Following Up After A Job Fair
As noted earlier, it can be difficult to follow up on a virtual job fair, as you may not have been able to gather actual names or email contacts at the "event."
Your first follow-up step happens before you leave the house when you're packing your tote bag for the day. You want to include some sort of tool to make your followup easier to conduct. This might be a notepad on which you write information about each contact you make, or perhaps a pre-printed contact page that you create on the computer, with lines for each person's name, company, etc. You may also decide to bring a small envelope to store employer business cards, so they don't end up floating around the bottom of your bag.
Once at the fair, you'll have to manage your time so you can write a few notes about each encounter while the information is fresh. Perhaps stopping after every five booths, or every 30 minutes will provide a good structure.
Assuming you've captured information from your various conversations, the next question is obvious: What will you say, and how? Should your followup be by phone? Email? How soon after the fair? Do you include another copy of your resume?
All good questions!
First things first. When you get home after the fair, or no later than the next morning, you need to empty out that tote bag and put things in order. You might even make files for some of the companies that caught your interest, so you can find their brochures quickly if you get an interview.
Once you've sorted out the doodads and extraneous information you can focus on the actual contacts you made. The next step is to create a list, or to go back to your written notes from the fair, to decide which leads to pursue first. Ideally, you'd get all your followup done within two weeks, so it may not be critical which contact you make first. But you don't want to miss responding to an immediate need, so prioritizing is still a good step to take.
Now you're ready to chase down those leads through your followup. Whether you choose to phone or email, here are some thoughts you might want to express in this next contact.
"Thank you for talking with me." (This can be a good subject line for an email.)
"You mentioned an upcoming need for (fill in the blank). I'd like to talk to you more about that."
"We discussed my skills as a (fill in the blank). Here is the web link I mentioned to connect to my work samples."
"You offered to provide a connection to the manager in your zzz department so I could learn more about your company's yyy processes. Who is that person and how should I connect with him or her?"
"We talked about contract roles while your company develops its new product line. How can I get involved in those opportunities?"
You get the idea. Basically, you want to pick up on a thread from the conversation, then ask for an opportunity to follow up on that. Your real goal is an in-person meeting, especially since the last one was under such distracting circumstances. Better yet? An in-person meeting with the person who manages the department you'd eventually like to work for. That is always the gold standard for networking in job search, and a worthy objective for job fair followup.
And what if you had no conversation of particular importance, but are still interested in the company? That's the time when followup is most important, because the lack of a good conversation means the booth rep is likely to forget you very quickly. You should assume that is the case and send an email thanking him or her for being at the fair and re-introducing yourself. Make it clear that you are interested in the company and that you are hoping for a followup meeting or conversation with him or her. Then follow up your followup with a phone call to try to set that meeting.
Is this starting to seem like overkill? Well, let's review. So far you've prepared for the job fair by looking up the companies who would be there, and by strategizing your contacts, creating a resume, and getting your outfit set up. Then you got yourself dressed up and off to the fair, and spent the day hoofing it around to all the booths, while also taking in a seminar or mock interview session. Throughout the day you collected dozens of cards, wrote reams of notes and generally stuffed your head with bits of information. But you also gave away tons of resumes, in addition to putting a resume in the general drop box at the door to be shared with all the employers present.
And now there's followup? Yes. Even though you may feel you've done everything possible to connect with these employers, and although you may feel there were no opportunities that interested you, followup is still the best next step. Remember that the booth reps may not have a very good process for sorting resumes after a fair and that they may forget to reconnect with people. Do you really want to trust your future employment to the post-fair processes of an overwhelmed booth rep? No, probably not. Besides you've already invested a lot in this effort - you don't want to lose it on the last step. Now get busy on the follow up.