Job fairs are held nationwide and can range from 100’s of companies attending to individual companies holding a job fair.  Many job seekers wonder if job fairs are worth going to and I’m sure there are several job seekers who have gone to a job fair before and said they will never attend one again.

When I was recruiting locally for Pittsburgh, I would attend several job fairs to represent the recruiting company I was working at that time.  What I remember about job fairs is getting bombarded by people who are looking for work, not knowing anything about the recruiting company I work for, and people handing me their resume without even knowing what I recruit for.  At the end of the day, I was walking away with 100’s of resumes that I needed to look through.  Of course not every resume was looked at and a lot of the times the recruiting manager would scuffle through the resumes, looking for the ones that jump out with the skills our clients are looking for.  Then the resumes would be distributed among the recruiters in the office.    The rest of the resumes would then need to be scanned into the searchable database for possible future use.  To me it seems very similar to submitting your resume to the online job boards.  You have no idea who will look at your resume and if your resume will even be looked at.

Today, job fairs are jam packed with people looking for work.  You see lines of people waiting to just hand their resume to the person representing the company and then when it’s your turn to shine and sell yourself, that representative spends less than 5 minutes with you.  It could be exremely frustrating and disappointing spending half of your day waiting in lines just to hand off a resume.

So are job fairs worth it?  Attending a job fair can be very beneficial to a job seeker, but not for the reasons most job seekers attend.  Also, if you are attending a job fair in hopes of getting a job offer or even an interview, the chances of those situations happening are very slim.

Here are 2 reasons a job fair could be beneficial to job seekers:

  1. Research: Job fairs can be utilized to research companies that are hiring in the area and to see which staffing companies are there looking for qualified candidates.   Take notes on the names of companies there, jot down the names of those representing that company, and you don’t need to stand in line to gather that information.   Now that you have that information, you can research the company, go directly to the career section of their website, and you can even call into the company asking for the person that was at the job fair.
  2. Networking:  I’m sure you knew that networking would be mentioned somewhere in this article.  Of course a job fair is an opportunity to network, not only with people from the companies, but with other job seekers as well.   You may find out about a job seeker support group that’s near by or run into some ex-coworkers that might have a few leads for you.  Seriously, you just never know what can happen when you network with others at a job fair.

I would suggest trying to find out what companies are attending the job fair before you go.  You could do research on those companies before attending the job fair and pick and choose a line you think would be worth standing in.  If there isn’t a company you are targeting, then I personally, do not feel it’s worth standing in those lines.