How to choose the best career fair for you
Trolling the web and mailing out resumés often isn’t enough to land a job. Instead, put on your best suit, polish up your business cards and put yourself out there — literally — at a career fair.
“Career fairs provide a great opportunity for face-to-face networking with companies, hiring managers and colleagues,” says Tony Di Gaetano, a human resources consultant and instructor in the University of Phoenix MBA program. He offers this advice on how to choose a job fair that could lead to your next job offer:
“I don’t recommend going to out-of-state career fairs unless you’re planning to relocate,” Di Gaetano says. Instead, he suggests focusing on what’s happening near you. Start by reading your local paper or online job classifieds, which often list upcoming events.
“Many colleges and universities, including University of Phoenix, host frequent career fairs on their campuses that are open to the general public,” Di Gaetano notes. “Check with your local institutions to find out.”
Do your homework.
“Any good job fair is going to list and promote who will be on-site ahead of time,” Di Gaetano says. You should recognize at least some of the names, and the list could include Fortune 500 companies or well-known local employers. “If you’ve never heard of any of the exhibitors, or the job fair doesn’t post a list at all, that’s a red flag,” he warns.
For example, Targeted Job Fairs not only posts detailed lists of its featured employers, but also offers salary trend data, job search tips and even a travel database. “Be sure to do some advanced research on any employers that interest you before attending,” Di Gaetano stresses.
Consider specialty fairs.
If you’re looking for a job in a particular industry, or are a member of an ethnic community, check out job fairs that specifically target you.
Those with strong information technology qualifications and ex-military personnel with government security clearance, for example, can check out TECHEXPO in the Washington, D.C., metro area, while sales and marketing professionals should consider United Career Fairs. Fairs offered by Women For Hire target female job seekers, and fairs put on by DiversityJobFairs.com are aimed at communities of color.
Beware of admission fees or “pay to play” exhibitors.
While most career fairs are free to job seekers, a few charge admission — like the Royals Job Fair held this past spring in Kansas City, Mo.
“Most job fairs on college campuses are free, while you might pay a nominal admission for one held at a large convention center,” Di Gaetano explains. He recommends avoiding any events that charge steep entry fees or companies that require you to pay for the privilege of submitting your resumé.