Getting the most out of a high-tech job fair –

You put on a wool suit in 100-degree weather, bump against a thousand other people, and stand in lines 20 or 30 people deep to get two minutes of face time with a corporate recruiter. It's called a job fair.

"Let's say that you've earmarked your hot list of four or five companies you want to work for," says Bob Sopko, vice president of marketing at, one of the nation's largest organizers of career fairs. "You've been calling them up, you've been writing them letters, and you can't just get your foot in the door. Go to a career fair, and you'll get a guaranteed meeting with those guys. Just stand in line and get there early." Is the effort worth it? The answer is a resounding yes. But job fairs are hard to deal with, and interviewing at a trade fair is completely different from interviewing in the office. Here's some tips:

Do's and don'ts

  • Due diligence. Find out ahead of time what companies are going to be there. Pick out the ones you're interested in and do as much background research as you can. Fortunately, most organizers of career fairs will provide a profile of exhibitors on their Website ahead of time.

  • Dress. The standard advice here is to dress formally. But if you're looking for a job at a dot-com start-up, wing-tip cordovans and pinstripes won't necessarily impress. "Dressing nice doesn't always mean a suit and tie. Some of these dot-coms want you to be a little bit more relaxed," adds Sopko. Companies will want you to fit in with their corporate culture. Check out the Websites of your primary targets and see if there's any pictures of the staff.

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