This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
A job fair is a great opportunity to connect with multiple job seekers at once in a single location and can be a strategic addition to your hiring practices. Although each job fair is different, they all enable you to give information on job openings and hiring initiatives to potential candidates, casual job seekers, and HR professionals.
Download our free job fair checklist to help you get the most from your next job fair participation and review the tips below to make the process as effective and efficient as possible.
1. Decide Which Job Fairs To Attend
Job fairs are held in a variety of venues—within many industries and specific job categories (like healthcare or accounting)—but most commonly at universities. Since you cannot attend all job fairs, your company should decide on a few based on location. Employers, as well as job seekers, can locate local job fairs using the following resources:
- National Career Fairs: Lists all registered job fairs on its website and is host to over 300 career fairs every year, both in over 100 cities and virtually, bringing in thousands of potential candidates. Employers can also view resumes, search job boards, post their job opportunities, and plan on dates and an overall strategy based on the career fairs that are listed.
- Jobfairsin.com: Lists job fairs and virtual career fairs in all 50 states and by region. Recruiters and employers can list their own job fairs, register as an exhibitor, and post a job to ZipRecruiter for free. Job seekers can attend virtual online job fairs and search for jobs posted through the site.
- Indeed: Recruitment Lists a job fair calendar of both in-person and virtual career fairs. It also offers live hiring events showcasing top talent where employers can collect resumes, interview multiple prospects, and prescreen talent.
- Choice Career Fairs: A top organizer of job fair and career fair events across the United States. Job seekers can meet hiring managers face-to-face and attend all career fairs for free. Employers can meet local and qualified candidates that match their open positions. This site also populates job postings listed on Indeed by filtering by job title, keyword, company name, and location.
- Google: Employers and job seekers can search “upcoming job fairs near me” to locate events of interest.
As you can see from the above image, career fairs are held both in person and virtually. Each requires a bit of a different mindset, but the ultimate goal is to meet potential candidates and find employees to fill your job roles.
In-person Career Fair
Typically a career fair is held in person and will allow you to meet potential candidates face-to-face. It is an opportunity to showcase your company with a branded booth and learn more about the skills and experience of job seekers. You can collect resumes, hold interviews, and network throughout the fair.
Virtual Job Fair
A virtual job fair (sometimes called an online career fair) is an online or web-based event, which is scheduled just like a normal job fair would be. Much like today’s Zoom and Teams group meetings, the job fair takes place within a virtual environment, utilizing face-to-face meetings online, chat rooms, teleconferencing, webcasts, webinars, and so on to carry out instructions, interviews, and meet-and-greets.
The following job fair tips can be helpful when planning for a virtual event:
- Clarify all job opportunities available.
- Advertise all job opportunities ahead of time.
- Establish an area in your office where multiple online calls can be had with candidates.
2. Plan for the Career Fair
Prepping before a job fair will ensure it goes smoothly. Whether the event is in-person or virtual, we recommend appointing someone who will be in charge of everything, including event planning, hotels and airfare (if applicable), event registration, and so on.
3. Brand With Job Seekers in Mind
When it comes to engaging with job fair attendees, appearance matters. With both the booth and the people staffing the booth, your company is being represented, so ensure that job seekers’ first impressions are positive ones.
Looking professional, interesting, or even exciting, and creating an inviting booth all go a long way. Keep in mind that your industry, company brand, and the type of job(s) you are recruiting for should influence how you present during a job fair.
For example, if you are a tech startup, be sure to display the attributes that make you unique. What is your office setting like? How is the work culture among employees? Brag about who you are and why they would want to work for your company. Remember, you are competing for talent that companies in the booths on either side of you are also targeting.
Keep in mind that these candidates are also potential customers, and building dynamic engagement with passersby builds your brand and the emotions that make up your brand connection with the public.
Check out our guide on employer branding.
4. Network, Network, Network
Companies attending career fairs should not only look to hire new employees but also network with potential candidates as well. By networking, companies can get a better understanding of what type of employee they are looking for, what skills and qualities are most desired, and who might be a good fit for the position.
Assign a point person who can walk around the job fair and direct job seekers to your booth. This person should be able to discuss your company and its attributes with a positive and upbeat attitude.
Also, keep in mind that career fairs are an excellent avenue for connecting with college graduates. These individuals are new to the workforce and bring with them current knowledge and quality education in their field.
5. Make It Fun
When it comes to developing a successful campaign at a job fair, part of the craft is making your booth (and, thus, your company and its brand) look cool, fun, and engaging. Although this is serious business, making it fun for all involved can ensure memorability and interest. Also, keep in mind that “fun” can also mean “helpful.”
