Are "job fairs" totally useless?


Hey, once again I don't have something "exciting" for you for this mid-week missive ... sorry about that!  I've been, frankly, surprised at the reluctance of some folks in the "job industry" to have a profile in here.  One would think they'd be all over that, but it doesn't seem to be the case.  I'm open to "guest posts" as well, but haven't exactly had a flood of offers there either (or have had no-shows like last week), and I haven't hit anything in my reading that has been so special that I wanted to re-print it as a post rather than having it be part of the link dump on Friday.  So, you're stuck with me today.

I do have a subject that I wanted to discuss, but was really hoping to discuss it, rather than to simply "pontificate", but the comments section here over the past year has been a wasteland unless I'm being particularly emo and getting those (admittedly, appreciated) encouragements from readers.  So, not only are you "stuck with me", you're getting random unfocused musings.

The subject?  Job fairs.  I get a number of e-mail invites to various of these every month, and one of the job boards that I follow on Twitter is very gung-ho on them.  Over the past year and a half, I've attended dozens, all of which (with one exception) have been near-total wastes of time.  The one exception was one fair where there was nothing nominally there for me, but the Office Manager for a financial firm was helping to run their booth, and we got into a several-week ongoing discussion about their possibly creating a Marketing Communications position at the company (the partners never approved creating the job, despite the evident need for this sort of help).  I'm suspecting, of course, that the culprit here is "the economy", as there just aren't that many companies out there hiring for a wide spectrum of jobs, and so most (and in some cases, all) of the positions involved are essentially sales gigs.

It is, however, quite dispiriting to find that at most of these fairs there are three insurance companies looking for sales people, two brokerages looking for sales people, a handful of mortgage groups looking for sales people, some real estate operations looking for sales people, assorted cable TV (and similar) providers looking for sales people, and maybe a half a dozen on-line or store-front "colleges" looking for customers (students).  I don't recall ever encountering any exhibitor at any job fair (at least in the past 18 months) that has been actively looking to fill any communications/PR positions (or anything else "creative" for that matter), or at least not in the Chicago market (I had a nice chat with a lady from the CIA about being an Analyst, but it would have required moving to Virginia, and talked with a couple of companies based out of Wisconsin and Minnesota about marketing gigs).

Needless to say, it takes a lot of self-coaching ("you never know, there might be something, or somebody there might know somebody else who's looking for somebody with your skill set", etc.) to talk myself into putting on a suit, printing out a stack of resumes, and slogging off to wherever the event is, just to stand in lines to hear that all they're looking for are "cannon fodder" to go out and pound the pavement for commission-based pay.

Obviously, the first thought is "well, you're going to the wrong job fairs!", but, being that I "have my ear to the ground" for all things job-related for this blog, I'm thinking that this is not actually the case.  There has recently been a new type of job fair that I've seen (but not attended) which is targeted to the graduates of specific universities.  I've queried the organizers of these (whom I know from Twitter) if they're appropriate for graduates of other universities, and been told "no" (which brings up a whole different subject: why they're promoting these to all and sundry via Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn, when most of the people getting the notices are, essentially, not welcome at the events!).

Perhaps this is just the fact that I'm looking for a "Marketing Communications" position, and have to make do with the vast number of networking events that happen in that niche.  Evidently, if one had an interest in sales one should be very quickly employed, from what I've seen.  But I was wondering if anybody out there has had ANY success via job fairs, or if these have become (in the current economy) simply the job-search equivalent of a waning technology (when was the last time you saw a new cassette tape?).  If you've had something positive come out of one of these events, please tell us about it in the comments!

Oh, and "personal update":  I've still heard nothing about that job I'd been interviewed for over the past several weeks. I was told that I "should" have heard one way or the other by Friday, 11/5, and I've reached out with two voice mails to the HR person, and an e-mail to the "decision maker", and have still not had any response.  I've been told (by "job industry" folks I know from Twitter) that "no news is not necessarily bad news", but it's getting progressively harder to hold out much hope!  Needless to say, you'll be hearing soon after I do.


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  • Job Fairs are a waste of time. Most are considered "public good-will" and free advertising for the most part- like the huge ones at Navy Pier. Often these job fairs are even staffed with temp workers. (not always HR)
    My old company was at a job fair a couple of months after they laid off a 1,000 people. There was a hiring freeze and no jobs.

    Yes, if you look at the companies often attending most of the job fairs there will be hardly any jobs on their website- They aren't "saving" them for a job fair.

    Its even more depressing as one who is unemployed to attend these events. You think you are being proactive, but then realize what a waste of time printing your resume, business cards, and dressing up is.

  • Hi Brendan,
    This is Lauren Milligan, Job Coach/Resume Expert/Career Radio Co-host/Resident Loud Mouth at ResuMAYDAY. I

  • In reply to ResuMAYDAY:

    As far as the LinkedIn info ... Simuality, LLC went through an incorporation and became Liminati, Inc., so the "branding statement" IS the same. Frankly, the only reason I didn't combine the two there (as I have on my resume) is that I have a very nice recommendation specific to the Liminati position (from the CEO we'd brought in for the few months of Limitati's existence), and didn't want that to disappear if I re-defined that part!

  • In reply to ResuMAYDAY:

    Brendan, that's no excuse. You are a man of words. Use them. Distinguish the two companies, state your accomplishments, and explain the merger.
    As it is right now, no one would ever assume these two companies became one; the easiest assumption is that you had 2 short term gigs (jobhopper). Here's one solution. Leave Simuality as is, but rename Liminati as Liminati (formerly Simuality). Just that simple change would make a world of difference, and you won't lose your recommendation.

  • In reply to ResuMAYDAY:

    I saw the title of your post and just had to laugh. Was hoping someone would post something encouraging about job fairs, but it is not to be. What good is a job fair when they all want applications online? And another thing, where are all the marketing jobs in IL?

  • In reply to ResuMAYDAY:

    The answer is yes, job fairs are absolutely useless. If the companies in attendance are not there for a good public relations cause, it's a good way to collect information to fulfill the EEO requirement. It is this same reason many employers choose to leave numerous outdated positions posted on their web site. They have to collect this information somehow.

    As far as your LinkedIn profile, you can re-word it to make it sound like you've invented the moon, but that won't peak an employer's interest in you any faster. If you fill it up with sophisticated marketing jargon, some might see it as a turn-off as it might indicate that you EXPECT to get paid what you're worth, and that is a turn-off for MANY employers. If you feel the need to tweak it further, then by all means, go for it. However, if you're comfortable with the way it is now, then leave it. There is no right or wrong answer.

    And finally, I'm very sorry to see that you, too, have been a victim of rude and unprofessional behavior of HR and hiring authorities. It seems like that is norm that many job seekers have encountered in the last couple of years, and to me, that is NOT okay. No matter how a hiring authority will try and sugarcoat their actions, or in this case, lack therof, it's just downright rude....PERIOD.

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