Spring is just around the corner and if you are a prospective teacher, you are probably well aware that spring is Educator Career Fair season. If you are planning on including career fairs in your job search, please consider that despite the often noisy, informal feel and the use of the word “fair,” these events are essentially job interviews. If you start from that point, you may already be thinking differently about what to wear and how to present yourself, but here are a number of less obvious steps you may also want to consider:
Obtain a list of districts participating in the fairs you plan to attend and complete a web-search of those districts that most interest you. In completing this process, don’t forget to evaluate both the district and the surrounding community to ensure that you will be comfortable both working and living in the area. Once you have settled on a list of your top five or ten choices, write them down order of preference.
Create a portfolio containing your resume and personal/professional references, which you will then leave with potential employers. Select a portfolio style that has room to store the information you collect from the many school district booths you visit. This allows you to present yourself as an organized, professional, and confident person.
Create and rehearse a brief introductory speech that introduces you to the potential employer, tells them what sort of position you are looking for, lets them know that you know something about their district or area, and explains why they are of particular interest to you. Next, take the list of your top preferences and use it as a map to guide you through your day. Consider starting with your last choice first, as this gives you the opportunity to practice and hone your approach as you progress.
On the Day of the Fair
From the moment that you walk in the door, assume that you are being watched and evaluated. Many recruiters are highly skilled and are constantly watching and scanning for individuals who “stand out”. Take a walk around the entire fair and orient yourself to the layout and the location of your top choices. As you walk around, be deliberate in your manner and avoid the appearance of being lost or confused.
Wear clothing that is both professional and carry all of your interview packets in a briefcase or other similar container. When approaching a prospective employer, have nothing in hand except for a pen and a note pad. This will free up your hands for the next steps.
Time your approach to prospective employers so that they are engaged with other candidates at the time you approach their booth. Maintain a discrete distance that shows you respect privacy but at the same time, try to listen to what the recruiters are saying. This may help you to learn something useful about the district or the recruiters in particular.
When it is your turn, greet each prospective employer with a firm handshake but don’t over do it. They will shake many hands that day and you don’t want yours to be the one that annoys them. Establish eye contact and present your speech, and then allow the recruiter to respond. Listen attentively and take conversational cues from the recruiter. Remember, this is the interview so maintain a professional demeanor at all times. At the conclusion of the conversation, retrieve one of your portfolios and leave it with the recruiter. Also, be sure to obtain his/her business card.
After Each Interview
Find a quiet place to sit and write your thoughts about the interview. First, focus on what went well and second, on areas where you think you could improve. Adjust your strategy/speech and have a clear plan in place before proceeding to your next interview. You should also make notes about specific things you talked about during the interview so you can reference them later and then take all notes, business cards, and materials received from the interview and place them together in their own file or envelope.
After The Fair
Write a brief thank-you to the recruiter/district that interviewed you. E-mails are acceptable but letters are best.
Take all materials received and start a file system at home into which you can place further correspondence and other information. Ideally, you will be hearing back from multiple employers so it will be important that you have a means of keeping them straight. You should also keep a communication log for each employer which includes the date of the contact, whom you spoke with, what was discussed, and any actions you took as a result.
See you at the fair!
Director of Personnel,
South Kitsap School District
The opinions expressed in Career Corner are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.