Career Fairs: Are They Worth it and What to Bring?

Job Placement

We’ve all been there. You’re weeks deep into your career hunt, slogging through yet another online application, when you notice an advertisement for a local career fair. The career fair concept is tempting: a large group of hiring managers eager to find skilled employees? Sounds like an efficient way of exploring opportunities and landing your dream career! Yet, most of us have a few subtle hesitations lurking in the back of our minds about career fairs. Are they worth attending? Do people actually get hired? Together we’ll explore how you can take full advantage of career fairs and ensure your trip isn’t a waste of time.

Career Fair Statistics

You won’t find solid, data-supported statistics on hiring rates based exclusively on career fair participation or attendance. Career fair evidence is empirical or generalized at best, with only subtle nods toward employment increases post-career fair. Experts instead support the perspective that career fairs are only as effective as an applicant’s strategy allows them to be. In other words, how you navigate career fair opportunities makes the difference between getting hired and learning a hard lesson in futility. 

Career Fair Options and Strategy

The first step in making the most of career fair opportunities is to develop a career fair strategy. A great place to start is by exploring virtual career fair options. Virtual career fairs are increasing in popularity; experts suggest almost 80% of recruiting will be conducted exclusively online in the near future. Virtual career fairs reduce your risk of wasted time by allowing you to log in to virtual chat rooms and webcasts from the comfort of your own living room. No more sitting in traffic, waiting in line behind other candidates, and dealing with crowds. Employers enjoy virtual career fairs too, as they eliminate the need for travel, set up, and related expenses. 

Limiting your participation to industry-specific career fairs is another strategic way to protect your valuable time while providing access to positions within your chosen field. Explore the list of employers attending the career fair and do a little homework ahead of time to see if they align with your career goals. Try not to let the allure of “possibility” detract from your strategy; yes, a medical supply manufacturing career fair could possibly lead to a healthcare management role, but a career fair at a local hospital is a much better fit in terms of networking, alignment to your goals, and growth potential. 

Another tactic to use when attending career fairs is prioritizing your interactions. Plan your route before you arrive and are potentially distracted by the hustle and bustle of attendees and hiring managers. Focus on specific career opportunities that catch your eye online and begin your meetings with those hiring managers first to maximize your time and hiring potential. If you’re nervous and want to “practice” and get a feel for career fair interactions, feel free to stop by a few lower-priority booths, but if you’re comfortable and already confident about what you want, don’t be afraid to skip booths or teleconference opportunities that don’t speak to your career goals and long-term objectives.     

What to Bring to Career Fairs

Put your career fair strategy to work by showing up with a perfectly-polished, professional resume. A professionally-written resume earns you more in terms of negotiating power and compensation packages than any other element of your application. You want your resume to reflect who you are and what you can bring to a role and company. Showcase your strengths, data-driven achievements, and power as an employee by retaining both a printed and electronic copy of your resume to easily pass along during career fairs. Alternatively, you can showcase your proactive nature by researching the attending career fair companies to view open positions and send your resume ahead of time; doing so will impress hiring managers and allow you to focus your in-person conversion on other important details.    

Career fairs are by design jam-packed with information. Make sure you have a way to record notes and follow-up details so you can stay organized once the event is over. Keep track of where you passed out your resume, the names and job titles of those you spoke with, hiring manager contact information, and details about the open position. Keep in mind that phones, while convenient, sometimes convey an air of distraction. If at all possible bring a paper and pen with you to record your notes. 

The most important thing to bring to a career fair is, of course, yourself. Practice an elevator speech ahead of time so you can efficiently and professionally answer the standard, “tell me about yourself,” question you’ll receive from each hiring manager you meet. Stay strategic by ensuring your answer and pitch leaves ample opportunity for follow-up questions and continued conversation. 

Put your best foot forward by being cognizant of your wardrobe choices. Even virtual events require you to take interest and effort with your appearance. Skip the slippers and ensure your bedhead is taken care of before the camera starts rolling. Career fairs require the same professional attire as in-person interviews. Dress appropriately and with thought and consideration behind your choices. 
Ready to set yourself up for career fair success? Zoetic Resume and Writing Services can help translate your best hiring qualities into a professionally-written resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile for networking post-career fair. I expertly guide my clients through their career objectives and bring them closer to their career goals by allowing natural and experienced-based professional attributes to shine through. Stand apart from the crowd at your next career fair by connecting with Zoetic Writing and Resume Services here.

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