Job seekers attend job fairs hoping to increase their employment opportunities. However many come back to me with comments that the job fair was “a waste of time.” Often company representatives tell job seekers “we’re not hiring” or “apply online.” As job seekers, this is frustrating since there is no need for them to go to a job fair just to hear such responses.
My response to clients is to ask why would a busy employer spend their day at a job fair, stand there for hours, just to tell job seekers that they are not hiring? Wouldn’t that also be a waste of employers’ time, especially since many are very busy with their day-to-day work?
It is possible that employers are committed to an obligation to attend job fairs even though they are no longer hiring and rather than break a commitment, they are continuing to set up their booths at the job fair. That’s a valid reason but I personally do not believe this is always the case as time is too valuable, especially if they are not hiring.
So why are employers at job fairs if they’re not hiring?
One reason is to maintain a presence. They want job seekers to be aware of their company as an employer, to learn about them and give job seekers the chance to talk to someone to gather information not on their website.
Another reason is they want to put a face to a resume. In other words, they are observing and taking notes of job seekers who match their company’s culture and have the hard and soft skills they need. This helps streamline their hiring process to call suitable job seekers for interviews or at least be quicker at sorting resumes into a yes pile.
Now that you know the purpose of employers attending job fairs, you should avoid attending unprepared and “winging it.” Here are some tips that can make job fairs more useful.
1) Research, research and research! Find out the employers attending the job fair and choose about five employers that interest you. Review their websites so that you know who they are and what they do.
2) Prepare. From your research, prepare questions about the company. Three to five questions should be sufficient. You do not want to monopolize their time but want to come across as prepared.
3) Update. Target your resume based on the jobs you are interested in and exist within the company. Print a few copies and bring them to the job fair. Bring your networking cards as well.
4) Plan. Think about what you will wear. You want to give the best first impression so dressing up professionally is always a good idea.
5) Be assertive. Approach the employers and give them a nice firm handshake and a friendly smile. Introduce yourself. Ask your questions and offer your resume.
6) Thank them. Take the time to thank them for talking to you and get their business cards.
7) Take notes. Write quick notes of the conversation with the employer. This information might be important later.
8) Follow-up. Write a thank you note or other follow-ups discussed within 24 hours of the job fair. Address the thank you letter based on the business card gathered. Mention details of your conversations with them at the job fair and attach your resume.
Job fairs might not always mean you will be hired or interviewed on the spot but it’s your chance to make yourself memorable to the employer.
About the Author: Jennifer York is the manager of the Job Options BC program in Vancouver, Surrey and Port Coquitlam for ISSofBC. While working as an employment counsellor, she facilitated and coached immigrants, professionals and students in their job search, both in group and individualized sessions. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.