How Do Job Fairs Work?

Job fairs are designed to connect employers with prospective employees. They can be geared toward specific industries, skill levels or workers from a specific demographic — for example, a job fair geared exclusively toward women, people of color or veterans, according to the careers website Monster.

Of course, there are plenty of job fairs that cater toward multiple industries, and generally aim to connect people with companies looking to grow their workforces.

The main objective of a job fair is simple: to meet employers and other professionals in your industry, learn about career opportunities, sell yourself and your skills, and (hopefully!) make a connection that leads to a job. Knowing how to best utilize job fairs can ensure you get the most out of the experience.

How do you find job fairs?

You can find information about upcoming job fairs online, especially on LinkedIn. Since the goal of job fairs is to attract as many companies and candidates as possible, the fairs are typically well-advertised online. A simple Google search for career or job fairs in your area can show you upcoming fairs and events.

You can also search for job fairs by industry or demographic — for instance, job fairs that cater to STEM companies or the LGBTQ+ community. On that note, double check that the job fair you’re planning to attend isn’t designed for an industry or group that’s irrelevant to you. And if you don’t have access to a computer, your local public library should offer internet access free of charge.

Also, if you’re going to a job fair, make sure you’re not accidentally signed up for a hiring event. Hiring events are very different from job or career fairs. At hiring events, companies conduct on-site interviews with candidates for open positions, according to Indeed, the career listings website. These events require much more specific preparation than job fairs or career fairs, where the objective is to connect candidates with their peers and employers in their industry.

What to wear to a job fair

You can dress business casual for most job fairs, according to Jobcase, a careers resource website. Think, not quite a suit with cufflinks, but definitely not blue jeans. Jobcase recommends you dress “one level up” from your current role; so if you’d be OK wearing slacks and a polo to work, consider wearing dress pants, a shirt and a tie.

Some ideal tops include button-downs, polo shirts, blouses and dress shirts — if possible, something with a collar.

Pants, slacks, chinos, khakis, dress pants or a skirt are all great options for a job fair. Wear solid and neutral colors, keeping patterns to a minimum (unless you’re interviewing at Chanel, of course). And make sure anything you wear is clean, crisp, ironed and stain-free.

If you wear a skirt or dress, it’s best to play it safe and not wear anything cut above the knee, according to the Career Services Office at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. It’s a little antiquated, but lots of people have traditional ideas of what constitutes an “office-appropriate” outfit — and one of them might be in a position to hire you.

Leave the sandals or sneakers at home in favor of dressier shoes, according to advice from the State University of New York. Closed-toe dress shoes — like Oxfords, brogues and loafers — are always a good bet.

Flats, dressy mules and heels — all closed toe — are great options, too, though you might want to save the strappy stilettos for a night out. Your heels shouldn’t be more than 1 or 2 inches high, according to Rutgers University’s Office of Career Exploration and Success.

If in doubt, Rutgers recommends you check the dress code requirements for some companies in your industry, or even a company you’d like to work for.

What to bring to a job fair

What you should bring to a job fair depends on your industry. Generally speaking, you’ll want to bring several copies of your resume and business cards, according to Randstad, an international human resources firm. Also, depending on your industry, you should bring a portfolio showcasing your past projects, designs or campaigns.

You can also bring “targeted resumes,” according to Indeed. Unlike a standard resume, targeted resumes highlight skills and achievements relevant to a specific industry. For example, if you’re in sales but want to pivot to customer service, a targeted resume might highlight your customer retention or communication skills.

Make sure your business cards include your name, home city, contact information — phone and email — and links to your LinkedIn or professional website, per Indeed. You should also include either your existing job title and employer, or a general job title that covers the breadth of your experience.

Finally, don’t forget to prepare your “elevator pitch,” recommends Randstad. That means being able to summarize yourself, your skills and your career goals in 30 seconds or less.

How to prepare for a job fair

The night before the job fair, go to your LinkedIn and make a post about the job fair, says Johnny Roccia, director of career services at Ama La Vida, a career and life coaching firm. (And if you don’t have a LinkedIn, make one, Roccia says.)

According to Roccia, a job fair will most likely have a hashtag, so look it up and include it in your post. You can then use your LinkedIn to keep track of everybody you meet at the fair by quickly sending connection requests. You can even make a QR code that links back to your LinkedIn profile, Roccia says. Include the QR code on business cards, a professional folio, or even set it as your phone background for easy accessibility.

Another big tip from Roccia: Don’t think of job fairs only as places to get jobs. Rather, think of them as networking fairs that’ll get you closer to the job you want — and help you meet people who could advance your career in the future.

“Job hunting is something that fades away, and you don’t have to do as much if you focus on building your network throughout your whole career,” says Roccia.

And don’t think of a job fair as a failure if you don’t walk away with a job. Rather, think of it as a chance for you to meet people in your industry and build connections that could eventually lead to jobs.

“You can be 50 steps closer to your next goal because you don’t know which one of the recruiters at that job fair is going to be hiring for your perfect thing next month,” says Roccia.


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