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Is it still worthwhile to attend job fairs?

The Hiring Process The Local Job Market Ask the Employer

No doubt, job fairs aren't what they used to be. But according to our experts, these events remain a great way to make valuable connections that can lead to job opportunities, if you strategize accordingly.

Amanda Haddaway, Director of Human Resources and Marketing, Folcomer Equipment Corporation:

"More and more employers are relying on applicant tracking systems and online submissions of resumes, so don’t be discouraged when a company representative at a job fair isn’t able to accept your hard copy resume. Attending a job fair is still a good idea when you’re looking for a job. In fact, it’ a great time to engage the company representative in a brief conversation about what he/she enjoys about working for the employer. If you can make a positive impression, this person may be an advocate for helping you get your foot in the door to an interview. Try to ask a few additional questions about what the company does and what types of jobs they normally offer."

Ann Bonitatibus, Chief Operating Officer, Frederick County Public Schools:

"If you’re attending job fairs, you are learning that recruiters are not taking your hard copy resumes. Also, they are referring you to websites. Gone are the days when you meet a Human Resources rep with the authority to “interview” you and give the knowing wink that lets you know you’re hired. The game has changed, so expectations and strategy need to change.

To quote one of my HR reps, the job seeker is looking to “make a mark” while the recruiter wants to “see a spark.” So how does this happen without a resume and application exchange? Quite simply, flip the script. As a job seeker, you conduct an interview. First, if you know in advance which employers are at the fair, start by submitting your application and resume online before you go. Second, prepare three great questions that only someone in person can answer. In other words, the response can’t be found online. For example: What do you like best about working for ______? If I were to come work for _____, what do you think would be the biggest learning curve for someone new to ______? What characteristics do you think the employees at _______ have in common? Finally, network with the other job seekers at the fair, not just the recruiters. You may learn new strategies or job leads from those in the same boat as you.

Of course, it’s also the responsibility of job fair organizers to clearly describe their event. Some employers could go an extra step, too. For instance, the Frederick County Public Schools recruiters bring tablets and laptops to fairs so job seekers can get assistance on the spot. Remember, we want to see your spark, and you want to leave your mark!"