Part of my new recruiting role is to participate in job fairs as a way to attract and interview candidates to fill our openings across the US and Canada.  It amazes me how people’s preparation or lack thereof makes them desirable or undesirable in the first 5 minutes of the interview.

All of the following examples are things I’ve witnessed in the past 6 weeks at job fairs I’ve participated in.

This is why I thought I’d share with you the things to do, and not to do when trying to standout at a job fair.

If you want to be on the same page with the interviewer(s), you should:

1) Find out what companies are going to be represented at the job fair and research them.  You’ll be amazed at what you can learn by going to their websites and by doing a simple Google search.  You will have instant credibility with the interviewers if you know the basics and more about their company.

2) Arrive 15 minutes early, you never know what to expect from your competition and being one of the first in line will never hurt and most likely help you in your quest for a job with one of the companies.

3) Bring plenty of copies of your resume so you give the interviewer something to remind them of you and keep with their interview notes.

4) Make sure you tailor your resume to reflect your skills relative to the openings at each company (even if you have to prepare and bring multiple versions of the resume).

5) Dress professionally

6) Think about the position(s) you are going to be interviewing for and think about the questions that might be asked. For example, I googled “interview questions restaurant manager”  The information found covers the majority of the questions our team asks in a first interview.

7) Sit up straight, be upbeat and energetic.  This one seems to be common sense but I can’t tell you how many people slouch, appear sleepy and uninterested in being there.

On the other hand, you should avoid the following:

1) Dressing inappropriately, females should dress conservatively and avoid low cut tops and short skirts.  Men and women should avoid wearing excessively wrinkled clothes. In addition, wear clothing that will have the interviewer focusing more on you and your skills and less on your attire.  In addition, more and more businesses are housed in smoke free environments.  If you show up to a job fair smelling of smoke, you will most certainly stand out negatively.  If you are a smoker, it is highly recommended you avoid smoking in the car on the way to the interview so you and your clothes do not smell bad during the interviews.

2) Refrain from wearing perfumes and cologne’s.  If you must, make sure the fragrance is subtle and barely noticeable. Once again, you don’t want the interviewers to be distracted from focusing on you.

3) Don’t let your breath be an issue.  If you smoke or drink coffee, brush your teeth or gargle with mouthwash prior to entering the job fair and keep mints with you to continually freshen your breath.  Although gum can help with your breath, don’t ever chew gum in an interview.  It’s the easiest way to get the interviewer to pass on you as it comes across disrespectful.

4) Stay positive when presenting your past and present work situations.  The majority of all people have been let go from a job at one point in their career or had a boss who made their life less than enjoyable.  I experienced this first hand last week while interviewing a candidate who threw his past 4 bosses under the bus and blamed each of them for his failures.  If you are willing to throw your former boss under the bus, it’s a safe assumption that your interviewer will expect you to do the same to those in their company as well.  Remember, you’re looking for a new opportunity to be a part of one of these companies. Hiring managers look for positive contributions to their team.

My perspective on job fairs has changed considerably since I am now on the hiring side of them.  I realize that jobs are still in high demand and every opportunity you get to land a job should be taken seriously.  So the next time you decide to go to a job fair, prepare to conquer it and get that job!