Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tori D.'s Guide to Interviews & Job Fairs

It was hard as heck trying to find a picture of "black professionals."
What are you trying to say, Google?

As part of my 8-to-5 torture that sponsors my not-so-lavish lifestyle job, I occasionally participate in state-sponsored job fairs. While I am not happy with the idea of saying the same thing over and over almost non-stop for hours, it is a much welcomed break from sitting here banging my head on the desk.

It also gives me renewed determination concerning the nonprofits that I want to start. There are so many people who don't have the first clue about how to present themselves. One of my goals is to provide help for those who may not have had the opportunity to go to college career centers or didn't have family/friends/mentors to give them the Dos & Don'ts  of seeking an interview. Although I don't have the resources to do that now, I do have this forum to share some tips. I wish I could still get to my tweets from the job fair I worked several months ago, but of course Twitter makes it pretty much impossible to go back that far. Soooo here we go:

1. Dress like you expect a job.
I swear I've seen it all: pajamas, club clothes, dirty tattered tshirts, sagging jeans showing almost the whole ass... all of this at job fairs. I think most people just see job fairs as an expo of businesses that are in the area, not realizing that this is more or less a "pre-interview." (And for some, interviews are done on the spot.) Would you go to an interview half naked or with rollers in your hair? Okay, you might, but you certainly shouldn't! And while it is true that some companies have a more laid back culture, the first impression is a lasting impression. For an interview, you can sorta find out how the company culture is and determine whether a suit or "dressy casual" (nice slacks/skirt, button down for guys, blouse that doesn't reveal too much cleavage for women, dress shoes) is appropriate. For job fairs, it's best to err on the side of caution and pull out a suit (or at least shirt & tie for guys). And I know everyone may not have money for top of the line, name brand business attire. Neither do I! But JCPenney, Belk, and [your local department store] are forever having clearance sales. Take the money that you would spend otherwise on one club outfit, shoes, a fake purse & weave and invest in yourself.

2. Leave your "game" at home.
Hitting on the recruiters will not land you a job, unless they are really sleazy and hard up. More than likely, it will get you mentally written off. Who wants to be responsible for a possible sexual harassment issue later on down the line, especially when the signs were there from jump? Save the comments about lips, legs, breast, booty, etc. In fact, just save any comments about appearance. Unless you're complimenting the shoes. :)

3. Bathe & brush your teeth!
Okay, this shouldn't be just for interviews and job fairs, clearly. But if there were eeeever a time not to be smelling like onions, feet & sweaty sex, this is it. Not really a whole lot more to say about that...

4. Have some questions ready to ask, and think of answers to common interview questions.
Usually for job fairs, there is a list of the employers that will be in attendance. Select a few that you are interested in and learn a little bit about those companies. Then, when you're speaking with a recruiter, you can sound informed when discussion who they are and what they do. Asking "What dis do?" or "Who y'all is?" is a dead give-away that you have done zero preparation. You should, however, have some type of questions in mind. I usually go for questions concerning advancement opportunities, lateral moves, something to show that I'm thinking long-term with the company.

5. Cover up the tattoos.
I know that these days, most people have tats. In fact, I have one and plan to get more. But an employer will never see them, because a lot of people still view tattoos negatively. If you have visible tattoos, like on your neck and hands, consider using a product like TattooCamo when going to an interview/job fair. Of course, once you're hired, you may or may not have to keep tattoos covered up. I believe this is especially true in the medical field. After all, I don't want a nurse coming at me with a need in a hand that has a skull on it. (And yes, I've had an applicant with a skull tat on the hand say she was interested in nursing.)

6. Be prepared to tell what you're interested in and what your qualifications are.
Don't assume that a recruiter at a job fair will rattle off every position that's open and you get to just pick one. Know your skills and qualifications, and let the recruiter know what you're interested in. This will save time and paint you in a more favorable light than just saying "What could I do?" If you're going in for an interview, be sure to play up the interests and knowledge that you have relating to the specific position you've applied for.

7. Don't become belligerent with recruiters working for companies that did not hire you in the past.
More than likely, the people you encounter at job fairs had nothing to do with whether or not you got a job you previously applied for, especially if it was years ago. Jumping on someone's back yelling, "Why didn't y'all hire me?" is a sure-fire way to never be hired for a position with that company.

8. Remember your manners.
Bum rushing recruiters with questions or barraging them with a list of your qualifications without so much as a "hello" is not a good look. "Hi, how are you?" "Thank you." "Have a good day." These are little things, I know, but sometimes the littlest things can have the biggest impact. Remember to act the way your mom (hopefully) trained you.

While these tips can't guarantee you a job, they will certainly increase your chances. Don't say Tori D. never gave you anything!

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