Your business is growing, which means you’re probably looking to fill new roles and expand your team. And you’re looking to do this in a unique and effective way. Enter: job fairs for employers.
A study by Linkedin found that 60% of job applicants look for new jobs online—that leaves another 40% of the workforce looking for opportunities elsewhere, mostly at in-person networking events like job fairs. Even though job fairs can be a large investment upfront for business owners just starting out, they’re a great way to connect with potential candidates and put your company in front of lots of eager talent searching for work.
But first, you’ll need to learn the ropes. In this article, you’ll learn all about job fairs for employers: why you should consider them in your hiring process, how to prepare for a job fair, how to make the most out of a job fair event, and a checklist you can take with you when you’re ready to dive in.
What is a job fair?
A job fair is an organized in-person event for companies and businesses to advertise open roles to potential candidates. Job seekers attend job fairs to distribute their resumes to hiring companies, network, and potentially secure new employment on the spot.
Typically, your business would pay a fee to participate in a job fair. You’d set up a booth or table for a day or longer, depending on the length of the job fair. It’s a popular way of finding and hiring great candidates that might have gotten lost in the pile of online applications, and also gives you a chance to meet people face to face.
What is job fair recruitment?
Job fair recruitment is when companies or businesses participate in job fairs to identify and attract potential candidates to fill their job openings. It involves setting up booths or tables at the job fair for recruiters or hiring managers to engage with job seekers, collect resumes, evaluate their suitability for available positions and set up follow-up interviews with the best candidates.
Actively participating in job fairs for employers can also help you network with other local businesses you could partner with, and foster future collaboration and talent-sharing opportunities. Job fair recruiting works for all types of business; whether you’re a small business looking for hourly hires, or a franchisee searching for the next assistant manager. No matter what you’re looking for in your future employees—there’s probably a job fair for employers that’s the right match for you.
How job fairs for employers work
As the hiring company, you should be thinking about job fairs as “recruitment speed dating”. You’re looking for your dream team players in a short span of time, and your job candidates are also getting to know you and what your company has to offer.
At the fair, job seekers will approach your booth, so you’ll need to be ready to engage them in meaningful conversations, answer their questions, and provide information about your business and available positions. You don’t have to necessarily hire on the spot, and we recommend not making any instant decisions. Instead, collect resumes and engage some of your potential hires in conversation to get a sense of their experience and if they’ll be the right fit for your team.
Job fairs for employers give you the opportunity to showcase your company and attract potential candidates. An appealing booth is key–you’ll want a set up with visually appealing displays, brochures, and job descriptions. But you don’t have to break the bank. Go with what you know: if you’re a local coffee shop, have some free and fresh coffee available for candidates. Skateboard shop? Have a few stickers to give away to interested candidates. Landscaping business? Have a few business cards ready to hand out, but maybe leave the grass clippings at home.
When you chat with potential hires, you’ll need to create a memorable first impression by actively listening to their aspirations. Clarify your job requirements, and highlight the benefits of working for your company. By collecting resumes and contact information from interested candidates, you can follow up with them after the event to continue the recruitment process.
Hot tip: Use an all-in-one software solution like Homebase and have potential employees sign up on the spot using a tablet or smartphone right at your booth. Homebase makes it easy to track your applicants and keep everything organized in one place, all the way from interview questions to your new hire’s first paycheck.
Following the job fair, assess the collected resumes, shortlist qualified candidates, and proceed with further interviews or assessments. You’ll also need to measure the ROI of participating in a job fair to determine if it’s something you’ll want to do again. By actively participating in job fairs for employers, you can engage and get to know great candidates face-to-face, promote your company’s brand, and potentially find suitable candidates to fill your job openings.
How to join a job fair as an employer
Finding the perfect job fair takes a bit of research, organizing your resources, and timing. Before even clicking on the application button for a job fair, make sure you’re clear on what you’re trying to achieve by attending and that you have enough time to prepare.
Here’s how to join a job fair as an employee, from finding the right job fair to sealing the deal on a booth.
