Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to Stand Out After the Career Fair

As most of you know, the Workforce Career Fair was last week. If you’ve ever been to a career fair, you’ve experienced the crazy environment first-hand with over 140 employers meeting over a thousand students. If you were among one in the crowd on Thursday, you may have left wondering “how can I stand out from all of my peers?”

One approach to standing out is quite simple: follow up with employers and send a thank you note.


A prompt, sincere thank you note can make all the difference in your job search. A thank you note is common after interviews, but how many employers actually receive a thank you note after working career fairs? The number is quite small. It does not cross many people’s minds to send a thank you after meeting someone at a career fair. If you show your appreciation for them taking a few minutes to learn more about you, and tell you about their company, in addition to being one more way to sell yourself and show initiative and interest, a thank you note is a perfect way to connect with the employer and stand out among your colleagues.

It's not just the display of courtesy and old-fashioned manners that employers like and look for from a thank you note. Employers are more and more interested in a candidate’s writing skills. The thank you note could be one of the ways a job seeker is judged, so you shouldn't take it lightly, and you should make sure it's properly written.

Below are some Do’s and Don’ts to writing a solid thank you note.

1. Do: Be prompt
Start drafting your thank you note immediately after you meet with an employer, while it's still fresh in your mind, and send it out ASAP—preferably within 24 hours of the interview/meeting.

There are pros and cons of a handwritten note or sending one online. Sending the thank you note via e-mail can give you an edge over job seekers who mail hand-written ones, by getting to the employer sooner. Just make sure that you treat the e-mail like a formal letter and not as though you're writing a quick message to a friend. And if your hand-writing is hard to read, definitely go with e-mail. The benefit of a handwritten note is that it shows the time you took to write it, coming off as a little more personal.

2. Do: Make it specific and keep it succinct
Thank you notes shouldn't be much more than three paragraphs (if that). If you ramble, that can count against you in the communication category and show that you're not able to succinctly frame your ideas. Strive to address specific points that you and recruiter discussed. There should be something in the thank you note that indicates you were listening to what the recruiter had to say.

3. Do: Follow this structure
Paragraph 1: Express your gratitude by saying something like, 'Thanks for taking the time to meet with me at the career fair on Thursday. I appreciated hearing more about the position at XYZ company.'

Paragraph 2: Reiterate why you're a perfect candidate for the job. What experience/skills or abilities can you bring to the company?

The goal in paragraph two is to communicate that you understand the hiring manager's needs for the position, and you want to underscore how your experience makes you a perfect match. The second paragraph is also an appropriate place to make a point that you forgot to mention or didn't have time to mention during your brief meeting.

Paragraph 3: Reinforce your interest in the position and the company, and let the recruiter know you'd welcome further discussions.

4. Do: Avoid spelling and grammatical errors
A thank you note with spelling and grammatical errors will completely undermine your job search efforts. Remember, the thank you note presents hiring managers with an opportunity to evaluate your written communication skills. Make sure to read through the thank you note after writing it.

5. Don't: Come across as desperate
Another thing that could undermine the goal of your thank you note is if you sound desperate for a job. If you sound desperate, hiring managers will tune you out.

6. Don't: Forget to get contact information
In the excitement of a career fair, it's easy to forget to ask the recruiter for his or her contact information so that you can follow up with an e-mail or handwritten thank you note.

For a sample thank you letter and more tips, view the follow-up handout on our website: http://www.marquette.edu/csc/undergraduate/documents/ThankYou.pdf

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