Giving job fairs a fair shot

Done right, fairs give jobseekers a feel for employers
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/12/2008

Career and job fairs are an excellent way to source and develop relationships with potential employees. Whether in a strong or weak economic environment, hiring the best individuals is critical and job fairs are an opportunity to go beyond traditional recruiting methods.

They allow employers to interact with candidates on a personal level. Employers can then assess, on a preliminary basis, candidates’ qualifications and fit for the workplace and encourage their interest in available positions. Job fairs also allow organizations to market themselves as employers of choice and, indirectly, create awareness about their products and services.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to job fairs:


: Recruiting is expensive so it’s imperative to identify the fairs that are going to provide the talent you need in a cost-effective way. There are plenty of online resources to help find appropriate fairs, such as the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers website,, with fairs at more than 100 post-secondary institutions.


: Career and job fair registration fees vary depending on venue, size of booth space, hospitality included, marketing and the number of fair co-hosts. Some not-for-profit organizations might offer free registration while other fair registrations can cost thousands of dollars.


: Career and job fair dates are typically scheduled one year in advance and registration can occur up to three months beforehand. Employers should plan well in advance and register early to take advantage of early-bird discounts and ensure the best on-site location.


: Career and job fairs are marketed extensively to potential jobseekers. Often guidebooks with employer profiles are available electronically or in a hard-copy format. Take advantage of these to submit your company’s profile to help jobseekers research the organization. Better-informed, qualified jobseekers will make for a more meaningful dialogue at the job fair.


: An organization’s size and type, along with the focus of the fair, will impact how many representatives are required at the booth. Research the expected number of attendees to ensure your company has enough HR staff, managers and employees available to answer questions from jobseekers. It is always good to have at least two representatives, so one can relieve the other for lunches and breaks.

Booth display

: Most attendees are technologically savvy so displays that are visually appealing, different and interactive are always popular. Booth displays should reflect the company’s culture and manner of doing business. But overcrowding or too much clutter at a booth is a problem, so the right size is important to accommodate large displays and heavy traffic — line-ups or bottlenecks surrounding a booth could discourage candidates from visiting.

Promo materials

: It is essential you have sufficient promotional material available to describe your organization and its career opportunities, such as promotional brochures with general company information and sample job descriptions, either in print or electronic format. It is also important to have business cards available, to distribute to all or selectively to those jobseekers with whom you would like to have future contact. All the literature should provide the company’s website and HR’s generic e-mail address where applications can be submitted.


: Recruiting has become very competitive so, in addition to promotional literature, swag is given out in abundance at job fairs. It helps attract people to the booth and gives an organization visibility after the fair. As such, it should always identify your organization and, preferably, be useful. But it’s best not to display these items in a location where people can simply take one without interacting with your representatives. Popular items include pens, mechanical pencils, highlighters, notepads, reuseable bags, magnets, key chains, flashlights, clocks, memory sticks and sample products.


: Employers should engage attendees in conversation, by being visible and standing in front of the booth to make jobseekers feel welcome. They can ask generic questions such as, “What program are you in?” or “Would you like to learn more about our organization?” Job candidates are there to glean the “inside stories” on companies of interest, so they hope to learn more about the culture, philosophy and policies that govern your workplace. In particular, mentoring opportunities, training and career mobility are of paramount importance to them.

Partnerships for Employment is a collaborative effort between the Ontario-based University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College. For more information, see

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