1. Do your research
Not all job fairs are the same—and not all job fairs attract a talent pool that’s a fit for your particular business or industry. Start by researching job fairs in your industry or location, focusing on reputable job fairs that attract the type of candidates you’re seeking. Here are some potential sources you can check:
- Contact your local Chambers of Commerce: They often organize or have information about job fairs happening in your area. They can provide details about industry-specific fairs, regional job fairs, or general career events.
- Check online directories: There are online directories dedicated to listing job fairs. Websites like Eventbrite, JobFairing, or LocalJobNetwork provide comprehensive listings of job fairs happening in many different cities. The National Career Fairs site lists all the job fairs scheduled for the entire year ahead.
- For more junior roles, check out college and university career centers: A lot of post-secondary schools host job fairs to help their recent grads land their first job. Some of these fairs may also be open to external employers. Contact the career centers of colleges and universities in your city to see when their career fairs take place and if you can apply.
- Ask industry associations and networks: You can take a look at industry-specific associations, professional networks, or trade organizations related to your business. You can check their websites, newsletters, or reach out to them directly for details.
- Ask your network: Reach out to professionals in your network via LinkedIn or email. On social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, you can join industry-specific groups or follow relevant hashtags to stay updated on job fairs and career events.
Once you’ve identified the job fairs you’re interested in, evaluate them based on their relevance to your company and the availability of suitable candidates. Consider factors like industry focus, location, size, and the fair’s track record of attracting qualified candidates. If the job fair’s geared more towards tech businesses and you’re a local vet clinic, well, it might not be the right fit.
2. Apply to the job fair
Say you’ve picked the job fair you want to attend. Now what? Here are a few tips to get you on the right track:
- Review the application process: Visit the job fair’s website or contact the organizers to obtain information about the application process. Pay attention to application deadlines, required documents, and any fees associated with reserving a booth. Take note of any additional materials or promotional items they may require you to invest in.
- Prepare the application materials: Prepare your application materials—and get all the approvals you need—as early as possible. This typically includes a completed application form, information about your company, job descriptions, and any other required documents. Craft a compelling and concise company profile that highlights your unique selling points to the job fair organizers and attracts potential candidates.
- Tailor your message to the job fair: When communicating with the job fair organizers, personalize your messages and demonstrate your genuine interest in participating. Mention specific aspects of the job fair that align with your hiring needs and how you believe your company can contribute to the event’s success.
- Follow-up: After submitting your application, proactively follow up with the job fair organizers to confirm receipt of your application and express your enthusiasm to participate. This helps establish a connection and keeps you on their radar.
- Be responsive: Throughout the communication process, be responsive to any requests or inquiries from the job fair organizers. Promptly provide any additional information or materials they may require. Timely and professional communication demonstrates your commitment and responsiveness as a potential exhibitor.
3: Plan your resources (time, money, effort)
Once you’ve secured a booth at the job fair, it’s time to plan your spending. This includes how much you’ll spend on any travel or parking, booth materials, human effort, and time.
Here are some tips to make the most of your investment:
Set a budget
Determine how much you’re willing to spend on materials, giveaways, travel, and parking. Make sure it aligns with your overall marketing and hiring budgets. Think about who will be hosting the event, and if you’ll need to pay them an additional hourly wage.
Plan your booth
Once your booth application is accepted, start planning your booth layout, promotional materials, and staffing requirements. Consider how you’ll effectively represent your company and engage with potential candidates during the event.
Jack Underwood, CEO & Co-Founder of Circuit, suggests adding a self-serving station made up of one or two iPads if you have a budget.
“While you should meet and greet as many potential candidates in person as possible, some candidates might prefer to check out resources individually,” Jack says. “And if your booth is the hit you hope it to be, you may end up with long line-ups that deter candidates who don’t want to wait. A self-serve station helps introverted candidates and those in a rush to use an iPad or other quick tech tool to input their contact information for a follow-up later.”
Jack also recommends going the extra mile and coming up with creative ways to get your booth to stand out.
“Host a competition or giveaway to attract candidates to your booth,” Jack suggested. “When the job fair competition is fierce, sweetening the pot can help ensure more candidates head your way, at least for a few minutes.”
