In the 1990’s I was part an executive management team that annually put on one of the largest trade shows in Los Angeles, which included a job fair. I served as the General Manager and the details to complete it now come natural from those business experiences. In view of that, I am inspired to share the following tips aimed at helping anyone coordinating their first job fair.
Like any event, the large effort comes in the concept and planning stage. The ‘what is it’ that you want to accomplish must be the continued goal in the planning. Do you want people to walk away with jobs, want employers to review qualified candidates, establish an education forum to help job seekers focus on certain growing industries, and the like?
Once you have the main reason for putting on the job fair you should be able to focus on writing a short objective that will help develop a theme for the job fair. Publishing a theme builds cooperation and develops expectations of those who decide to participate in the job fair as an employer or job seeker.
The more you know about those who are seeking jobs and likely to attend the fair the better you can attract organizations to participate and coordinate the features the fair. The other thing is to know about other job fairs taking place in the surrounding area. Likewise, plan to attend where possible to familiarize you with the elements common to most successful job fairs.
When selecting a date and time it is safe to choose Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Weekends are okay for mega-sized fairs, but some human resource representatives just cannot take the time to work over the weekend. Many municipalities are closed on Friday and Monday is frequently used as a planning day that can limit the number of organizations able to participate.
The start and end time should be considerate local traffic in the area and whether or not if lunch will be provided by the job fair coordinator. A long day should accommodate an on-site lunch, whereas without it the day should be advertised for a few set hours.
Obtaining a good location can be difficult and ruin good planning if not large enough to hold the anticipated number of attendees and participants. This includes accommodating sufficient parking, preferably complimentary. Any costs associated for attendees can be an extreme burden if they are not currently working, so pursue venues that can be considered stress and frustration free.
The more definitive the job fair the better for everyone involved, but do decide if the job fair will be a general resource fair or will focus on a specific area, such as technology, manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare, or the like. Attempt to invite organizations that are within reasonable commuting distance from the location of the job fair. This is mainly for the job seekers to be able get to work if they are considered for an open position.
The first point of contact should be the human resources directors for the companies, but if you have an ongoing relationship with other senior managers it is appropriate to inform them of your job fair as well.
Develop a budget for the job fair and gain approval prior to beginning. At this stage you would not want to have to cancel if there are not enough funds to complete the process. It will make it more challenging for future attempts when you are known as being unable to complete the process.
Account for extra expenses, even if you find a free room and already have tables and chairs. Your budget might include expenses for table and chair rentals, advertising, tablecloths, cleaning after the event, audiovisual equipment, printing and paper supplies, and refreshments.
The last time I coordinated a job fair was at the Los Angeles Convention Center and the following were costs incurred above the space rental:
- Chairs for Employers
- Chairs for Seminar area – Theater Style
- Clothed Seminar/Presenter Tables
- Clothed Sign-in Tables
- Clothed Table Tops – Exhibitors
- Directional Signage (line forms here, restrooms, parking, etc…)
- Electricity Outlet for Résumé review area
- Insurance, security, medical assistance
- Printing for program booklet
- Résumé Review Tables in Seminar Area
- Self-service registration/ticketing platform (Eventbrite, amiando, EventElephant, Eventbee, Event Registration [WordPress Plug-in], …)
- Seminar set-up area with microphones
- Seminar Signage (see schedule)
- Sign Holders in Front of Designated Rooms
- Silk Screened T-Shirts
- Tent Card Name Placements
- Waste Baskets (except for seminar area)
Please note that the office expenses are not included, but if you are contracted to coordinate the event you will need to add in an overhead and administrative fee.
A large challenge is to budget for the tables and chairs when you have no measurements as the number of participants to expect. This will come from the planning and an important part of the knowing the current market and economy.
Make sure to have the delivery of the items to arrive at least one day before the job fair. Delivery on the day of the event no matter how early in the morning is cutting it too close. Also, make sure that the room you choose will be capable of handling the power needs of the exhibitors, who may need electricity to run computers, televisions and other equipment.
Recruit volunteers to staff information tables at the job fair. Volunteers can help exhibitors unload their vehicles and set up their tables. Ideally, have some silk screened T-shirts to show that the volunteers are part of the job fair and it serves as a working billboard to advertise the name and theme of the job fair.
