Are Career Fairs Still Worth It?

by Kara Brown

Recently, the NACE Community has been discussing the value of career fairs and the issues surrounding student attendance. Kara Brown, associate director of Career Development at Gwynedd Mercy University had some answers to share.

One of the challenges that career centers have been facing is the lack of attendance at career fairs. Most of us are able to engage employers to attend, and coordinate a great event; however, when student attendance is low we are left feeling disappointed, and scratching our heads as to why students are not showing up. Similar to many other colleges and universities, we [at Gwynedd Mercy University] have planned career fairs that lacked attendance, and we kept asking ourselves, is it worth the time and effort? I would like to believe that the answer is still yes.

Every year our career development center hosts a Nursing and Healthcare Job Fair, and over the past three years attendance has waned. This year, as an office, we decided that we needed to make some changes to see if it would increase student engagement.

First, we changed the timing. Before this year, we had always hosted this specific career fair in the fall, and this year we decided to host the event in the spring. The thinking behind this was that graduating seniors may be more inclined to attend because graduation is right around the corner, and those who were not graduating may be interested in looking into summer positions.

In addition to changing the time in regards to the semester, we asked for nursing faculty feedback on which days and times would best serve the nursing and healthcare students.

Another change that we made was the location. In previous years, the fair was hosted in our version of the student center, but this time we decided to go to the students. So we hosted the event in the nursing and healthcare building on the first and second floor lobbies. This created a situation where students who were walking to class passed the great employers who were in attendance. Then these students would come to the event after class.

While time and location served as important factors, the most significant factor was the level of engagement. My colleague and I advertised the event through multiple e-mail blasts, social media ads, flyers, and through word of mouth. We also invited other local schools to attend to increase attendance and allow employers to see more students. Inviting other schools also opened up opportunities for career centers to build relationships with other schools.

Additionally, we asked some of the nursing faculty if we could present resume/professionalism workshops to their classes, and through these presentations we were able to speak to the importance of attending career fairs. The nursing and healthcare faculty members were excellent partners during this event because they also attended the event to speak to employers, and some faculty who were holding classes during that time allowed their classes to attend the event.

Also, we invited students from other majors to attend because some employers were offering internships in human resources, marketing, and healthcare administration.

Another step of engagement that was important was the one-on-one engagement of students through career counseling sessions, and encouraging them to attend the fair. Our career sessions were booked with resume reviews to prepare for the fair.

Finally, our partnership with our alumni office was very helpful because they relayed information about the fair to all alumni through a newsletter and e-mailed alumni who graduated within the last two years.

After the event, my colleagues and I continued to follow-up with students who attended the fair to get feedback, and encourage continued engagement with the employers they spoke to about job and internship opportunities. Through the combination of all of these factors, this career fair was very successful in regards to student attendance, and the employers were very happy as well. Our office is looking forward to using similar methods for additional career fairs that we host.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at brown.kara@gmercyu.edu.

Kara BrownKara Brown, Associate Director of Career Development, Gwynedd Mercy University
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brownkara
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gmercyucareers

Career Fairs and How to be a ‘Match’

BlessVaiBless Vaidian, Pace University Career Services and Founder, Career Transitions Guide
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/blessvaidian
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlessCareers
Blog: http://careertransitionsguide.com

 

With on-campus recruitment and career fairs in full swing, Bless Vaidian offers advice and insight to share with students.

Career fairs showcase match making between employers and job seekers. Numerous screening interviews take place under one roof and in under a few hours. If a student is not a fit, he or she will not be selected by the recruiter for the next round. Only those that “match” proceed.

College campuses are an ideal place to find job and internship fairs. I have worked on and managed career fairs over the years. Those students that are serious about getting a job or internship need to follow this advice: 

Prep You cannot walk into a career fair and wing it if you are serious about finding employment. Just as research is key to interview success, it’s also crucial for the fair. Find out ahead of time what organizations will be attending. Then check out the websites of your target companies, view their job postings, read their latest articles/tweets, and find out if you know anyone in your extended circle that works there. Saying you will “take anything,” shows you are not prepared. And, you will wind up with nothing.

Pre-Screening Recruiters at job and internship fairs have two piles of resumes. Your goal is to make it to the pile that passes the recruiter’s filter. Fill out online profiles ahead of time so that when an employer asks you if you filled out their online application, you can say yes. Make sure the resume you bring to the fair is free of errors, has an easy-to-read format, and highlights exactly what you want it to highlight. Job descriptions should be quantified with metrics, accomplishments, and keywords that are relevant to the industry and posting.

Spotlight Is On The human resource representatives at career fairs are viewing you even before it’s your turn to talk to them. Anything inappropriate you say or do in that room or while waiting on line will be noticed. Be on your best behavior. You should be dressed in interview attire, wearing a smile, and engaging those around you while you wait for your turn. You have only a minute to shine in the spotlight, but remember the spotlight is always on.

Answer the Question: Why You? If you are looking for an internship or job, you should have a pitch. Your pitch answers the question: “Why an employer should hire you.” You can’t think of what to say to that inquiry on the day of the fair. You need to know what skills make you a good candidate. If you don’t know why an employer should hire you, then they won’t. Those that tailor their pitch to match the industry, position, and employer get selected.

More than a Resume What gets you a follow-up meeting after the career fair is more than a resume.  It’s the combination of a good resume and your package presentation: speech, expressions, handshake…etc. Anything that would make the recruiter think you cannot represent their organization, clients, or products will move you into the do-not-pursue pile of applicants. Your communication skills, positive attitude, and energy need to come across the minute you step foot in front of the hiring representative. That is just as important as your resume.

The great thing about career fairs is that those seeking employment can have face time with dozens of recruiters. Hiring professionals that have posts to fill can meet hundreds of applicants.  It’s a win:win situation for both groups. Be the match an employer is looking for by taking your next career fair seriously and taking my advice.

I love to get feedback from recruiters as to what matches were made. When I look through the room of job seekers, I know who is making the cut. Can you spot the students who will do well at the career fair? Share your thoughts in the comments!