Train your team
Whether you’re the one manning the booth or you’re hiring one of your team members to talk to potential hires, make sure you’re prepared to answer questions, provide information, and engage with potential candidates. Check that everyone knows a few key points about your company and why people would want to work there. Prepare a brief, compelling pitch that can be delivered in under a minute.
Preparing your team for the day also involves ensuring they have everything they need to perform. “Your team is the face of your career fair efforts—it’s crucial they stay fresh and energized so they can give 100% to every candidate and make a strong impression,” Jack added. “Monitor your team efforts and make sure each employee takes breaks regularly.”
Track and measure your ROI
Set goals for the job fair and track your return on investment. Have a system in place to collect candidate information and track new hires resulting from the job fair. Figure out how much it costs to acquire a new hire through the job fair, and compare that to other sourcing strategies. Some examples of KPIs you can measure are the number of qualified leads interviewed, candidate conversion rates, time to fill a role, and employee retention rate.
To track the success of participating in a job fair, Jon Hill, Chairman & CEO of The Energists, suggests adding a question onto your application that asks how the candidate found out about the role or your company. He advised: “This will let you gather data about how well the job fair worked by comparing the number and quality of applicants from the job fair to your other recruitment strategies, which can be useful for refining your approach in the future.”
5 benefits of job fairs for employers
Some key benefits of job fairs for employers include:
1. You save money on your hiring budget
Participating in job fairs can be a cost-effective recruitment strategy for small businesses. According to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), it costs employers an average of $4,129 and takes an average of 42 days to fill an open position. Rather than investing significant resources in third-party recruitment agencies, a job fair allows small businesses to engage with a large pool of candidates in a single event. This consolidates recruitment efforts and can lead to more efficient use of time and resources. Before the job fair, make sure that you’ve posted your job listings on an integrated site like Homebase, so people have somewhere to go back and review info once the fair is over.
2. You get access to a large pool of “offline” talent
Job fairs attract job seekers who are actively seeking work. They’re also well-attended, so you can be sure you’ll find a large pool of potentially qualified applicants. A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that over 91% of respondents said they had attended at least one career fair the previous year.
On top of that, job fairs attract high-quality candidates. Another NACE survey found that job fairs are ranked among the top three most effective methods for employers to connect with candidates actively seeking jobs.
3. You get to know candidates on the spot
According to a study published in the International Journal of Selection and Assessment, face-to-face interviews tend to be the most accurate way to assess a candidate’s skills, qualifications, and cultural fit. By attending a job fair, you’re bypassing the effort of sifting through hundreds of faceless applications. You also get a unique opportunity to get a sense of an applicant’s personality and culture fit.
For Dawn Boyer, Ph.D., an experienced career consultant working out of Virginia, job fairs also add a personal touch to the hiring process: “I love meeting folks ‘out in the wild’, so to speak.”
4. You get brand exposure
There’s a possibility you won’t find and hire candidates at the job fairs you attend. But it’s not a total loss. When you attend a job fair, you’re also advertising your business to future job seekers. Some people might not be ready to apply to your company immediately, but if they had a positive interaction with you at a job fair, they’ll keep your company’s name in mind the next time they’re looking for work.
Job fairs aren’t just a source of potential talent ready for you to hire. They’re also the perfect time to showcase your company culture, values, and future growth opportunities.
5. You get to network
Job fairs provide networking opportunities for small businesses to connect with other employers, industry professionals, and local resources. Building relationships with other exhibitors and industry contacts can lead to collaborations, partnerships, and potential referrals for future hiring.
How to prepare for a job fair as an employer
Job fairs for employers seem like a hassle-free, grassroots method for hiring so far, but there’s a lot to do before, during, and after if you want to get the best results possible. It takes a lot of planning, organizing, budgeting, and committing time.
Create a job fair recruitment strategy
Before going to the job fair, you’ll need to create a recruitment strategy. This will set you up for success by giving you a number of specific goals and outcomes you’ll want to achieve during the job fair. A recruitment strategy can help you craft a great pitch for potential hires, allocate resources effectively, maintain brand consistency, and evaluate candidates against a set of specific criteria.
- Have clearly defined roles you’re hiring for. Companies should have clear and defined job openings when they’re actively seeking candidates. It’s important to have specific roles available and a good understanding of the skills and qualifications required for each position. Plan not only for the description of the role, but so you can actively discuss and answer the questions of job fair attendees.
