Be Careful at Job Fairs!

When was the last time that you attended a job fair?  How was your experience?  Depending on how you use them, job fairs can be a valuable tactic in your job search strategy or they can be a complete waste of time.  If you’re not careful, they can even expose you to people who don’t have your best interests in mind.  These tips will help you navigate through job fairs and determine who is a credible employer and who is not:

Ask the employers if they are hiring.  Unfortunately, companies attend job fairs for a variety of reasons; only one of which is to find employees.  Ask them outright if they are there to hire and if they say no, or if they provide you with a long explanation, it may be best to walk away.   

Be suspicious of any employer that is being overly friendly.  In this economy, legitimate employers do not need to romance potential applicants.  In most cases, if they have a position available, they will have plenty of qualified candidates.  If the employer is coming on too strong and seems to be flattering you, it is best to proceed cautiously.  How does their response to you compare to the other employers that you’ve met?  If it is drastically different, then they may be up to no good.

Think very carefully before signing up with a college.  There are lots public and private colleges that want to recruit you.  Some are credible and some are not.  Some colleges are for profit and the profit that they make depends on how many people they register.  Before you sign up for any course, take a look at the job advertisements for your target position and talk to people who work in the industry to determine if you actually need it.  Many employers are not overly impressed by additional education and credentials; they just want to know that you can do the job.  Many of these courses are expensive and may be a waste of your time.  Do your own research before you make that investment and don’t depend on the statistics that the school provides.

Ask the employer a lot of questions.  Do they have a real location?  How will you be compensated?  Will you have to sell a product to your friends and family?    Before you sign up for anything, be sure that you know what you are getting into.  Some ‘jobs’ that are offered at job fairs are not really jobs at all.  Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions and never sign anything unless you are comfortable with the conditions.  Also, make sure that the contract is consistent with what they are verbally saying to you; if there is ever a discrepancy, it is the written contract that is upheld.

Watch out for recruiters.  While some recruiters can be a great asset to your job search, others are bad news.  It is okay to use recruiters, but keep your eyes open for any red flagsNever pay anyone any money in any form to get you a job.  It is NEVER okay for a recruiter to ask you for money, and if they do, run (don’t walk) out of their office; it’s a scam.

Often job seekers will let their guard down at job fairs because they assume that the organizer has screened the employers.  However, unscrupulous employers can sneak in.  It is up to the job seeker to determine if the employer is credible.  The best approach is to keep your eyes open and to trust your instincts; if something doesn’t feel right, just walk away.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles/


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