Whether it's called a career fair, employment expo, or job extravaganza, this is a resource that offers a good value for the dollar. Career fairs are usually sponsored by a school or university, government entity, or local chamber of commerce. Conduct a Google search to find the next one in your area.
Early spring and late summer are popular seasons for job expos, when people are looking for employment after graduating or relocating. If you are hiring for a position that requires a college degree, attending an event at a university is your best bet. There isn't a better place to find a large room filled with college graduates eager and ready to work.
There are several benefits to these events. You are able to meet job seekers in person immediately, thus eliminating instances of someone who is impressive on paper but disappoints you when you call them in for an interview.
Also, recruitment efforts can be accomplished in one day instead of sporadically over the course of a week. You'll be able to talk to job candidates away from the workplace and the distractions that go along with it. You may also meet other business owners in the community and share your recruitment ideas.
A career fair may focus on a specific discipline such as food and beverage, construction, or positions that require college degrees. Make sure that the theme of the event is consistent with your needs. Most fairs cater to an array of positions, but if it's not clear in the advertising, ask.
What to Bring
When you sign up to participate in a job fair, you should be told whether or not tables and chairs will be provided. If you are planning to have brief interviews, it's best if both you and the applicant are seated, but if you'll simply be manning a booth, it's most courteous if you stand. Wear comfortable shoes, especially if the ground is concrete. Here is a list of supplies that are handy to have at a job fair:
Stapler or paperclips
Flyers about the company
Some people may want to take an application home and drop it off or mail it the next day, so provide the company address on your flyers or bring a stack of business cards. Use the stapler or paperclips to attach resumes to applications. If you plan to conduct interviews, have a sign-in sheet available so that you can greet people on a first-come first-served basis, and use your notepad to take notes. Make sure you know what questions you may not ask during an interview.
You can stay a step ahead of the other exhibitors and purchase a banner to hang from the front of your table. Keep it generic, with your company name and logo, so you can use it for other occasions, too. Many office supply stores sell customized banners or you can do an Internet search for companies and local print shops that specialize in these products.
Bring someone with you to help at the job fair. If the person you bring is a current employee, he is to be paid his normal wages for his time, or overtime if it applies. Ask him to take a walk around and look at the other tables for creative ideas for your next job fair.
Allow yourself ample time to set up your area prior to the start of the fair. For your comfort, bring some drinking water and inquire if there will be options for purchasing lunch. If you will be alone, bring a “Will Return at __” sign to place on the table when you leave for a break or lunch. If you brought a laptop computer or any other valuables, take them with you anytime you leave your assigned area.
It is a nice touch to provide a bowl of candy, tray of cookies, or attention-grabbing tokens to give away at your table. You can find inexpensive doodads by visiting websites like Oriental Trading. Seasonal items and pens go over well with an adult crowd.
The environment at a career expo is usually casual and it's a great way to observe applicants when they are likely to let their guard down and be themselves. Once someone is comfortable at work, this is what you get, and it's good to see it before the hiring is done. Look for people who are courteous, respectful, and mature. If you are seeking “front line” employees — those who will have direct contact with your customers — look for people who appear to be friendly and approachable. If they'll be working in the back of the house, these issues aren't as important.
Although the atmosphere at these events can be somewhat relaxed, attendees should still take the experience seriously. Proper job-searching attire is expected, cell phones should be turned off, and this is not the time to be socializing with friends and family members. Beware of recent high school graduates who are being led by a parent or a person being pressured by their spouse; a job applicant who isn't there of her own free will is unlikely to be an enthusiastic employee.
Have Your Own Job Fair
You may also plan your own job fair. Schedule a few employees to answer questions about the positions that are available and pass out applications. You can briefly interview attendees while they are there, then follow up at a later date with more in-depth interviews with the candidates who may be a good fit for the job.