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Job Hunt

Ramp Up Your Job Search, Offers at Campus Career Fairs

Matt Simon

With so many employers under one roof, the college career fair often resembles an all-you-can-eat buffet for novice job seekers. Fortunately, the right strategy can help you sort through the smorgasbord of opportunities, and avoid leaving with a bellyache.

“The job fair is a wonderful resource for students because it is so compact,” says Deb Stevens, Student organizer for the Delaware State Education Association. “It expands your opportunities because you can talk to people from so many districts—and they all come right to the students.”

But while a job fair puts numerous potential employers at your fingertips, don’t expect to get the same amount of attention from or time with administrators that you would receive at a scheduled job interview. Students need to familiarize themselves with the job fair environment before attending an event.

So each year Stevens conducts a workshop on interview skills for Student members in her state, strategically scheduled just a week before the University of Delaware job fair, that emphasizes the unique, fast pace of fairs.

“Students already know to keep only their most important materials in a portfolio,” says Stevens. “But at a job fair, it’s got to be even tighter.” That means having just two or three well-presented portfolio items ready to show, she says. Students should include a photo of themselves conducting a lesson as well, she adds, and be prepared to explain the objective of the lesson pictured, what their students accomplished, and what they learned as the teacher.

A tight résumé limited to one page, two tops, also is critical. “Unless they’re hiring on the spot, your résumé will be put away until later,” Stevens says. “How you speak and interact with the representatives at the fair is much more important. They’ll be asking questions, including hypotheticals, and you need to be able to give confident, intelligent answers.” (Check out  “Final Answer” for some of the most common questions recruiters ask.)

To prepare for their university’s annual job fair, Kylene Clauss and other members of the Kutztown University Student chapter talk with other students about their job fair experiences and brainstorm responses to questions they know the recruiters might ask.

“We also talk quite a bit about confidence and appearance,” says Clauss, eastern region president for the Student Pennsylvania State Education Association. “It’s important to dress professionally at a job fair—as if you already have a job—and to let that confidence carry over into your discussions with administrators.”

When in doubt, overdress, suggests Stevens. “A business suit is really the way to leave an impression.”

Starting your job search as an underclassman also gets you noticed, says Student Organizer Michael Sears, who has coordinated two statewide job fairs for members of the Student Georgia Association of Educators. “We have more than 20 out-of-state districts recruiting at our fair,” he says. “Some of them track students for two or three years, so you should think about attending your first fair as a sophomore and building some relationships.”

But once students figure out what the school districts want in their employees, they need to determine what they need from an employer, Sears adds.

“Know the kind of school in which you want to teach, and ask meaningful questions at the job fair that will narrow your search,” he says. “Teachers aren’t leaving jobs over salaries. They need support and opportunities for professional development. You can learn about these by asking the right questions.”

Final Answer

Job fair interviews require quick thinking. Give yourself an edge by preparing a response for the most common questions recruiters ask:

  • What is your philosophy of education?
  • What makes a good teacher?
  • Tell us something about yourself and why you’ve chosen teaching as a career.
  • How would you handle a student who didn’t do what you asked?
  • How would you communicate with parents?
  • How would you individualize instruction to meet all students’ needs?
  • Describe the components of an effective lesson plan.
  • Describe the role of teachers in the learning process.
  • How will you determine whether your students have met the goals of your lesson?
  • What are you looking for in a school district?
  • Why should we hire you for this position?

Job Fair Tips

  • Arrive early. Fairs attract large crowds, so scope out your preferred districts and visit them first.
  • Take more résumés than you think you’ll need. Surprise opportunities pop up at job fairs.
  • Make and maintain good eye contact with the recruiters.
  • Get a business card from each district representative you meet and send a thank you note for each interview.
  • Stay flexible. Even if a district doesn’t currently have an opening in your subject area or preferred grade, ask about future opportunities.

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