Are job fairs and career expos worth the time?

Workforce Development professionals – those who do what I do – are split on the value of job fairs and career expos. Many of my peers have a number of concerns:

  • Many job fairs are profit-drivers for the organizers, who charge large fees to participating employers.
  • Too many employers who do not have any current openings participate in job fairs. They use job fairs as a marketing venue for their companies, fulfilling their “good corporate citizens” needs.
  • If they do have openings, many employers still accept only online applications. So, job seekers stand in line for several minutes to speak with an employer, only to be handed a flyer with a URL and are sent on their way.
  • With so many job seekers, you cannot have an in-depth discussion with employers.
  • Some employers send their lower-level staff, who are not involved in the hiring process and who do not have answers to job seekers’ questions.
  • Too many employers who participate in job fairs are hiring for commission-only sales positions.
  • Very few employers will make hiring decisions at job fairs.

All of this is true. I have witnessed every one of these concerns.

And yet, I still believe that job seekers should include job fairs and career expos in their job search strategies.

Worth while, or a waste of time? I say definitely worth while, if you are prepared.

Worth while, or a waste of time? I say definitely worth while, if you are prepared.

I have spoken with employers at job fairs where I wonder why they bother to come. They barely mask their boredom and clearly wish they were anywhere else doing anything else.

However, I have also seen employers at job fairs coach job seekers who are ill prepared:

“What kind of position are you looking for? We don’t have ‘anything.’ ”

“Do you have a resume? No? Then here’s how you apply online.”

“Hi, how are…okay, go ahead, take my candy / squeeze ball / pad of sticky notes.”

And while it is rare, I have seen employers make conditional hiring decisions on the spot.

Employers are very busy, and they want their job fair experience to be worth their time. They want job seekers to succeed. But far too many job seekers fail to prepare for a job fair, and when there is a line of job seekers waiting to speak with an employer, they are not going to spend a lot of time with those who are not prepared.

Job seekers who know what they want, who do their homework ahead of time, and who approach employers with purpose, can be very successful at job fairs and career expos. I will discuss how you can prepare for job fairs in a future post.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

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2 comments

  1. Kevin,
    Good points, It can be used as part of a job search strategy (small percentage). It is vital to know WHY you are attending. You must be Prepared and Qualified. Job fairs can be used if 1) know the company and job openings 2) already applied online 3) make a positive impression. Tell the employer- Application is completed-Resume handed- finally I can start today and will be the best investment you have ever made.

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