Tips for a Successful Career Fair!

Written by: Heather MacIsaac of Career Connections – Nova Scotia Works Centre, Pictou County

Photo of Heather MacIsaac.

When I planned my first career fair in 2013, I hoped to receive at least 20 responses from employers. Fast forward to 2018 and our career fair has turned into a completely packed room of 40 employers (we have spilled into the hallways of the largest venue in Pictou County) and an employer wait list. The number of job seekers continues to increase, with more than 1000 people in attendance at our most recent event.

Our team plans this event each year while still maintaining a case load of clients and other daily duties – meaning it entails a lot of organization, time management, frustration and sticky notes. Nonetheless, it’s a very fulfilling aspect of my job that makes a real impact in my community.

You see, career fairs provide a unique opportunity for employers and job seekers to come together, share information, and connect in a highly efficient way. As an employee, it provides a face-to-face opportunity to impress a potential employer – helping them to stand out in an employer’s sea of job applicants. As an employer, it’s a quick and effective way to source out local talent that could fill current or future roles in your organization.

So, in the event you’re considering a career fair of your own, you may appreciate my list of tips and tricks to assist you in your planning. Read on to learn what has worked for me, what hasn’t, and my absolute planning musts!

  1. Know your budget
  • Outline where the job fair funds will be spent. Venue, food and marketing will likely use a large portion of your budget.
  1. Book your venue early
  • I book the venue almost immediately after hosting the current job fair – it ensures availability.
  1. Create a career fair binder
  • Organize everything into one place and write everything down. As tasks are completed, be sure to check them off in your binder. In addition, use the binder to keep track of contact names and/or business cards.
  1. List all employers you want to invite
  • Chances are you will forget some, so be sure to also ask co-workers for employer suggestions!
  1. Confirm employer responses
  • Regardless if an employer responds ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a job fair invite – follow-up with them to confirm. This will help avoid mass confusion on the day of the event. A quick phone call is often the most effective way to do this.
  1. Determine the job fair layout
  • Meet with the venue staff to determine venue setup. Think of the “flow” of job seekers – you want to make sure the table set-up is easy for everyone to navigate. Keep in mind that employers will have signs, banners, etc., so consider this in your plan. If on the day of the event an employer’s sign is too large, do not be afraid to move them to another spot.
  1. Maintain contact with venue organizer
  • Keep in contact with the event organizer at the venue throughout the planning process to ensure you remain on the same page and mitigate the potential for confusion on the day of the event. I also ask for the venue invoice early and pay in advance.
  1. Advertisements
  • Social media and radio ads were our best marketing strategies:
    • Social media – Our Facebook page is very active and the engagement with our career fair posts brought thousands of views. We also spent $20 for a sponsored ad which ran for a month. This was the best $20 spent on marketing, as many people mentioned seeing the ad.
    • Radio – We purchased three ads per day which ran for 14 days – these were also well received.
    • Press release – sent a generic press release to our local papers and then made calls to their editors inviting reporters to come to the job fair for pictures and articles.
  1. Marketing materials
  • Give yourself time to plan, print, and pick-up your supplies. I keep a tote box in my office with supplies for next year’s job fair (i.e. pens, brochures, holders, signs, etc.). BONUS: If I am asked to attend someone else’s job fair, I’m already prepared!
  1. Delegate to coworkers
  • Write up a schedule for coworkers outlining their designated tasks for the event. Some things to think about include: who is covering the registration desk, who will greet employers as they come in, who will ensure the caterers know where to go, etc. It will bring clarity to everyone’s role and helps things run more smoothly.
  1. Privacy of attendees
  • If taking photos, be sure to blur out the faces of the job seekers before posting any pics online, unless written permission is acquired. Some attendees are currently working and may not want others to know they are job searching.
  1. Other Employer Considerations
  • This year we provided employers with Nova Scotia Works branded lunch bags which contained 2 bottles of water, sticky notes, our portfolio of services, business card(s), and a pack of gum. This ensured the employers had some networking essentials on-hand while also learning more about our centre.
  • I also recommend providing lunch for the employers. We typically book a separate, private room for lunch, as this allows the employers a quiet space to relax for a few minutes away from the crowd. Also, if required, our staff help monitor employer tables while they are taking a break.
  1. What to Forget!
  • Door prizes…you don’t need them! We tried this at three separate jobs fairs – always in a different way – but it typically just creates confusion and is a lot of extra work. Almost all employers provide some kind of small gift, gadget, or food item at their table, which is more than sufficient for attendees. However, I do encourage employers to do giveaways at their own tables if desired!
  1. Comfy Shoes
  • Comfortable shoes are a must! During my first job fair, I wore shoes that looked “cute” and went well with my outfit but by the end of the day, I could barely walk.  You will be surprised by how much walking you do!
  1. After the Event
  • Keep track of attendance stats, feedback from the event, and other takeaways that will assist you in planning next year’s career fair. But, most importantly, take a moment to breathe, relax, and pat yourself on the back after a job well done!

News Coverage of our recent Career Fair in Pictou County: