For most job seekers, attending a job fair is definitely still a viable option to consider. This is especially true if you are seeking an entry to mid-level position, or in an industry such as retail, health care, sales, and customer service. For an employer, a career or job fair requires some work in order to attend (cost to attend, pack/unpack vehicle, drive to site, hours attending, etc.), so usually the company is pretty serious about hiring. In fact, in order to justify the expense of the fair, there may even be a preference to hiring those who were recruited from the event.

So now that you are convinced that you should attend the next publicized job fair (WNYJOBS, of course, is your best source for finding out when and where the next one is being held), what should you do to prepare for the event?

The following is a list of items to consider before heading out to the career fair:

• Personal Appearance and Dress – Your mindset should be that this is at or above an interview. Even if you are seeking a retail or light industrial job, I do not recommend jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts. Business Casual to Business (for Sales and above positions) should be your attire. Please make sure you are freshly groomed.

• When To Arrive – This, of course, depends on other variables in your schedule. Perhaps, due to work, you cannot arrive until later in the day. If you are not time restricted, however, I recommend attending an hour or two after the event starts, which is different than the many “experts” who state to arrive early. By arriving a little later, you will make sure all the tables are set up and the initial influx of people have made their way out. I have typically found that in the first hour or two, recruiters have very limited time to spend on candidates. Lunch time is often busy and Recruiters will be distracted by eating. If you go late in the day, you may find tables being broken down so the recruiter can head out for the end of his/her workday.

• What to Bring – Be sure to print out several copies of your resume and store them in a folder where they can’t be damaged. I suggest also having some type of bag (a clear storage bag will do) to store any business cards received. Be sure to also have a notepad and pen, in case you want to write down any information gathered during discussions. Consider bringing a work-type messenger bag to protect your documents from the WNY weather, as well as giving you a place to keep any items you pick up at the event. 

• Prepare Your Opening – At a job fair, you are going to need to introduce yourself a number of times to people you do not know. To make it easier on yourself, practice your opening introduction and any small talk you wish to make. 

• Study the Participants – Most job fairs publish a list of the participants, as well as a map prior to the event. Pre-studying the map may allow you to get your bearings immediately when entering the room, especially if the event is being held in a large hall.  Pick out those companies you wish to speak to and study their organization. You may even be able to find out who will be representing the company at the event, so you will know (in advance) who you will be speaking to.

• What Not To Do – Unfortunately, the list of what not to do at a job fair seems as long as what to prepare for. Below are a couple of key items.

o Don’t Bring your Kids, Parent(s), or Spouse etc. – Although going to a job fair may seem scary because of having to meet/speak to so many people, but this is something you have to do for yourself.

o Don’t Monopolize Time – A recruiter will need to speak to a large number of people at the event. Please be respectful and limit your time with them so that others can speak and the recruiter has some time do other things (organize table, go bathroom, etc.).

In this world of the internet and technology, it is sometimes the “old school” methods of job lead referrals and career fairs that result in finding new employment. If you are going to attend a career fair, you will want to find way to positively stand out from the hundreds who just show up. The level of preparation for a career fair should be at or above what you do before an interview. If you think about it, an interview is with one company while a career fair gives you the opportunity to engage with dozens. 

P.S.: Make sure to say “Hi” at the WNYJOBS table at the next career fair that they sponsor and attend. We love to hear from our readers regarding how we are helping them find new employment.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of RochesterJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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