With the increasing pressure to use technology in job searches, applications, and networking, job fairs can seem like remnants of the past. Depending on what you’re looking for though, they could still be a useful tool – both to employers and prospective employees.
In the pre-LinkedIn era, job fairs were seen as important networking events where companies and organisations – big or small – could market themselves to candidates, and vice-versa. This process, however, has recently come under scrutiny, due to the rise of web-based tools like LinkedIn and Xing.
Not everyone’s ready to give up on job fairs, though – on both sides of the job search dynamic, there are people who still consider these events useful and necessary, depending on how exactly you prefer to get to know a prospective employee or employer.
One of the main criticisms of the standard job fair is that attendance won’t necessarily or directly lead to employment. This view, however, disregards the less obvious benefits attendance can have for job-seekers — not only do job fairs give a broad view of how in-demand a candidate's skill set may be in the current market, but they’re also the perfect chance to practice basic social and communication skills.
The University at Buffalo School of Management suggests that even those who aren’t necessarily looking for full-time work should still attend job fairs: “Fairs are great practice for employment-related interactions…. [and even] if the company does not have a formal internship program, but its representative meets an impressive student, the recruiter may refer that student to someone who could use an intern in their company.”
This emphasis on college graduates and their relationship to job fairs is an important one that still runs strong in many parts of the world. According to Steven Yeong, recruiter coach at Hof Consulting in Singapore, job fairs are still very much alive in Asia – especially amongst recent graduates.
In a recent interview with BBC Capital, Yeong asserted that “at the MBA level, attendees [of job fairs] can even land higher-up positions, since candidates generally have a few years of experience.”
There are other obvious benefits to actual, in-person job fairs, like having the opportunity to meet and network with other job-seekers or hard-to-reach company representatives. While a staggering 77% of all job openings are posted on LinkedIn, according to Leaders West, applying online still doesn’t give a candidate the same networking opportunities as a face-to-face interaction.
Job fairs are also still fantastic tools for employers, not only because they help businesses find suitable applicants, but also because they present the opportunity to foster a public awareness of their brand.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Katherine S. Brooks, executive director of Wake Forest University’s Office of Personal and Career Development, said about job fairs: "It's a way to get your name out in a positive light, to encourage talented job seekers to consider you, and to have a conversation with real people rather than resumes."
By establishing your company’s place at a job fair, you gain access to a huge number of people who can read and share your marketing materials. Even if these people don’t ultimately consider themselves suitable for your brand, they could still distribute those materials to others who might be.
Job fairs also offer employers the unusual opportunity to meet and network with other companies in a semi-casual, public setting. These events give your employees the chance to build bridges with other like-minded organisations in a way that could never be accomplished digitally.
This notion of creating personal experiences that are otherwise impossible online is an important one, and it’s essentially the reason that job fairs are still relevant.
Though the nature of job fairs has definitely changed since the advent of the Internet and, in turn, networking sites like LinkedIn, that doesn’t make them irrelevant. Though “virtual” job fairs seem to be the next possible step in online job marketing, when it comes down to it, digital experience can’t replace real-life interaction between real people in real time.