Recently, I went to a Job Fair hosted by the Department of Rehabilitation Services Visual Services Department (for clients who are Blind or have Vision Loss). I'll leave out the location, that's not important, but it was a disappointment to say the least.
I’d say there was only about 8 tables altogether:
There were no local Clubs for the Blind, other agencies, local big businesses, and so on.
I've also been to a few Online job fairs in the past:
One was for people with various Disabilities:
Another was specifically for Work from Home positions for People with Disabilities:
* Applicant 1: Hi, I'm looking for a programming job, I have a Masters in (yadayada)
* Applicant 2: I am seeking a job in Arizona, who can I talk to about availability?
* Recruiter 1: Hi Applicant 1, great qualifications, please check our job board on our website www.abcxyz.bs
* Recruiter 2: Hello Applicant 2, yes we have jobs in Arizona, please check out our job board at www.abcxyz.bs
And around and around that BS went. Why the Hell do we wait for this event just to be redirected to a job board on your site? We could've done that ourselves ages ago!
So, here's what I think are the five essential qualities of a successful job fair should be:
1. Audience Focused
I think this is the most important element of any job fair.
Decide who is the focus target group you are addressing. Is it for Youth, People with Disabilities (in general or a specific group), Veterans, a certain career, or a location?
Once you've decided this it's easier to focus your research and invitation list. Some "generic" job areas are acceptable - having administrative and management job centers at a computer programming fair. Don't have a criminal and convict re-entry program at a job fair aimed at blind and vision loss.
Invite more companies than you plan on. This way you'll have a fail-safe number of recruiters showing up as there's sure to be a few that decline the invitation. This way you're not scrambling to fill space and ask your friend to bring her direct sales products in. If they all accept the invitation, that's even better!
2. Include Local Organizations, Clubs and Agencies
If you're hosting a job fair focused on Youth, or people with Disabilities and such, please include the local specialized agencies as well.
In the instance I mentioned above, the job fair did not have the local Council of the Blind, or other local agencies for vision loss.
Why should you include these? They'll know specifics your focus group may need for job accommodations, may have a mentoring program, other unrelated training and such. These organization representatives may also help facilitate with you and other company recruiters and share information to the recruiters that may not understand disability needs, and so on.
3. Educate the Recruiters
If you're hosting a specialized job fair, put together a information package for the invited recruiters. Information such as dos & don'ts, correct lingo and language, and so on.
Nothing like going to a Job Fair for the Deaf and have one recruiter enunciating all his words at you. A BIG no-no in the Deaf community.
Make it comfortable for both parties.
4. Offer Workshops and Seminars throughout the event
Have a workshop or seminar on how job seekers can improve their chances of gaining employment.
5. Have "Actual" Jobs Available
As I mentioned about the Online Job Fair, potential applicants were directed to the website for job listings and did not have actual jobs in mind.
The on-site job fairs I've been to were mainly "resume collectors" and "we'll let you know if you're a fit". Other attendees offered more training - as a friend said:
"Job fairs should be called "Training Fairs". They all see to offer training to get a job, but seldom do they actually hire anyone! "If you do this training, you'd be more hire-able in that field..." Big whoop!" (Another disappointed attendee)
So, those are my 5 essential qualities of a successful job fair. I hope to actually attend one that I will enjoy.
Any further suggestions can be put into comments and if there's enough I'll post a follow-up.