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10 Tips To Ace a Startup Job Fair

Posted on 10.11.2014

:: By Jason Edelman, Fueled ::

Startup companies are known for their relaxed atmosphere and passionate work ethic, so it’s no surprise they have become a hot commodity in the job placement arena. In trend with the recent interest in working for a start-up company, job fairs have now begun to spring up that cater specifically to those needs. Unlike a standard corporate job fair however, the rules for being successful at a startup job fair are a bit different. 

1. Do Your Homework

This is a bit self-explanatory, but it’s imperative that you’ve already done your research before the fair. Not only should you read up on the companies that will be attending, but also be knowledgeable of the type of job you want so that you can strike up intelligent conversation with the rep or recruiter when you’re asking how that job functions specifically within an organization. Hiring managers are always impressed when you’re an informed applicant, and not only does it make you look good to them, it will help you make a more accurate decision when accepting an offer letter or even negotiating your salary.

2. Name Dropping Isn’t Always Bad

A major part of doing your homework is learning, knowing, and remembering names. Remember everyone’s name (even if you have to write it down) in order to leave a better impression. Also, being familiar with who you’re going to be meeting up with at the event, or at least the key people in the company, and your department, are other great ways of ensuring reps remember who you are. 

3. Look the Part

In a traditional job fair you’re familiar with dressing in your best professional attire, but the rules are a little different here. One of the things people love about startups and younger companies, is their much more relaxed corporate culture. Casual wear such as jeans and hoodies are often office appropriate so that trickles into their hiring atmosphere. I wouldn’t suggest going totally ‘bummy’ before the interview, but you may be able to leave the blazers and blouses in the closet. 

4. Up Your Social Capital

It’s important to have a finely groomed social media presence on at least one of the major networks (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). It’s not so much for the company to stalk your whereabouts, although you should be on the lookout, but rather a great way to see how current you are on recent trends. Twitter has become one of the fastest ways to share information and it’s getting harder and harder to just “not get it.” Following companies you are interested in on social platforms, shows them your interest, and they will often take note of that. If the company has an app, it may be a good idea to download it and familiarize yourself with how it functions. 

5. Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

It’s important to be confident and engaging in-person. Remember, it’s not just about what you can bring to the table professionally, but startups are typically small and the employees work in close proximity to each other so you have to be a good fit for the team as well. If you feel like you would be a good fit for a company then be sure to get that across to the recruiter, so they can better evaluate how well you would adapt into the company culture. 

6. Ask Questions

A good way to make an impression on a recruiter is ask questions. Whether you have a list of general questions that you can ask each employer, or you’ve crafted individual questions for each of the companies you plan on visiting, asking questions is often skipped by applicants, and asking anything means that you’ll be sure to stick amongst a sea of applicants gunning for the same role.

7. Value What You Bring to the Table

Often times it’s easy to fall into the trap of offering a free service or services to a prospective employer for the sake of getting in good with them and proving your worth on a trial run basis. While we understand why someone might choose to go this route, it’s important you understand there are ways to prove your worth without giving away your work for free. When discussing projects the company has worked on, or the direction they’re going, be as well versed as possible and call attention to their successes and failures. Illustrating that you accurately understand why something worked or didn’t work is usually leverage enough to make it past the awkward “what would you do?” setup.  

8. Be Open and Receptive

Job fairs, especially with this crowd, are as much of a networking opportunity as they are a chance to find your new job. If you go in with flexibility and an open mind there really is no limit to what could come of it. Again, so much value is put on your personality and how you interact with people so this is really your time to shine.

9. Put Something In Their Hands

Whether it’s your current business card, or a personal one with a link to your online portfolio, or a resume, giving employers something tangible is always a positive. Without a resume or business card, don’t expect a follow-up.  

10. Follow-Up

Contacts and interactions shouldn’t stop once you leave the showroom floor. Had a great conversation with a job rep? Invite them out for a drink and tacos. Follow up with them to see how successful they felt their time was at the job fair and you’re inadvertently asking for feedback. Don’t be afraid to be direct either, though. Again, the important thing is to make your presence known.

It’s so important to remember that the rules of start-up job fairs differ greatly from those of traditional job fairs but the goal is still the same. Be engaging, be knowledgeable and continue to be present. Even if you’re not right for their position, if you’ve made a lasting impression the chances of them recommending you to somewhere that you’re a better fit will greatly increase.

Jason Edelman is an editor at Fueled, the leading iPhone app builder in New York City, renowned for its award winning mobile design and strategy.

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