On the surface, it sounds like a perfect opportunity. You’re looking for a job, and there’s a job fair scheduled in your area where you can get into a room full of companies looking to hire. What better place could there be to find work? And yet, there are those who have expressed mixed feelings about these job fairs, suggesting that they are overrated, even a waste of time. So…are job fairs worth your time and energy?
First of all, I don’t feel there’s a blanket right or wrong answer here. In my experience, it’s not a matter of whether job fairs are “worth it.” As with so many other things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. If you go into a job fair unprepared and directionless, chances are you’ll walk away without any legitimate connections, and certainly no job offers. Many of the people who berate job fairs actually fall into this category. They didn’t put in the effort (or didn’t know how), so the opportunity was wasted. It’s always easier to blame someone or something else.
That said, I also would say there are better ways to land a position than by going to a job fair—for example, getting referred to a company through your network by someone who works there. But that doesn’t make a job fair a waste of time, any more than it’s a waste of time to cold-call a company and ask to send your resume. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Some techniques are simply more effective than others. The key is to do everything you can to make the most of the opportunity, so let’s make that our starting point.
The Pros and Cons
Let’s begin by listing the advantages and disadvantages of job fairs so you at least know what you’re up against:
- The companies represented at the fair are definitely looking to hire.
- You have opportunities to speak to representatives that you might not meet otherwise.
- You have the opportunity to apply to multiple companies or firms at once.
- You get to chat and ask questions in an informal setting (in other words, you’re not on the “hot seat” like in a formal job interview).
- You get to practice your elevator pitch.
- Everyone else is there for the same reason you are. In other words, your competition is also at the fair, which means you could get lost in a shuffle of applications UNLESS you find a way to stand out.
- You have to work harder to be remembered. (Remember, recruiters are talking to a lot of people throughout the day.)
- There are usually fewer job openings than people present at the fair.
- Job openings at job fairs are quite often “entry-level,” so it might be less relevant for someone with more work experience or a specialized skill set unless the company is specifically looking to fill that kind of position.
Tips for Making the Most of a Job Fair
Now that you sort of understand what you’re up against, if you choose to visit a job fair, the more you can prepare beforehand, the better your chances of successfully landing an interview or a position from the fair. Some tips that may help:
- Get a list of all companies to be represented at the event, and pick out a few that you’re particularly interested in. This helps you target your time and energy better.
- Research the companies on your hot list. Figure out how you can contribute meaningfully and how you can present yourself as an asset.
- Prepare your elevator pitch. Be prepared to share a little about yourself in a confident way, but not pushy.
- Write a cover letter for each company on your hot list. Put it in an envelope with one of your business cards and hand it personally to the representative at the table. (Bonus points if you can find out the representative’s name beforehand address the letter directly to them.)
- Dress for success. Dress as you would for a job interview.
Again, hiring rates from job fairs aren’t always as good as when you have direct opportunities to make contact with the company—but you can improve your chances of making a lasting impression by preparing beforehand using the tips above. And remember, everything is networking. You may not get hired by the company you pitched for, but you never know whom you’ll meet at a job fair who may eventually provide a lead to the perfect job.
If you’d like more personalized help in landing your dream job, I’m here to help. For a free 30-minute consultation, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me a call at 646-320-1126.