A job fair, or career fair, is a great place to meet many different potential employers at once. These fairs can help you network with people in your industry and become more aware of what your industry values in an employee.
Job fairs are very different from one-on-one interviews and understanding what to expect is important. Here's what you need to know about job fairs, how beneficial they can be and how to take full advantage of them.
What is a job fair?
Job fairs are events that host employers with job openings and usually last a few days. They serve as a temporary hub for employers to display information about their businesses, employee experience and open positions. Recent high school and college graduates as well as individuals looking to change careers typically attend job fairs. Many job fairs are designed with these groups in mind. However, people of all ages in various situations attend general career fairs looking for opportunities.
Jobs fairs vary by size and focus. Some job fairs are not specialized to one industry and feature a wide range of companies. Other job fairs focus on one field only. For example, an entertainment industry job fair may target agents, producers and creatives, while a public service job fair may target police, firefighters and social workers. If you have a specific industry in mind, it would be ideal to attend a job fair with that focus. However, if you aren’t sure about your path, a general job fair may be useful.
What are the benefits of a job fair?
Job fairs involve communicating with many people face-to-face about companies and opportunities. There are many benefits you can reap by attending job fairs, including the following:
Network with several employers
By meeting many different potential employers, your chance of finding a good prospect for an interview or employment position increases. Many job fairs are large events, and the number of employers may help you discover opportunities.
Meet eager employers
Another great advantage of a job fair is that employers are ready to meet potential hires. Compared to messaging companies online, cold calling their offices or even visiting during business hours, a job fair is full of employers not only looking to hire someone new but also to meet them in that venue.
Gain contact information and interviews
Let’s say you hope to find a job at a tech company, and so you visit that company's booth at a job fair. You meet the person running the company's booth and make a great impression during a short interview. Afterward, the manager gives you the phone number for their supervisor. The supervisor’s information isn’t listed online. However, because you attended the job fair, you now have their direct contact information to start next steps with the company.
Experience a low-pressure setting
Job fairs can feel lower in pressure than other job-seeking environments. As a result of the crowds, impressions are quick and conversations are fairly casual. As a result, some people feel more comfortable at a job fair compared to more one-on-one ways to job hunt and network.
Getting the most value from a job fair
To get the most out of a job fair, it is wise to have a plan. Look up the event schedule and booth map ahead of time so you know what companies are going to be there. For example, it may help to know where a booth for your ideal company will be so you can mentally prepare before you approach.
If you are only interested in a few companies, you can quickly visit each at the beginning of your visit, so that you are sure to connect with those hiring managers before the fair closes.
At a career fair, preparation matters. Walking in as an informed professional can increase your confidence and focus. There is no guarantee of receiving an offer at a job fair, but one good potential opening could point you in the right direction. Regardless, job fairs are excellent ways to learn about industries, connect with professionals and practice interviewing.
How to prepare for a job fair
These tips can help you get the most out of your time spent visiting booths and talking to employers at a job fair and get the best results.
1. Practice stress-reducing activities beforehand
If you're nervous, remember that the employers are there because they want to hire someone. You could be their perfect candidate for an important job, and you now have the opportunity to show them your skills. Take deep breaths and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, fists on your hips, chin high and shoulders back to increase confidence.
2. Dress professionally
Look for any information about the required attire. If job fair provides none, it is smart to assume that business casual attire is appropriate.
3. Register for the event, if possible
Most job fairs have organizers who check everyone who visits the event and keep records of them. Not only is registering professional, but employers who lost their contact information could get it from an organizer.
4. Practice your interactions
Work on handshakes, eye contact and how you will briefly explain who you are and what kind of work you're looking for. It can be helpful to prepare a brief elevator pitch to use when introducing yourself.
5. Come with materials
Bring copies of your resume and business cards. Consider also bringing a pen and paper for taking notes as well as breath mints as you will be talking to many people throughout the day.
6. Be ready to interview
While on-the-spot job interviews aren’t guaranteed, they can happen. Be prepared to do a short interview if an employer asks. Before entering the fair, make time to think about your responses to common interview questions.
7. Review and update your resume
It helps to have several different people look it over before the fair. Include strong, direct language. If you are interested in multiple positions or companies, consider making resumes targeted to each. For instance, if you would like to work as either a tutor or in human resources, you could create separate resumes specialized toward showing your skills and experience in each of those areas.
8. Consider bringing a friend
If you have a friend looking for a job, think about asking them to join you at the event. This can help you feel more comfortable and confident.
Tips for going to a job fair
Once you've and arrived at the fair, you should be prepared to begin meeting employers and other attendees. Prioritize taking notes on the people you meet and talk to. Remembering a conversation can help build rapport and make future contact easy.
Personalizing follow-up contacts with the notes you take can be helpful. For example, let’s say that during a conversation with the hiring manager, you and the manager casually discussed a common interest in hiking.
When you email the manager after the event, it could be a good idea to briefly mention your conversation. The manager may have talked to many promising candidates, but the personalized email might remind that manager of who you are and the conversation you shared.
##Tips for going to a job fair
Here are some tips for how to approach recruiters at a career fair.
Show interest when speaking with employers, even if you aren't necessarily looking to work for them. Your opinion may change over time and someone at the booth could know an important person in your ideal company.
Respect the recruiters’ time
Provide direct answers and ask thoughtful questions. Ideally, be the one that ends the interaction to show courtesy. They have to meet many possible hires. If the booth and the people running it are not busy, feel free to stay until it is.
Collect and keep business cards
The contact information is often useful and you'll show employers that you care about what they do.
Talk to people
Make conversation with other job seekers when appropriate. Someone you talk to could give you a helpful tip or provide an important connection.
After visiting a job fair
It is ideal to leave a job fair with plenty of notes on who you talked to, what the conversations were like and whether any of them committed to a next step. From there, consider creating a schedule for when you will contact each potential lead. It is wise to contact your preferred job prospects first, to keep your last interaction fresh.
It's important to have the right expectations when attending a job fair. You won't be the only person looking to get hired, but there won't be as much pressure, either, compared to a scheduled interview. Rather than aiming to secure a job by the time you leave the fair, focus instead on strengthening your network and job prospects.
Keep in mind that a job fair is just one of many things you can do to raise your odds of getting hired. Investing in your career is something to feel proud of, so consider attending any career fairs coming soon to your area.