A great cover letter explaining the purpose for the job fair and appealing to the prospective employers to review some competitive job seekers is all essential.
Invitations should go out no less than ninety days before the event. Try not to compete with other job fairs in the area, which makes it important to network with chambers of commerce, employment development departments, and human resources organizations.
Address the letter to the human resources director or company president if the company is small. Use a spreadsheet to track replies, particularly if you plan to do this again in the future.
The email and Internet makes it also very helpful to invite. The email addresses are very useful, but employing a self-service registration/ticketing software platform Company will automatically perform the tracking and send out confirmations.
Employers participating in job fairs anticipate coffee, juice, Danish, fruit and such for starters. Lunch is also expected in most cases, but not as much as morning refreshments. The job seekers are not expecting to be fed, however, water should be available and good restroom accommodations are a minimum for hosting a fair job fair.
The job fair may not meet everyone’s expectation with walking away with a solid job opportunity, which is why it may be a good idea to plan for extending the opportunity to educate and assist. Having workshops that offer interview techniques, job follow-up etiquette, résumé writing, cover letter assistance, et cetera can be a big hit. It also provides a way for social service and public employment agencies to participate in a meaningful way.
An area most job fairs overlook is the opportunity to address all of the employers and service providers just before opening the doors. This sector of the industry in assisting people to identify and secure sustainable employment requires motivation and reassurance ever so often in a manner that shares just how responsible they are for producing meaningful outcomes related to increasing the quality of life for people.
Employers should be reminded to be honest with job seekers and to guide them appropriately. A significant number of job seekers particiapting in job fairs are having a hard time locating and securing employment. Normal lines of job referral and recruitment are not readily available for a large portion of American job seekers and consequently are forced to try networking at open job fairs.
Pre-pet talks to the participating organizations will go a long way as a reminder for why job fairs are important.
Particularly with online filing being the average course of business limits opportunity to the perfect and most appropriate filled application. There is a chance that a résumé is skewed away from a job opening that an applicant may be perfectly suited to fill. However, the reviewer is limited in time and quickly dismisses all applications not meeting a minimum level of experience of qualification. Consequently, absent of being a company legacy and/or current employee vouching for the candidate they are quickly eliminated long before the interview process.
Secondly, another missed opportunity is speaking frankly with job seekers. While they wait for the job fair opening it is good to arrange a formal pep talk that includes addressing the elephant in the room. That being the problem with obtaining clear invitations to submit a job application mat stem from having inappropriate grooming, indecisive job focus, poor communications, and/or inadequate follow through.
Too often when job seekers are asked what type of job that they are interested in filling, their respective answer is ‘any job.’ Any job is an unfocused respeonse and gives off a sort lackadaisical attitude. Accordingly, try staging motivational job readiness speakers throughout the job fair. They can be part of the exhibitors, set-off in private rooms, and/or even pre-recorded and availed for viewing at marked stations.
Write a press release and submit it to local media as advertising expenses can include flyers, post cards, posters for nearby buildings and stores all the way to billboards and television commercials.
It is still good to consider local newspapers to advertise the job fair, but the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites are the most growing trends to spread the word.
You will want to leave a good impression and the more you help your participants know ‘what is what’ is good to plan for the printing of signs for the job fair that direct job seekers and exhibitors to the correct room or building, signs displaying the company name for each exhibitor and miscellaneous signs, including signs for the information desk and restrooms. Print a map of the room and distribute it to attendees and exhibitors.
Conduct a walkthrough of the job fair location the day before the event, making sure the correct number of tables and chairs are present, signage is in place and audiovisual equipment is functioning correctly. Work closely with you location’s facilities manager to ensure air conditioning and/or heating are going to be right the day of the event. Even hotels are known not to be on-board with the right lighting and room temperature the day of the event if they are not fully familiar with the number of people to anticipate.
Another note is liability insurance is important when being responsible for lots of people. If the weather is hot and there are many people in attendance, it may be wise to have medical assistance at the ready; likewise security is something that every event in today’s society is pretty much required to place such costs into the plan.
In closing, feel free to contact our office if you would like to discuss the aforementioned tips or anything surrounding your employment outreach and/or event planning.
Dean L. Jones
POWER Collaborative Network