February 28, 2021
Hiring 11 May 2017
The Unfairness of a Career Fair
Gisel Malek
career fair, job hunting, looking for jobs, job fairs

From both the employers and employees perspective, career fairs seem to be a futile experience. 

Consider this: after family and health, career events have the biggest impact on stress and happiness. The stress levels at a career fair are incredibly high. Most people are applying for their first real jobs which mean they don’t have experience with interviews. Additionally, many haven’t attended a career fair before, so they don’t know what to expect. Here are some reasons why career fairs are not the answer for employers or candidates:


You’ve decided that you want to attend a career fair and are sending a team of recruiters to someplace they have to fly to. Consider the operating costs - it can cost upwards of 10 thousand dollars to rent a booth for the duration of the fair. Add additional costs when including the flights, hotel, food, local travel, and swag - many companies offer anything from pens to t-shirts! This is something that can become challenging amongst companies because candidates want to attend the booths they are most interested in or at least find the most useful or entertaining, and companies that can’t afford it are put at a distinct disadvantage. 

After the booth is set up and the doors have open, you get flooded with job-hungry students and alumni (if you are lucky)! There is no guarantee of a good turn-out for a career fair. Although, there seems to be a positive trend in higher turnouts since 2009. You will meet lots of people very briefly that will pitch their best selves to you. At the end, you are left with a pile of resumes, and most of which whom you do not remember by face. Maybe one or two people stood out, but how much interaction could you have knowing there’s a line of people (almost robotic in nature) waiting to do the exact same?


Countless articles and interviews have suggested that many students have negative experiences with career fairs. With the limited time that most companies have to make the most out of their experience (since it’s not cheap), they don’t really foster an environment for providing knowledge to candidates that can otherwise be difficult to find. Thousands would agree that more times than not, they get fliers with information about the companies that can easily be found on their company website. There are also lots of people, both on the company side as well as competition, so it can feel claustrophobic and overwhelming. 

Trying to land a job at a career fair is like trying to make a basketball shot from half court! The odds are in favor to those with experience, who are good under pressure and have luck on their side. With so many factors to be considered, it is no wonder that most first impressions go awry. 

In most cases, career fairs are held during the summer time when students have time off. This results in brutal weather conditions, especially considering people are wearing ties and jackets! These people are sweating profusely and trying to remember everything they have ever done to impress a recruiter that works at a company they want to work for. As far as the candidate is concerned, this recruiter is what stands between them and their goals

Not only are the conditions less than ideal, the concept while good, in theory, is flawed in execution. Interactions are the basis of any human connection, and when considering adding a member to your team, you want to bring those that will add to the culture you spend so much building. First impressions do not always tell you if someone is going to add value. 

If you absolutely have to attend, here a few quick tips to guide you through the process and help you stand out from the rest:

  1. Strive for transparency! Students in college today value transparency in most companies, so they want you and/or your reps to be honest about what the hiring situation is, what positions are actually available and what their duties would entail. Many times students are left too ambiguous of answers or not enough concrete information and that draws them away.  

  1. Engage in the conversation! This is an opportunity to explain to students who your company is and what you are looking for. Get to know your students and make them feel valued. As for feedback and opinions. Talk about relevant topics. The more you respect their opinions and show their presence and opinions matter, the more they will be drawn to your company.  

  1. Select the right reps to attend! This is the face of your company as far as these students are concerned. Pick people that are upbeat, engaging and genuinely like to be in those situations. This is about mutual fit - so selecting a face that represents the culture of your company is probably the most important step to follow.

The whole point of a career fair is to attract students from around the country who may or may not know about you to come work for you. It’s a search for the best talent, but wouldn’t it be easier if those same students came to you instead of going to them? Learn more about how you can view hundreds of students profiles and decide who you want to hire based on a complete overview of who they are and what they can offer.