- Organize your recruitment materials. This involves a bit of planning and budgeting. It’s a good idea to have brochures or flyers about your business, business cards, and job descriptions either printed out or online where people can easily view them.If you’ve got the budget, you can also consider some “fun” merchandise like keychains, water bottles, or coffee mugs.
- Pick who will represent your company at the job fair. Choose knowledgeable and engaging staff members who can effectively communicate your company’s values, job opportunities, and answer questions from job seekers. Ideally, you can be there yourself to help train someone for future job fairs, so they can see in action how you present your business.
- Decide on the application process for interested candidates. Skip the paper resumes if you can (though you can still accept them of course), and have an easy-to-use online application system. Particularly for Gen Z employees, keeping things online will make things easier for your future hires, and also for yourself when it comes to organization.
- Don’t forget to do marketing. Before you attend, consider advertising that you’ll be attending the job fair onn social media. Marnix Broer, co-founder and CEO of Studocu, did this as part of his job fair recruitment strategy. “Let candidates, employees, and employers alike know that you’re attending at least 2 weeks ahead of time,” he advised. “You can create a social campaign to raise local awareness and ask employees to share the news with any relevant candidates in their network.”
What to do at the job fair
Once you have a gameplan, budget, and resources planned, it’s time to attend the job fair. Here are a few dos and don’ts that you’ll want to prepare for.
Do: Arrive at the job fair early
Depending on the type of fair, arriving early might help you ensure that you get a good spot for your booth (if it wasn’t assigned beforehand). It’ll also help you engage candidates before the rush and long lines pile up later in the day.
Do: Set up a booth that stands out
You can do this by using bright colors, unique displays, freebies, contests and giveaways, or interactive elements to catch the attention of job seekers. Make sure your business name and logo are highly visible, along with any key information about the positions you’re hiring for.
Do: Engage job seekers in friendly conversation
Smile, make eye contact, and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with job seekers who walk by your booth. Show that you’re curious about who they are, their background, experience and interests, and share information about your company and available positions.
Do: Have enough material to give away
Ensure that you bring enough brochures, flyers, and other marketing materials to give out to interested candidates. Bring enough business cards for your team so that they can hand them out to potential candidates. This will help job seekers remember your company and contact you later if they have any questions or are interested in applying.
Don’t: Spend too much time talking to job seekers who aren’t a good match
While it’s important to engage job seekers in conversation, you don’t want to waste too much time with someone who isn’t a good fit for your company or the positions you’re hiring for.
Don’t: Be too aggressive
Job seekers don’t want to feel pressured or uncomfortable. Make sure you maintain a friendly and approachable demeanor without being pushy or overbearing. Remember to respect their personal space and give them time to browse your booth and ask questions at their own pace.
Don’t: Forget to take notes
Taking notes will help you identify trends and common questions or concerns that job seekers have so that you can adjust your recruitment strategy in the future.
Josh Snead, CEO of Rainwalk Pet Insurance, is a big believer of taking good notes on each candidate you talk to: “This way you can get a better look of everyone you interviewed after the fair is over. The best part about interviewing at job fairs is that you get a good look at who is who. You can see who thinks on their feet best, who is serious about the job, and who comes prepared. All qualities you want from employees.”
Don’t: Forget to be inclusive
It’s important to create an environment that’s welcoming to job seekers from all backgrounds and experiences. Avoid using exclusive language and make sure your booth is accessible to all. Additionally, consider reaching out to organizations that support underrepresented groups to promote the job fair and encourage their members to attend. By being inclusive, you can attract a wider pool of candidates and show that your company values diversity and inclusion.
Finally, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and have fun! Job fairs for employers can be crowded and overwhelming, but don’t let that discourage you from trying something new and creative. You could offer a unique giveaway or activity at your booth to attract more job seekers and stand out from the crowd. You could also try hosting a mini workshop or informational session about your company or industry to engage job seekers in a more meaningful way.
3. What to do after the job fair
After the job fair, there are a few important steps you’ll want to take to keep the momentum going.
