Job FairJob fairs are so often mishandled by job seekers who throw on a suit, grab a pile of resumes and, once there, try to shake hands with every recruiter in the room. By spreading themselves too thin, they wind up going nowhere. Or worse, they just make a terrible impression.

The benefits of a job fair include being able to look a recruiter smack-dab in the eye and demonstrate your knowledge of their industry, their company and, drilling down still further, what their 12-month business strategy is and the challenges they are likely to face achieving it. If you present yourself like this you will assuredly catch the recruiter’s attention (very few other attendees come to a job fair geared up like this). Your next move then, either at the job fair or, if invited to a personal interview, is to explain—based on your current knowledge—how you would address their professional needs and resolve strategic issues. You want to do this tactfully, of course, making sure not to come off as a know-it-all… but as someone who has done their homework and has some ideas worth listening to.

You can do the same in a cover letter when applying to a vacant position, but face-time with a live recruiter provides a rare opportunity to shine.

If you are fairly comfortable talking to new people and confident in your understanding of your target company (as well as your own professional goals), you can stand above all others at a job fair.

Compared with other job-search methods, such as responding to a job posting, a job fair gives you a chance to strut your personality; the recruiter gets a glimpse at what it might be like to work with you on a daily basis; and you, too, get a glimpse at the company and its personnel. You may come away feeling more than ever that you’d like to work there…or you might find yourself turned off. Either way, it’s valuable information that should help inform your decision to further pursue employment with that company.