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Career Fairs – and how to make them valuable- Part 1

The career fair is a venue for hiring employers to feature and promote their companies in order to attract and recruit talented employees. It provides the job seeker a means to meet and present their qualifications to recruiters from numerous companies in one location, and do it in one day. Frequently job fairs are industry specific, designed to recruit engineers, sales people, or IT professionals for example, or they may be quite general to attract candidates with a variety of backgrounds and skill sets.

Not all career fairs are the same and many are not worth attending. For executives, the highly experienced professional, or those with unique and specialized backgrounds the career fair should target your level of accomplishment or specific area of skill. Otherwise it is a waste of time. What career advisors often fail to point out is that companies exhibiting at job fairs are usually staffed only with human resource or recruiting professionals, and seldom with actual hiring managers. All too often these recruiters are merely collecting resumes and disseminating information. In most cases they pass accumulated resumes on to the appropriate department that select candidates to be interviewed. However, in some cases they actually may influence the selection process.

The greatest advantage offered by career fairs is that they present a time saving device to showcase your background and talents to a large number of employers in a low pressure environment and obtain information about companies that might otherwise take days to find through research. It also provides an environment where you can meet other job seekers, establish networking connections, and are able to practice your interviewing and self-presentation skills.

Advice and Etiquette to gain value from any career fair:

  1. You should know which companies will be attending and determine in advance those companies you wish to see. Research those companies and review your information prior to stopping at the booth.

  2. Develop a list of six questions specific to each company you wish to see. This allows you to stay focused and demonstrates that you are knowledgeable.

  3. Since it is unlikely that the company representative will be able to spend more than a few minutes with you, we suggest developing a two-minute presentation highlighting your capabilities, background, and professional achievements to illustrate why someone should hire you. Practice this “commercial” until you have it memorized and it does not sound rehearsed.

  4. Send a resume directly to the applicable department manager in those companies you are specifically targeting. Then call that manager to provide a brief overview of your background and qualifications. Ask them who will be representing their company at the career fair. Use the department manager’s name as a referral to the recruiter when you get to their booth.

  5. Dress professionally not casually. Wear a business suit. A more formal appearance creates a positive first impression, shows attention to detail, and demonstrates a professional attitude. Remember, the employer knows that “what they see is what they get,” and first impressions are lasting impressions.

  6. Do not bring your children, friends, or family. If you have traveled with family members from another city, then arrange for them to spend the day elsewhere, while you attend the fair.

Wait for next weeks article for additional tips!

Read Part 2

Author Lawrence Alter is president of L.D.A. Enterprises, Ltd.; a Minneapolis based outplacement and career management firm. He is a recognized expert in career growth techniques. Call (952) 697-3663 or send ideas and questions to: