The Employer’s Guide to In-Person Job Fairs

Apr 25, 2023

It’s been a while since many of us attended an event in person. Now that the Covid-19 pandemic has waned, people are stepping out again and eager to meet others face-to-face. This includes attending in-person job fairs.

Employers and recruiters attend job fairs to find qualified candidates to fill their company’s open positions. Job-seekers attend career fairs to interact with employers in meaningful ways. They want to learn about available roles that match their skills, but they also want to gain knowledge not found online.

In-person job fairs are a great way to have mini interviews instead of reading dry details on a resume. The personal connections you make with each candidate will make or break the candidate’s interest in your company. This guide will help you plan for, attend, and measure your success at an in-person job fair.

Before the Job Fair

Set Goals for the Fair

Before you start planning your booth layout or handouts, you should set goals for each fair you attend. What positions are you currently hiring for? Are you accepting resumes to pipeline for future openings? What level and type of skills are you looking for? Or are you attending for brand awareness? Your goals will guide the rest of your decisions as you plan for your attendance and participation.


Refresh Your Elevator Pitch

If this is your first in-person event in a while, you need to refresh and practice your pitch. Aim to get across what you do and why candidates should care within a minute. You want a bite-sized message that entices the candidates to stay at your booth and learn more.


Decide on Your Booth Layout

Once you’ve registered for the fair, your contact should provide specifications for your allotted space. Make sure your booth layout fits within this space. Include eye-catching graphics on banners, backdrops, or even digital media like monitors. You also should plan for an interactive element, though it doesn’t have to be high-tech. Simply forgoing the provided table and opening the space up will invite candidates to interact with staff. Be sure to ask your fair contact about electricity connections, Wi-Fi, and anything else that will be provided.


Determine Staffing for the Fair

Who will attend the job fair on your company’s behalf? Consider the candidates who will be present and choose your staff accordingly. If the fair is at a specific college or university, see if you have available alumni who can attend. If you have a large recruiting team, consider who will be best able to relate to the candidates. Hiring managers might also be good representatives if they have specific skills they need and want a preview of candidates.


Develop Your Promotional Materials

Your staff definitely needs to bring business cards with each person’s contact information. But beyond that, many candidates prefer to have something they can take away with them to help remember the conversations they had. Think about what you can give them that will help your company stand out when they’re going through all materials at the end of the day. You can also purchase small promotional items to give away, like keychains, lip balms, or earbuds. Just make sure each giveaway is branded with your company’s logo and website!


Decide on Your Process

Will you be accepting hard copy resumes or asking candidates to fill out an application on a provided tablet or laptop? What happens if you have multiple people lined up to speak with someone? What are the next steps after receiving a resume or an application? Make sure you have a plan for how to handle the flow of candidates as well as keeping them informed of their next steps.


List Out Your Talking Points

Again, it’s been a while since many people have attended an in-person event. This can make for some awkward small talk! Prepare a list of talking points that you can fall back on to keep the conversation constructive. Think about your goals for the fair and write questions that will help you collect information from candidates. Be prepared to answer questions about your company, its culture, benefits, promotions, etc. as well.


Advertise Your Attendance

Even if you’re not attending the fair for brand awareness, you can still benefit from it if you promote your attendance. Once you’re confirmed, share on social media and your website. Make sure you provide your fair contact with your company’s logo so that they can promote your attendance as well.


During the Job Fair


Arrive As Early As Possible

Don’t leave your unpacking to the last minute – you want your first impression to be calm and collected. Plan to arrive as soon as the fair allows so that you can assemble your booth, display your materials, use the restroom, and get a smile on your face!

Be Friendly and Approachable

With that smile on your face, you are projecting a friendly and approachable demeanor. It’s a good idea to stand as much as possible so that you’re not hidden behind a table (this can be uncomfortable for candidates to approach). Be genuine during your conversations and make eye contact with others. If someone appears visibly nervous, ask them a simple question about what brought them to the fair. Break the ice for them and the conversation should flow.

Network with Other Companies

You may be attending the fair to source candidates for your open positions, but don’t miss the opportunity to network with other companies. Recruiters have wide networks and expanding their connections can lead to great partnerships. Your company might also provide services that another company does not, so they could refer candidates your way if they’re unable to help.


After the Job Fair


Follow Up As Promised

Whatever you decided your candidate’s next steps would be, make sure you follow up appropriately. If you said that you would pass along their resume to the right hiring manager, do so. If you promised to call them once you were back in the office, make it happen. Remember, your competitors will be following up as well! If you don’t take the actions you promised you’ll alienate your candidates and damage their trust in the company.

Measure Your Results

Depending on what your goals were, establish corresponding metrics that can show your level of success. If you were aiming to meet with 100 candidates, how many did you actually meet? If you were hoping to find interns, how many resumes did you collect? Don’t forget qualitative measures, which aren’t measurable by numbers. For example, if there were mostly entry level candidates when you needed highly skilled workers. This information can add to your measure of success and inform your future participation in this specific fair.

With planning and preparation, your attendance at an in-person job fair can really pay off for your company. Be sure to maintain the personal connections you made – whether with candidates or employees at another company. And work on planning your next job fair appearance!

Written by: Sarah Perlman

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