A job fair is an event where a job seeker can connect with employers and recruiters face-to-face. For a job seeker, a job fair can be an excellent source of employment information and a place to apply for many jobs at one time. For an employer, a job fair provides an ideal forum for meeting and doing initial screenings of potential employees or interns.
Job fairs can assist both the job seeker and employers in expanding their employment search strategies. However, employers usually send recruiters and human resources personnel, not hiring managers, to job fairs. This means that job fairs are usually only an initial stage of contact for a job seeker, not a place where he or she will get interviewed or hired. However, on average, most employers anticipate eventually hiring two to five employees from each job fair in which they participate.
Job fairs are usually held in locations that are accessible to both employers and job seekers. Most are local, often at colleges and universities. There are also many job fairs that target professionals. Virtual job fairs, where job seekers meet with employers online, have been in existence since the 1990s and have become increasingly common in the early twenty-first century.
There are many types of job fairs. General job fairs include a range of employers seeking to fill positions that will appeal to variety of job seekers. Community job fairs are hosted with the intent of giving an interested job seeker in a specific geographic region the opportunity to meet with employers who are recruiting in that labor market. College and campus job fairs can also be general in the types of employers they attract. They tend to focus on recruiting and networking for entry-level positions and internships because most of the attendees are college students or recent graduates.
Other job fairs are more specialized. Technical, professional, and industry- or skill-specific job fairs target certain types of job seekers and employers by focusing on a particular industry or skill. Job fairs focusing on attracting employee candidates from underrep-resented groups, such as minorities or women, can also fall into this category. Certain industries, including the education and health care industries, favor the use of job fairs more than do other industries. Some job fairs, especially industry-specific ones, may offer educational opportunities such as training courses and seminars, in addition to employer booths.
Companies also hold their own job fairs. In 2011, for example, McDonald's hosted a nationwide job fair and hired 50,000 employees in one day. When companies sponsor their own job fairs, they often hold them in public places, such as shopping malls, to gain the attention from those passing by.
Some companies also hold virtual job fairs in which an employment “booth” is available for a specific period of time. These online booths can include employer information and videos, a list of openings, and the ability to chat virtually with recruitment and human resources staff. If a job seeker is interested in the employer, he or she can leave a résumé and gain contact information about recruiters, human resources, and hiring managers. While a virtual job fair is more cost and time efficient for employers and job seekers, the lack of face-to-face contact is a drawback. However, such fairs are good for hiring positions that need to be filled immediately and provide an easy way for a job seeker to submit a résumé and fill out a self-assessment.
Ahead of the date of a job fair, a list of the employers, recruiters, employment agencies, and others who will be present at a job fair are announced. This allows you to determine if a job fair has enough employers to make the experience worthwhile. Job fairs are usually advertised in many forums to attract the greatest number of job seekers. Advertisements may be placed online, in newspapers, on flyers, through trade organizations, and on radio stations.
Shortly before a job fair begins, participating employers set up booths or tables at the event's location. Job fairs are usually held in places such as city buildings, hotel conference rooms, civic centers, or convention centers. The location often depends on the size and nature of the event.
After you arrive at a job fair, you walk through the exhibits and meet with employers of interest. When talking to an employer, there is usually some screening and initial interviewing that takes place. A résumé is also collected. Not all employers come to a job fair planning to fill certain jobs, nor is every job seeker going to be a good fit for available jobs. For a job seeker whose skills and interests are not a good match for the positions exhibitors are hoping to fill, a job fair can still provide a valuable opportunity to network with potential employers who may be hiring for a more suitable position in the future.
A job seeker usually does not pay to attend a job fair, although some fairs require attendees to pay a nominal fee. Employers are usually charged a booth fee to cover exhibition expenses. The fee paid by employers can be thousands of dollars if the event is particularly selective or high profile.
