Job Fairs are an UTTER Waste of Time

Jacob Share, at Job Mob, wrote a post titled 25 Reasons Job Fairs Are Not a Waste of Time.  He has some really good, valid points.  My experience and conclusion was different.

A few years ago I got a call from someone at a local radio station asking if I would speak at their job fair. In my job search I learned job fairs weren’t appropriate for the type of job I was looking for, and chose not to spend my time there.

But I figured this would be a good opportunity.  Aside from being able to speak three or four times, they would do all the advertising, posters, handouts, etc.  And, he said they would mention JibberJobber multiple times on the various radio stations that was announcing the job fair.  Since they were multiple popular radio station, he assured me there would be awesome exposure (easily hundreds of thousands of people would hear the name JibberJobber), and they were expecting thousands of people to come to the job fair.

Win, win, win, all the way around, right?

And then, the day came.  I spent hours preparing my presentations.  When I got there it seemed that about 1/2 of the booths were empty.  The other 1/2 were entry-level positions, or not hiring at all (just collecting resumes).  There were very few candidates during the day, and those who were there were not dressed like they wanted a job (t-shirts, or tank tops, shorts, flip-flops, etc.).

Of course, my presentations went well.  Kind of.

Actually, no one really wanted to be there.  The guy from the radio station who had me come out would walk around the job fair and beg, and pull people into my presentation.  The most people I had in one was 8.  And they all looked like high school kids in a boring class, watching the clock.

It was amazing.

I saw that job fairs brought a certain type of employer, and attracted a certain type of candidate.  It was a joke.  An utter disaster.  A complete waste of time.

Oh, what about the radio spots, you ask?  Aside from the fact that the DJ kept saying “JibberJabber,” instead of JibberJobber, it was completely useless.  It was one of the experiences that helped me realize that traditional PR was not all it was cracked up to be.

Will I go to another job fair?   I doubt it.  If I do, I’ll go with very little expectations.

6 thoughts on “Job Fairs are an UTTER Waste of Time”

  1. It sounds like the fair you mention above was particularly poor. Poorly promoted, poorly attended and poorly executed. An UTTER waste is right.

    There’s one thing that I agree with you 100%, using the fair I attended yesterday as an example: “no one really wanted to be there”. Even many of the company rep.s seemed to just be going through the motions.

    I spent almost 3 hours talking to job seekers, listening and giving advice informally while recording the conversations on a dictaphone in my pocket (for my own non-publication needs). At least one said that our chat had made the visit to the fair worthwhile.

    I then spent another hour talking to most of the company rep.s, getting their take on the attendees and the state of the local job market, and one of them proposed looking into a partnership.

    It was a good day.

    It’s all about the attitude you take to the fair. If a job seeker attempts even half the things mentioned in my article, repeatedly at the same event, they won’t fill their time was wasted.

  2. I sad experience indeed, but my own time at the BYU Career fairs were very different: Tons of well dressed, well groomed college students, and either great advice with regards to careers and jobs or lots of leads for potential jobs. At the BYU-Idaho job fair recently I had an interview and am flying out tomorrow for a second. A previous year I landed an internship at the same job fair, etc, etc. Perhaps not all job fairs are created equal.

  3. I went to a couple of different job fairs last summer. One downtown SLC – about 4 employers showed up, one of which was very late. I spoke briefly with him then followed up in more detail. I got a job offer out of it. Decided to turn it down though. 100% commission sales job, but business to business.

    The other one was held at the Maverick Center in West Valley. A lot fewer employers than I expected, most of the ones who had things at that time were insurance companies and other 100% commission sales jobs. Some companies didn’t have anything. Needless to say I was even more disappointed in that one. They could have saved a lot of money and had it at a hotel conference room instead of tying up a place like that.

  4. Thanks for the comments Jacob, Stephen and Brad. All job fairs are not created equal… glad to hear the BYU-Idaho career services puts on a great job fair.

  5. To be fair to the companies involved in the above examples, I am sure that they tried to get more companies out. The one downtown, I think there was Art Institute of Utah, 2 insurance companies (both pretty large – including the duck), and a cell phone company (big 2) for CSR type roles. They just didn’t have enough. I think one company didn’t show up at all. I don’t recall who that was. Just wasn’t done very well in marketing to employers. (out of state company did it I believe)

    The one at the Maverick Center I think was well intentioned. You had UTA, Rio Tinto, SirsiDynix, LDS Church Employment, Access Development (I think), two or three insurance companies, a Veterans organization, IM Flash, Zions Bank, IHC, AlliedBarton, L3, C3 among others all jammed into a room smaller than half of a LDS Church gym. (probably half of a half roughly). I think it was fairly well promoted to the public and they got a nice cross section of large employers along the Wasatch Front, just many of them either didn’t have any openings at all (I talked to at least one like that) or they didn’t have anything that was even close to my skill set – at least in terms of current openings. That can be dicey sometimes in terms of how hirings are done. I would have liked to have seen a greater variety of opportunities/companies.

    If employers are reading this, if you have signed up to do one, go anyway – even if no current openings available. From a PR standpoint it is worth the cash that you pay out for materials, wages for your HR personnel that you send and booth space. I think to many bail if they don’t have openings.

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