What Is a Career Fair?

A career fair is an event where a large number of potential employers or recruiters get together in a central location in order to give potential employees information about their companies and any open positions that are available. Imagine a carnival but with employers sitting in booths instead of hawkers and carnies separating you from your hard-earned money.

Career Fair Basics

The standard job fair format is a series of tables staffed by representatives of different companies. Some career fairs are general, and a mix of companies and employers will be represented. Other job fairs are more specific, like Engineering Career Fairs, or Medical and Nursing Job Fairs, and even Military Career Fairs. Each table will have info, literature, posters, brochures, and even goodies like take-home bags for the participants in the job fair. Pay close attention to the people staffing the tables at a career fair — they are often also the ones making the decision about callbacks.

A career fair is sometimes called a job fair or even a work fair. If you live near a college or university you should have lots of career fair opportunities, as employers tend to hit college campuses pretty hard (especially around graduation day). The best way to take advantage of a career fair is to go in with no expectations, and instead consider it an education in the potential job market in your community. A career fair is also a great place to get your foot in the door of a local company — to hand out hundreds of resumes and shake a million hands.

The benefit of a job fair to potential employers is that they can meet a large number of potential workers all under one roof. The idea behind a job fair (for employers) is to gather as many resumes as they can and quickly pick out the handful of people they want to consider hiring. Though career fairs have been popular during times of economic prosperity, the current economic downturn seems to have spurred on the number of job fairs, sometimes held as “community events” rather than just for college students.

Career Fair Tips

  1. Employers at career fairs need employees. Unlike walking randomly down a street and handing out resumes to every business you come across, handing out resumes at career fairs means putting your name in the hands of people who are looking to hire right away. Think of a career fair as a barrel full of fish for you to shoot, and shoot away.
  2. Don’t think of a career fair as a casual event. The atmosphere will be relaxed, there will probably be music and prizes and possibly even food and drink, but a career fair is a kind of interview. That’s why you have to prepare yourself, dress nicely, maintain a sense of pride, and smile and shake hands with everyone you meet. Any one of those people sitting at booths could be your next boss.
  3. Remember that you are being judged at all times. Employers at career fairs sit smiling and glad handing, but most of them are secretly passing judgement. Every encounter with an employer at a job fair is a mini job interview. Move and talk with confidence, be assertive in conversation, and you increase your chance of getting an interview or at least a call-back.
  4. A career fair is not a race. Take your time, visit each and every booth if possible, and make real personal contact with the staffers behind the tables. If you throw out 100 resumes, the likelihood of getting at least one callback is very high.
  5. Have fun. This may sound like a cliche, but you can have a good time at a career fair — sometimes there are raffles, door prizes, music, games, food, and giveaways at different booths. If you look like you’re having a good time, employers will notice and remember your name and your face.

What Companies At Career Fairs Look For

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It wouldn’t make sense for a company to attend a career fair without having some job openings to fill. You should expect to put your resume in the hands of people who want to hire you. But also, some companies are looking for interns in the short term to potentially hire full time in the long term. Don’t turn down an internship offered you from a job fair because it isn’t a permanent gig. Remember, this company benefits from the career fair as much as you did, and their participation in a job fair means they had trouble filling a position the traditional way.

Companies at job fairs are looking for job applicants who can meet multiple potential employers, handle the stress of meeting a ton of new people, maintain their composure, and practice basic business etiquette. A career fair is a stressful event, and companies are watching you to see how you respond to that stress. Staffers at job fairs are also looking at how you dress — you should wear business attire to the career fair, as you are planning to get a job that requires you to look nice.

How to Find A Career Fair Near You

If you’re a college student, you’re in luck. Career fair notices are usually plastered all over college campuses and some professors will even announce a job fair to a class or give out extra credit for participating in one. People in college in certain fields, like business school or an MBA track program, will most likely be asked to attend multiple job fairs. There’s no better opportunity to test your sales ability than selling yourself to a recruiter.

If you aren’t near enough to a college campus to browse for job fairs on your own, don’t be afraid to hunt around online for a local job fair. When career fairs are held, the organizers advertise in every possible outlet in order to get the word out to as wide a range of people as possible. Take advantage of this, and search the Internet, the local newspaper, and even church bulletin boards for career fair info.

When you need to find a job fast, there’s nothing like a career fair for getting your name in front of employer’s noses. Instead of driving all over town throwing out resumes, working up a sweat and burning gas, potential employers at a job fair sit in a big neat circle and wait for you to come to them. Going to a job fair may be the smartest move you’ve ever made for your career.