There are many advantages to attending a job fair as part of a job search. For a job seeker, job fairs provide face-to-face contact with potential employers and recruiters. It is a chance for you to make a professional impression with those who are hiring. Job fairs are especially valuable if you are in the early stages of your career or are reentering the workforce because they provide a chance to practice interviewing skills, make connections, and use a professional demeanor. All job seekers, including those in an established profession, can use job fairs to gauge the market for jobs and learn what kind of jobs are available.
Job fairs provide opportunities for networking . You can connect with potential employers but also with recruiters and peers in the same industry. These contacts can prove helpful during the job search by providing access to positions that are not advertised publicly but filled through recruiters, recommendations, and connections.
You can also gain valuable information about jobs, professions, and industries by attending a job fair, even if attendance does not result in an interview or a job offer. By talking to representatives of companies that are seeking to hire, you can learn about company policies, hiring practices, and products. This information may help you decide whether you are a good fit for the organization and can provide ideas on how to tailor application materials in ways that will get you noticed. Job fairs are also a way for you to gain knowledge about job requirements and industry standards. In a broader sense, you can use job fairs to help determine a new career direction, learn about the state of a specific industry, and identify the kind of jobs that are available.
There are a number of ways to find out about job fairs. One of the easiest ways for you to identify relevant job fairs is through an online search for job fairs in your geographic or professional area. In addition to online listings, local newspapers, business journals, trade publications, trade unions, and professional organizations can include information about upcoming job fairs. Colleges, universities, and alumni associations host job fairs, which may be open to more job seekers than their students and alumni.
To find job fairs specifically related to a profession, you should research professional organizations and employers in that field. For example, school districts often host at least one job fair annually for education professionals. For many professional and college-related groups, job fairs are a regular event and are held up to several times per year.
You should determine whether an advertised job fair is a good fit based on your specific employment goals and desired career path. If you are looking for an entry-level position, a general job fair or a job fair hosted by a local college might be an ideal fit. If you are an experienced computer programmer, a technical job fair or a fair hosted by a relevant professional organization or employer would be a better choice. The decision should also be based on which employers, recruiters, and employment agencies are exhibiting at each fair.
There are some other factors to consider when deciding whether or not to attend a particular job fair. For example, the location and accessibility of a job fair can be important. You should also decide if a job fair that has an entrance fee is worth the cost. In such cases, you should obtain the list of which employers, recruiters, and employment agencies will be present at the job fair in order to evaluate whether the available opportunities justify the expenses in time, travel costs, and entrance fees.
You should also prepare for a job fair by making enough copies of an up-to-date résumé to hand out to potential employers. When researching employers ahead of a job fair, you should also see if targeted employers have applications that can be accessed online, downloaded, and filled out ahead of time. Information that may be requested on an application (such as information about schools attended, dates of employment, and reference contact information) should be collected and organized ahead of time and kept accessible during the fair. Many employers will ask you to fill out an application on the spot.
Before going to a job fair, you should plan questions for employers, based on research, and be ready to answer questions. You should also bring a neatly maintained portfolio, notepad, and means of jotting down notes as you network with potential employers and business contacts. Finally, you should dress appropriately for the event, choosing the same attire you would wear to a job interview. Overly casual dress could convey to potential employers that you are not serious about searching for a job.
You should approach a job fair with an open-minded attitude and should not feel intimidated. A positive attitude will add to your credibility. You should communicate enthusiasm and serious intent to employers.
You should obtain a business card from each representative you speak with at a job fair. The most ideal candidates discovered at job fairs likely will hear back from employers within 48 hours and should respond as soon as possible. If an employer, a recruiter, or an employment agency has not gotten in touch with you, and you provided a résumé, you should call, send a letter, or send an e-mail within a few days. In addition to thanking employers for taking time to talk, you should ask for an interview. You should take similar actions toward any promising networking contacts made at the fair.
After the job fair, you should do further research into potential employers in order to find the name and contact information of the company's hiring manager or supervisor. A résumé should be sent to these individuals as well, and you should mention meeting with representatives at the job fair in your cover letter.