Each year, my company participates in the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality annual conference. For me, it’s one of the most exciting events of the year because I get to meet so many fantastic students who are ready to begin their career in the hospitality industry.
Whether it’s during one of the panel discussions that Sodexo hosts or participates on or during our student interview sessions, the students I meet continue to leave me impressed. In fact, we usually hire about 20 students by the end of the conference.
One of my colleagues, Darla Mayse, wrote a piece about how to make the most of your attendance at a career fair. Because she offers such great tips, I wanted to share it with you here. If you’re headed to NSMH, I hope to meet you in Atlanta!
It’s February. As a member of Sodexo’s Talent Acquisition group, to me, February means the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) conference. For those of you who are not familiar with this group, NSMH is the premier professional organization for minority hospitality students. It has grown tremendously from four visionary leaders at Cornell University in 1989 to over 1200 student members across the nation. Sodexo is a proud sponsor of the NSMH National Conference.
Each year our recruiters, human resource directors, operations managers and executives participate throughout the conference as panelist, subject matter experts and a premier employer during the career fair. During our participation as subject matter experts, Sodexo frequently provide interview and resume preparation workshops, conduct mock interview sessions and other jobseeker advice. These workshops lead up to a career fair that also consists of a day of marathon interviewing by participants and employers. To help students stand out in the crowd, we offer career fair tips that would be beneficial to all jobseekers. Today, I share them with you.
Before the fair
Often times, prior to the career fair, there is a list of participating employers, especially those fairs that are tacked on to conferences. To make the best use of your time, strategically identify which employer booths you would like to visit. Take the time to research employers.
One of my biggest pet peeves is for a candidate to ask “So what do you guys do?” With today’s technology there is no excuse to not have at least a general idea of the company’s core business. Take the opportunity during the fair to get clarity of what they do and how it may fit your experience.
Next, make sure your resume is up to date and free of errors. Lastly, polish up that 30 second “commercial” about yourself and practice saying it so that you do not sound as though you are reading from a script.
During the fair
Arrive early so that you meet employers while they are fresh. Toward the end of a long day, many candidates begin to blend together. Make sure you dress to impress – professionally and not as if you were headed for a night out with friends. When in doubt always err on the side of conservative dress.
One tip I always provide students is to be aware of your surroundings. Company representatives are everywhere – the waiting areas, restrooms, coffee shop. Your cell phone conversation may allow them to see a side of you that may not appear professional or you may be interviewing with that person you accidentally bumped into; therefore always be professional and courteous.
Now is the time to use your research; however don’t waste time asking if the company is hiring. Instead ask what opportunities may be a good fit for your experience and background. Ask as many questions as you can without wearing out your welcome or monopolizing the recruiter’s time. There is a line forming behind you.
Leave your resume. Complete (or update) an online profile in their career center too. Most employers today require applicants to submit resumes online. Sodexo generally offers the opportunity to create your online profile on the spot. But, better yet, complete that step prior to the career fair so that you are already in their database. You need to know who to send that thank you note to, so don’t forget to get a business card from each recruiter you meet.
After the fair
Review the collateral material you received and take notes of what you liked and would like to know more about each employer. Be sure to include this information in your follow up communication. Follow up about one to two weeks later with all companies of interest with a letter or e-mail to the person you met. Many employers leave one fair and travel on to another business event. Waiting that week or two ensures your e-mail will not be lost in the hundreds that came while they were out of the office.
Thank you, Thank you and Thank you. If you interviewed with companies at the fair, be sure to send thank you notes and reiterate your interest and experience.
Career fairs can provide great networking opportunities for students. So, use these tips to make the most of your attendance. Who knows, maybe your first job might come from a connection you make at a career fair. Good luck!
Derren is the Manager, Diversity Recruiting for Sodexo which is a leader in integrated food service and facilities management. He is responsible for managing the Sodexo Future Leaders Internship Program as well as executing diversity sourcing initiatives for both campus and targeted experienced hires. With over 14+ years of experience with Sodexo, Derren has had great success as a General Manager in the company’s Health Care Services division as well as in several positions within their Talent Acquisition Group. He’s an active corporate partner with the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH). Derren is an AIRS Certified Diversity Recruiter (CDR) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR).