April: Ideally I was seeking a 10th grade Biology position. However I was open to teach any classes that I could with my credential! My credential allows me to teach 7th-8th grade science and any high school Biology/Life or Earth and Planetary Science classes.
Tim: How did you find out about the job fair?
April: I found out about the job fair by seeing it under "Recruitment Events" on California's job posting site, www.edjoin.org. The posting had a link that redirected me to CAEE's (California Association for Employment in Education) website where I found out more details about the fair.
Tim: Did you have to register for the job fair? What did the registration entail?
April: I didn't have to register ahead however there was an application that I had to print off the web page and bring to the fair. The registration form had me include my basic contact information and also my credentialing. The website also gave me a list of schools that were going to be participating in the fair.
Tim: What did you wear?
April: I wore a blue cardigan, white long sleeve button down shirt, long dark gray dress pants, black belt, black dressy heels, and a pearl bracelet. I also brought a nice leather brief case with a shoulder strap so that I wouldn't be bombarded with holding things! The briefcase had a opening on top that easily retrieve resume packets and put away information I collected from the schools, also I wouldn't have to bring a purse too since there was room for my keys and wallet!
Tim: What did you bring with you?
April: I brought my brief case loaded with all the interview essentials! I put together 20 interview packets since I knew there would be several schools there and I didn't want to run out! These packets consisted of my cover letter, resume, 3 letters of reference, CBEST and CSET test results (since I did not have my credential finished at that time).
All the papers were color copies and held together by colorful metal clips (the type that has prongs that bend forward then snap back). I also brought my interview portfolio which Tim suggests making in this book!!! I also knew the list of participating school districts ahead of time so I did my research on the ones which I knew I definitely wanted to talk to first. I made notes about the different school districts so that I would have a game plan and reviewed them the morning of the job fair!
I also brought two friends of mine since they too were looking for teaching positions. Bringing friends could be a big negative when looking for a job if you cling to each other, potential employers could be turned off immediately and think you aren't serious so be careful if you decide to go with friends.
Tim: What did you observe when you first walked in?
April: The fair was from 9am-12noon, I arrived at 9:30am. There was a long line of about 100 people waiting outside of the fair site. There was a registration table where I handed in the paper that I printed from online. There was supposed to be a $5 entry fee however when I got there they told me that the fee would be waived since some of the districts did not show up. I received a paper with the school districts which showed up and were located inside the building. I also received a ticket with a number and was told that I had to wait in the line and wait for my number to be called since there were too many people still inside.
While waiting in line I looked around at the other applicants around me to see what they were wearing. Most everyone was dressed nicely but it was very surprising to see some people wearing jeans! I think that jeans are inappropriate when a person is job searching, no matter how nice the jeans look! Also, I was shocked that some people didn't have anything with them (resumes) to hand out to the different schools. After waiting for about 30 minutes outside a group containing my ticket number was called.
We were lead into a conference room where we were instructed to write our name and credential on a name tag (there were different color name tags blue for Single Subject, red for Multiple Subjects, and gold for Special Education). As soon as we filled out our name tag we could walk over to where the schools had tables. The schools/districts were split into two large conference rooms. A list of what organizations were in each room was posted on the door, I took a look at which group seemed more desirable and then walked inside.
There were 8 schools/tables set up around the walls of the conference room. Each table had a table cloth or banner largely displaying the name of the school or district and a large spread of papers for information on their district. There were very long lines (30 plus people) waiting to speak to each organization's representatives.
Since I did come with two friends, this is where I was at an advantage since we immediately split up and stood in different lines. When we finished talking to a school district we told each other if that district mentioned they were hiring for science, math, etc. With this information I prioritized which tables I should visit and in what order so that I would not run out of time. There were some elementary districts so I knew that they would not be available for me to talk with, there were also some out of state and religious schools which I did not have interest in working for so these were also crossed off my mental list.
The conference rooms were very noisy and people were aimlessly wandering around, some were sitting down filling out paper applications they picked up from districts, while others were waiting in lines like myself for the opportunity to meet with these schools. While waiting in line I struck up conversations with other candidates to keep from becoming bored and this also help to keep my energy up for when I got to the front of the line!
Tim: Approximately many school districts were there? Since you were looking for science jobs, was it hard to find schools that were hiring for your particular subject area?
April: Approximately there were 15 schools/districts with tables at the fair. Some were individual schools with the Principal or VP at the table from a particular district, but majority were school districts with a HR person at their table. From the schools that did have 7-12th grade available in their district, it was not difficult to spark their interest when I mentioned that I was a science teacher. The impression I got was that they needed science teachers and that science jobs would probably become available once they found out their budget and which teachers were returning for the next year. The tables didn't have their openings posted on signs so I had to talk to each one to find out if a science teacher was a subject area they needed.
Tim: When you found districts you liked, how were you instructed to apply?
April: Some did have paper applications on hand to fill out. However most of the tables directed me to fill out an application online through either their districts website or on www.edjoin.org (where California education jobs are posted). I think due to the time of year, school districts were still unsure of the openings so they were at the fair looking for people to add to their applicant eligibility pool. Knowing that many couldn't for sure tell me whether they had a science opening was somewhat frustrating however I still gave out my resume packets and filled out their applications.
Tim: Were they doing any on-site interviews?
