Attention job seekers!
I have two words: job fair.
Yup, party-time for your career search. Lace up, dress up—this is sort of like speed dating for job seekers—high hopes and trepidation included.
But you got this. Especially after I give you the scoop on the whole kit and caboodle, straight from the mouths of the recruiters who attend. I have the four secrets for military job fair success!
Jim O’Donnell: Lead of the military and veteran recruiting team at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Kaitlin Carroll: Navy veteran and a former recruiter for the Canyons Resort.
Both have agreed to give us here at G.I. Jobs an insider view of the expectations and goals of their companies and how you can arrive prepared and polished. So get out your notebooks folks, there will be a quiz tomorrow morning.
And be sure to bring that notebook to the upcoming G.I. Jobs Virtual Career Expo, where you can chat one-on-one with recruiters looking to hire veterans. Registration is free, but seats are limited, so be sure to reserve your spot at the link below today!
1.) What to Expect
Job fairs can be the place of first impressions. You just may walk out of the event the proud new owner of an offer letter. Be ready to land the job. You may suddenly find yourself conducting an on-site interview, and it’s possible in some situations to fast-track the hiring process.
Kaitlin: One should always assume that they could be hired on the spot. The reason for this is that if I find a candidate that I truly believe is the best person for the job, I have hand-walked their application through the entire hiring process.
This is the place to shop and exchange information on your qualifications and company needs. In some ways the job fair experience can be like pulling the lever on a slot machine for both the companies and candidates in attendance. Everyone is looking for the best match. Recruiters want to find the right candidate; the candidates want to find the right job and company. Job fairs can allow one-on-one exposure for both sides of the equation. For some companies, job fairs are an opportunity to put the word out on what kind of opportunities they offer.
Jim: At job fairs, our team works to ensure candidates are aware of the many different job categories we have that match the skills and experiences they gained while serving in the military.
Ultimately, when you apply or simply pass your résumé to a recruiter at a job fair, you can gain a potential leg up in the candidate pool.
Jim: It is important to note that job fairs allow candidates to meet hiring managers and recruiters in person. That is a significant difference than simply applying online. Never underestimate the value of a good first impression.
2.) Be Professional
Arrive prepared with copies of your most recent résumé. Do some research on the companies that will attend and get a handle on their industry, specializations and current openings. Dress with the industry in mind. Don’t rent a tuxedo, you’re not getting married. But DO get yourself looking freshly pressed and all professional. Yeah, it’s a good idea to comb your hair, too.
Do your homework, and arrive armed with knowledge and information.
Jim: Be prepared to have conversations on career options you are exploring. Try to be specific about what you want and know what knowledge, skills and abilities you would like to leverage in your next career. There was an officer about to transition from the Navy who came up to our table dressed in a suit. He had done extensive research on our careers site and knew the types of roles he was interested in, but he remained very open to other recommendations. Although he had no banking or financial services experience, he was able to demonstrate how the skills he acquired in the military served as relevant work experience for the roles he wanted.
Kaitlin: Most importantly, bring a good attitude. You could be a very good candidate but a bad attitude could absolutely lose you the job or even the opportunity to ever work at that company. Keeping an open mind is important, especially in the case of veterans. There is not always a civilian job that directly connects to your military experience, but there may be a job that you still qualify for if you’re open to the possibilities.
3.) What Veterans Bring to Companies
We hear a lot that our veteran experience is super special. Our moms say that we are special, too. But what particular elements of military experience are employers interested in capitalizing on? Turns out they like us, but not in the beautiful special snowflake way. They like our training and experience.
Jim: Veterans have leadership, character and skills—both tangible and intangible—that we look for in employees, and they make us a stronger organization. They bring skills like teamwork, integrity, ability to handle high-pressure situations, respect for process, punctuality, reliability, good communication skills, ability to learn quickly and respect for organizational structures.
Well now, there’s a list for the ole résumé and talking points for your next job fair. *brushes off her shoulders* Not bad, if I do say so myself.
4.) Final Words of Wisdom
Kaitlin: Have an awesome résumé! Your résumé should be you on paper. Include volunteer work, play up your strengths and make sure that anyone who reads it can get a sense of why they should hire you. That being said, do not write a novel; keep it to no more than two pages. This may seem contrary, but those making hiring decisions do not have a lot of time. Formatting is your friend to accomplish both tasks.
Jim: Be patient, hiring decisions don’t happen overnight. Keep communications positive with every person who plays a role in your hiring process, and be professionally persistent. This is important because there are many other candidates that recruiters are dealing with and continued professional communication keeps the company aware of your interest and you at the forefront of their minds.
I’d like to say a special thank you to Jim O’Donnell, the JPMorgan Chase & Co. team and Kaitlin Carroll for sharing their experiences in order to better prepare veterans.
Here’s to being ready and looking good. Best of luck at your next job fair!
Speaking of job fair, don’t forget to register for the G.I. Jobs Virtual Career Expo, where you can chat one-on-one with recruiters looking to hire veterans. Registration is free, but seats are limited, so be sure to reserve your spot at the link below today!
This article has been modified to meet updated editorial standards at G.I. Jobs, which may include the augmentation of material that reflects the expertise and experiences of our staff.