Consider the following to help your booth:
- Career workshops: Any guidance you can offer as a potential employer will be met with a warm embrace of your brand. Resume writing 101 classes, working on professionalism in interviews, and dressing for success guidance will associate your company with a learning environment that teaches skills vs just taking their skills and time from them in the workplace.
- Refreshments: Free food draws people close to your booth. Set out a bowl of candy and offer water to your visitors. This will get them to stop at your booth where you can engage with them.
- Contests and giveaways: Giveaways or various contests are a great way to connect with passersby and to get email addresses. Many employers will exchange social media sign-ups for small rewards.
- Demonstrations and videos: Demos and videos that run in the background present very professionally and can quickly and creatively do some of the heavy lifting for your booth staff. These demos or videos should be informative about the service or product your company makes, its culture, its mission, and its people.
6. Get the Most Out of Your Job Fair Interviews
Job fairs are often loud, busy, and full of static noise, but that does not mean that you cannot or should not interview during these events. Time is of the essence, and if you can get the initial interview out of the way, you may be able to schedule a second-round interview for the following week.
As a general rule, follow these steps when conducting interviews at job fairs:
- Create a conducive space: As much as possible, create a private and quiet space for the interview. This can be difficult, particularly with in-person job fairs, as they are neither private nor quiet. Do your best with what’s available.
- Keep it brief: In some cases, interviews will last about five minutes, and that is enough to learn about the candidate. These initial interviews are mostly about confirming details on the resume, sharing some basic facts about the job you are meeting about, and answering any initial questions the candidate has about the role or the company.
- Clarify expectations: At the end of the interview, share with the candidate what your timeline is and how long the process usually takes for interviews and hiring decisions.
- Parting ways: Make sure that you have a clean copy of the candidate’s resume. Also, share a business card with the candidate and a brochure about the company and what it does.
To help save time and remember details after the career fair, we recommend using an applicant tracking system (ATS) like Freshteam during the event. You can use it to help applicants apply on-site and track them throughout the hiring process. On top of that, it has a free plan that’s great for small businesses only needing to post three or fewer open positions at a time.
7. Follow Up After the Job Fair
The general rule is that the employer best at post-fair follow-up gets more of the top talent who attends the fair. The earlier you reach out to candidates of interest after the event, the better the chance that the original connection made at the job fair is still fresh.
We recommend getting back to candidates of interest in three to five business days after the job fair (remember, your company is not the only attractive employer that is courting the job seeker). This shows your interest in the candidate and presents your company as proactive.
Use an ATS like Freshteam to track candidates during the job fair. Oftentimes, you can access your ATS from your mobile device at the event and input applicant data in real time.
8. Strategize for the Next Job Fair
If your team is looking to stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and find new opportunities, attending additional job fairs may be a good idea. Look at the schedule for the upcoming year to see where your team may want to attend, and as early as you can, select the events. With many job fairs, the earlier you register, the less money you have to pay.
Additionally, look at what worked and what didn’t work at the previous job fairs. You can use this knowledge to adjust how you present your booth and evaluate candidates for the next fair.
There are many ways to measure if a job fair was a success or not. However, companies should not simply measure success by how many new employees they have gleaned from the last job fair.
During job fairs, much of the time seeds are planted, brands are enhanced, and job seekers are simply collecting information about their favorite brands or jobs they know they want to learn more about. Many employers understand the concept of building a candidate pipeline, which will result in new hires down the road.
The important aspects of the event to track may include:
- Size of the event: The overall size of the job fair. Did it match its expected turnout?
- Number of booths (or vendors): How many booths were in attendance? The more employers at a job fair, the more candidates will show up. It is good for business.
- Brand building opportunities: Job fairs can be an incredible opportunity to promote your brand. Even if no direct hires come from the event, having a booth at a large job fair can have secondary and tertiary implications, including new customers, contacts that lead to new business, and connections made with other companies that are also vendors at the event.
- Level of engagement during the job fair: How engaged were the attendees at your booth? During some job fairs, attendees will be scouring the landscape for the right opportunities, while at other fairs you will witness more casual job seeking and exploration.
- Post-event engagement: How engaging were the attendees after the event passed? If they are responding to your follow-up and/or are following up on their own accord, then that is a very good sign overall.
Job fairs can be useful tools for your organization and its recruitment goals. Although there are many different kinds of job fairs, taking the time to learn which ones may be right for your needs is worth the work. Remember that job fairs also help cultivate and spread the word about your company culture and brand, all worthwhile reasons to attend job fairs that cater to your industry’s needs.