April: Not many districts we doing on-site interviews. Most of them were taking your information (resume) and letting you know about their district. However there was one district that was conducting on-site interviews and of course their table had the longest line. I knew that this was my best shot to secure a job lead or further interview so I waited and waited!
When I got up to the front of the line the time for the fair to be over was nearing so the Director of HR for that specific district told a group of 8 to come up around his table while he spoke with all of us. He collected our resumes and my packet definitely stood out since it was in color and had a clip which made it thicker than the average one sheeted resume. The Dir. of HR asked us to introduce ourselves and then tell him what our credential area was. Then he proceeded to talk about the district for a few minutes, then he stopped and said "Does anybody have any questions?"...people just looked around and said nothing until I chimed in and said "I know there is a high population of English learners in your area, what sort of special development programs are offered at the high school level?" He replied "that's a great question, we have..." Then he asked if there were any other questions, again, nobody said anything so I asked another question since I wanted to let him know I was very interested, I asked "what different technology and resources are available within your school's science labs" By that time he and I were in a one-on-one conversation and he shook hands and said good-bye to everyone else standing around the table. When everyone had left, he pulled my packet back out of his pile of resumes and started to flip through it, he said that he was very intrigued by some of the things that he saw (variety of science field credential authorizations and tutoring experience). We made small talk about the area I currently live in and then he said "you know what, I think you're spectacular and I really want to do another interview and I know that you live so far away and are still student teaching so I could meet up with you on a weekend, I'll have my secretary contact you to set up an interview date." Of course I was overjoyed, took down his contact information, then thanked him.
I followed up by sending him an email a few days later letting him know it was a pleasure meeting him and that I look forward to learning more about his district when I come in for my interview. Long story short I have had two interviews in that district due to speaking up and standing out at this job fair!
Tim: How long were you at the job fair?
April: I was at the job fair from 9:30am-12:30pm (some schools stayed past the intended end time). I was inside talking to schools from 10am-12:30pm, this was enough time to visit all the schools that I was interested in talking with.
Tim: Were there any people, situations, or procedures at the job fair that made you uncomfortable or nervous?
April: It was awkward talking to my first school. I was trying to listen to what other people were saying to this particular Principal and trying to think of something different so that I would stand out. When I got up to the front the Principal was very unfriendly and didn't provide room to for me to introduce myself. She started off by saying "Do you have a resume for me?" as I walked up to her table, I replied "yes, oh I see you're school is located close to where I went to college, I love that area" and handed her my resume packet. She didn't even glance at it, she simply threw it onto of a stack of others and then said "what subject do you teach?" I said "Biology and Geoscience", she replied "well, here's the thing, I'm not sure if I'll be hiring a science teacher this year, but I'll keep your resume just in case...NEEEEXT." I couldn't believe how the Principal completely controlled the conversation, I knew that I had to do better at the next tables or else I would be wasting this opportunity!
Also, it did make me nervous to see the hundreds of applicants at the fair that were eagerly trying to find a job just like me! But I felt calm knowing that "Guide to Getting the Teaching Job of Your Dreams" was my secret weapon that had prepared me in ways that would give me a competitive advantage over all the other people!
Tim: Were you able to follow up on any of your job fair leads?
April: Yes, I was able to follow up. All the school districts had paper information flyers, business cards, brochures, etc so I collected all these and then wrote emails to follow up with the school that were of interest to myself. I also emailed that one particular school district Director of HR who said he wanted to set up an interview time. This was the email I sent...
It was very nice meeting you at the CAEE Teacher Recruitment
Fair this past Saturday. I enjoyed our conversation regarding the
science teaching positions which may be available through your
district and setting up an interview time!
Feel free to contact me any time on my cell phone _____ or by
email _____ for additional information you may need.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Tim: What advice do you have for someone who is planning to attend a teacher job fair?
April: Have a game plan and strategy to make the most out of your time at the job fair. Many people waste their time be simply walking up to a school's table and handing their resume, collecting a business card, and then walking away to the next table. If you go with friends, don't cling to them, branch out and go outside of your comfort zone! Have thoughtful intelligent questions already in your mind to ask these school districts so that you have something to talk about once you get in front of a principal or HR personnel! Don't get discouraged if you feel like none of the schools are hiring for your specific specialty, if you're a good networker and leave a positive impression then you never know, these contacts could direct you to schools that need a teacher like yourself! Stand out by having something intelligent and interesting to say, you don't want to blend into the other 100's of people they talked to that day! Make your cover letter and resume stand out and flawless!!! I got many compliments on how mine were color and had bulk to them, they stood out in a positive way. These schools are there for a reason, they want to find good teachers like yourself!
Tim: Anything else you'd like to share about your experience?
April: I was very surprised that many schools/school districts did not know what openings they had for the next school year. Many of them simply wanted to add to their eligibility pool so they would have a good selection when it came time to interviewing candidates months later. I found this frustrating since I wanted to feel like I was making progress towards securing a job. I believe that going to job fairs can be a great way shake off nerves before going into the interview of your dreams. Good luck!!
Tim Wei is the author of Guide to Getting the Teaching Job! It's a downloadable book that can help you through the job hunting process. Discover what you need to know about searching teaching jobs, unlock the keys to successful interviewing, read the 50 most common interview questions for teachers, learn how building a teaching portfolio can help, and find out how to write an effective resume and cover letter. For more information, visit iwantateachingjob.com.