You just need to attend a career fair. Unlike a job fair, which is usually hosted by a single organization to fill specific positions, a career fair – often hosted by a university or professional organization – provides hospitality job seekers with the opportunity to meet and network with dozens of different industry employers. If you ‘work it’ correctly, paying attention to the following do’s and don’ts, a career fair can be your fastest route to landing interviews and securing your next hospitality position.
And remember, you don’t have to be actively searching for a job to benefit from attending a career fair. It’s actually a great opportunity for hospitality students to learn more about the industry and what future employers may be looking for in new hires. Don’t hesitate to give one a try even if you’re still working towards your hospitality degree.
DO find out which employers will be in attendance
Most career fairs publish a list weeks in advance. Review it carefully, noting the ones that interest you most. You should then spend some time researching each of these organizations online. Check out the hotel or restaurant’s website and search online for recent news about the company. You should learn a bit about the company’s history as well as its current situation.
DO update your resume
If you haven’t worked with your resume in a while, spend some time reviewing and updating it before you attend the career fair. If you’ve found information (such as job postings or job descriptions) about the positions your target employers are trying to fill, you may want to create several versions of your resume customized with keywords pulled from those sources. Print extra copies of your general hospitality resume in case you have time to approach other employers as well.
DO prepare to answer a few essential questions
While a career fair is a great way to meet potential hospitality employers in a less formal setting than an interview, you should still expect to be asked a few introductory questions including who you are, why you are interested in hotel/restaurant XYZ, and what you bring to the table that other job seekers may not. For even better results, craft your answers to these questions into one short personal statement or “elevator pitch” that you can use when introducing yourself to the potential employers you meet.
DO plan to make a good visual impression
Dress for a career fair the same way you would for a job interview: professionally. While business casual attire is usually acceptable, torn jeans, yesterday’s t-shirt, too short skirts and teetering heels are not. And remember to make eye contact, smile and speak with energy and enthusiasm whenever you converse with a potential employer.
DON’T monopolize an employer’s time
While you should use your research to prepare one or two questions to ask each of your target employers, don’t wear out your welcome by monopolizing the employer’s time. After you’ve introduced yourself and had a short conversation, ask for a business card, shake his/her hand, and prepare to move on. You might say something like, “It was nice to meet you and I’d love to connect later to continue our conversation. Can I have your business card so I can follow up later?”
DON’T neglect to follow through
Your networking opportunities don’t end when the career fair does. Reach out to each employer that interested you within a few days. Thank them for their time conversing with you at the fair and mention something specific about your conversation to make it easier for them to remember you. You can then ask any questions you were unable to ask prior, reiterate your interest in opportunities at their establishment, and let them know you’re available to continue the conversation at their convenience.