- Debrief with your team. Discuss what worked well, what didn’t, and any changes you want to make to any future events. Compare notes on the different candidates you spoke to and identify any standouts that should move to the next round of the recruitment process.
- Review resumes and applications. Narrow down the list to the candidates who are the best fit for the positions you’re hiring for. Then, Reach out to schedule interviews or phone screenings. Remember to use those debrief notes we mentioned earlier and prioritize the candidates who stood out or seemed like a strong fit for the role. Finally, be sure to update your applicant tracking system or any other recruitment tools you use to keep everything organized and moving forward smoothly.
- Follow up with top candidates. Reach out to your top candidates within a week of the job fair to schedule interviews or provide additional information about the open positions. Use the notes you took during the job fair to personalize your follow-up and show that you remember the conversation you had with them.
- Evaluate your recruitment strategy. Look at the success of your booth, the marketing materials you provided, and the activities you conducted. Identify any areas where you can improve or try something new for future job fairs.
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Job fair checklist for employers
Job fairs for employers: a checklist
Below you’ll find this guide in checklist form. Make your own copy using these prompts and use it to guide your planning efforts, your recruitment strategy and your post-event follow-ups.
How to join a job fair
- Do thorough research to identify job fairs that align with your industry and attract suitable candidates.
- Review the application process and deadlines for the selected job fair.
- Prepare application materials, including a company profile, job descriptions, and any required documents.
- Personalize your communication with job fair organizers and express your genuine interest in participating.
- Follow up with the job fair organizers to confirm receipt of your application and express your enthusiasm.
- Be responsive to any requests or inquiries from the organizers during the communication process.
- Plan your resources, including budgeting for travel, accommodations, booth materials, and staffing requirements.
- Set goals and establish a system to track and measure your return on investment.
Before: What to do before a job fair
- Create a recruitment strategy with specific goals and outcomes for the job fair.
- Define the roles you’re hiring for and be prepared to discuss the skills and qualifications required.
- Organize recruitment materials, including brochures, flyers, business cards, and branded merchandise.
- Select knowledgeable and engaging staff members to represent your company at the job fair.
- Decide on the application process for interested candidates and prepare necessary forms or online application portals.
- Advertise your participation in the job fair on social media and raise local awareness.
- Ensure you have a budget and allocate resources effectively.
During: What to do at the job fair
- Arrive early to secure a good spot and engage candidates before the rush.
- Set up a visually appealing and attention-grabbing booth with your business name, logo, and key information.
- Engage job seekers in friendly conversation, show interest in their backgrounds, and share information about your company.
- Have enough recruitment materials to give away, including brochures, flyers, and business cards.
- Take notes on candidates to identify trends and adjust your recruitment strategy.
After: What to do after the job fair
- Debrief with your team to discuss successes, areas for improvement, and any changes for future events.
- Review resumes and applications, prioritizing candidates who stood out or are a strong fit.
- Reach out to top candidates within a week to schedule interviews or provide additional information.
- Personalize your follow-up based on the conversations you had with candidates at the job fair.
- Evaluate the success of your booth, marketing materials, and activities to improve for future job fairs.
Job fairs for employers FAQ
What is job fair recruitment?
Job fair recruitment refers to the process of attracting and selecting potential candidates for employment opportunities through job fairs. At job fairs, employers set up booths or stands to showcase their company and job openings. They’re a great way to engage with job seekers who attend the event.
What are the benefits of a job fair for employers?
Job fairs offer a number of benefits for employers:
- You save money on your hiring budget
- You get access to a large pool of “offline” talent
- You get to know candidates on the spot
- You get brand exposure
- You get to network
Why do employers go to job fairs?
Employers go to job fairs for several reasons.
- Job fairs provide a centralized platform to connect with a large number of potential candidates in a short period of time. This allows employers to efficiently fill their hiring needs.
- Job fairs offer an opportunity for face-to-face interaction, enabling employers to assess candidates’ communication skills, professionalism, and cultural fit.
- Job fairs are an opportunity for brand visibility, promoting the company culture, and attracting top talent.
- Job fairs provide networking opportunities, allowing employers to connect with industry professionals, explore collaborations, and gather market intelligence.