Job Fairs Are Least Effective Job Search Tool, Popular In Tight Market

Thousands Flock to Job Fairs in Tight Market

While job fairs are considered to be among the least effective job search methods, thousands of frustrated and desperate job seekers acrossAmerica attend these events in the hopes of landing a position.  While the odds are stacked against the typical job-fair attendee, one employment expert says there are steps one can take to improve his or her chances, albeit slightly.

“The allure of the job fair is that you have a large number of employers under one roof; presumably, all with open positions to fill.  However, the number of job seekers at the fair is likely to far exceed the number of available jobs.  You are basically taking a leap of faith that you will stand out in the sea of candidates flowing by the recruiter’s booth” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Even if you do manage to make an impression on a recruiter, in most cases, it simply gets you to the next stage of the recruiting process, which most likely involves further screening of the selected candidates to determine the 10-15 individuals to bring in for a more formal interview at the company.”

Challenger is not the only one who believes job fairs are ineffective.  In a 2009 Challenger survey, in which human resources executives were asked to rate the effectiveness of various job-search methods on a scale of 1 (least effective) to 5 (most effective), job fairs ranked as the least effective job-search method, scoring an average rating of 1.6.

Challenger acknowledges that most job seekers fully understand the bleak odds of finding employment through a job fair, but flock to them out of desperation in this frustratingly tight job market.

In August, more than 3,000 job seekers flooded anAtlantajob fair hosted by the two Georgia Congressmen and the Congressional Black Caucus.  The job seekers were vying for positions at the 90 employers in attendance, all of which had job openings to fill.

Earlier this month, an estimated 5,000 people turned out for the JobQuest Job Fair inHonolulu,Hawaii.  Many of those in attendance were military veterans hoping to find positions at one of the employers specifically looking to hire former military personnel.

In Park Ridge,Illinois, nearly 1,000 people attended a relatively brief four-hour job fair in the hopes of landing a position with one of the 63 employers represented.

Despite the slim odds for success, Challenger does not suggest that job seekers entirely dismiss job fairs.

“The employers attending are usually there to fill specific openings.  The chances of them hiring you are small, but the chances of them hiring you are zero if you don’t show up at all.  In this job market, many job seekers are correctly deciding that a small chance is better than no chance,” said Challenger.

There are steps you can take to increase the odds of success at a job fair, according to Challenger.

“You cannot go in blind or without a plan.  It is important that you know which employers will be there and the types of positions they are trying to fill.  Only visit those that align with your objectives.  If there is an opportunity to interact with the recruiter, time will be limited.  So, it is critical to have a succinct script that highlights your skills, experience and strengths,” advised Challenger.

“It is also critical to maintain a positive and upbeat attitude throughout the job fair.  You may already be carrying a lot of frustration related to your job situation.  That frustration may be heightened by the job fair process, which typically has you waiting in long lines, surrounded by others who are equally frustrated.  This frustration, while natural and understandable, should not be on display at any point during the job fair.  Anything short of a bright and cheery attitude is likely to eliminate you from consideration,” he added.

“Most importantly, don’t put all of your job-search eggs in the job-fair basket.  A successful job search requires a multifaceted approach.  Those who rely on just one tool will take longer to find a position, even if it is networking, which is considered by many to be the most effective job-search strategy.  So, by all means, attend every job fair that comes to town.  But, don’t neglect the other tools at your disposal, such as online job boards, networking groups, social and professional networking websites, newspaper ads, and simply cold-calling employers,” Challenger concluded.

Go here for 2009 survey results on job search methods.


  • Dress as if you were going to an interview. Wear neat, pressed clothes and shined shoes. Cover tattoos, if possible.  No visible body piercings (other than earrings on women).
  • Smile.  This is your chance to make your best first impression.  Remember your image: I am a professional, I have no problems, I will create no problems, and I will solve all your problems.
  • Be yourself.  Don’t play a role, but be your best self.
  • Shake hands. Be enthusiastic. Show interest in the company and the company representative.  Know what the company does.
  • Sell yourself. Treat this like an interview.  Tell the company representative what kind of employee you are, what you can do for a company and give some examples of each.
  • Make sure you understand each company’s application procedure, whether paper or on-line.  Ask for a business card for proper information.  Fill out applications completely and neatly.  Include a copy of your resume when returning the application.
  • Approach each employer’s table by yourself, not with a friend or as part of a group.
  • Bring plenty of resumes. Put them in a folder or portfolio so they don’t get crushed.  You can also use the folder to hold any brochures, literature, applications and business cards you collect.  Don’t give out your resume right away.  Talk to the company representative first.
  •  Remember to be positive, prepared, polite and polished.



Teen Summer Job Search Tips

With teenagers in their final days of school before summer break, some of those with aspirations to work over the summer have already secured employment.  However, for the many still hoping to land a position, one job-search authority says it is not too late.

While many employers already completed the process of interviewing and hiring for seasonal positions, this does not mean that those still wanting jobs should give up.  Some employers may need more workers than they expected; others may have delayed hiring; and some may have discovered that one or more of those hired early were not a good fit.

The point is, you never know if or when a job opening is going to materialize, so you want to keep pushing to ensure that you are in the right place if one does.

The outlook on the summer job market for teenagers released by Challenger in March was not very optimistic.  However, since March, large seasonal hiring plans were announced by several employers, including McDonald’s, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Teen job seekers will definitely need help from the private sector.  We still see a shortage of job opportunities for teens in the cash-strapped public sector, where taxpayer-funded park districts, public swimming pools, beaches, camps, etc., are likely to cut back on seasonal hiring.

Last year, teen job seekers experienced the weakest summer job market in decades.  Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that from May through July employment among 16- to 19-year-olds increased by just 960,000 jobs.  That was down 17.5 percent from 2009, when teen employment grew by 1,163,000.

The 960,000 summer jobs filled by teens represents the lowest level of summer hiring since 1949, when teen employment increased by 932,000 during the summer months.  In contrast, employers hired more than 1.7 million teenagers during the summer of 2006, bringing total employment for this age group to 7,494,000 in July, which historically represents the annual peak of teen employment.

The key to success for late-to-the-game teen job seekers will be an aggressive approach.  Today’s tech-savvy teenagers are apt to conduct 90 percent of their job search on the Internet and submit applications online.  However, nothing beats actually walking into a business, introducing yourself to the manager and asking about job opportunities.  The personal touch sets the groundwork in building a rapport that will separate you from electronic candidates,” said Challenger, who offered some additional advice for teens seeking summer employment.


Search where others are not.  Outdoor jobs involving heavy labor or behind-the-scenes jobs are often not as sought-after by teen job seekers.

Look for odd jobs at odd hours.  ­Offer to work evening and night shifts and to fill in for vacationing employees.  As a job-search strategy, conduct a search for these types of positions during the hours they operate.

Become a door-to-door salesman when selling your skills. ­Do what good salesmen do — start on one block and go from business to business, door to door.  Don’t simply ask for an application.  Take the time to introduce yourself and build some rapport with the hiring manager.

Call friends and relatives.  Parents and other relatives are often the best source for information on job leads.  However, don’t forget to stay in touch with friends and other classmates, especially those who have been able to find jobs.

Be a job-search ninja.  Wait outside the store or offices of a prospective employer to attempt to intercept a hiring manager upon his or her arrival.

Dress for the part.  Even if you are applying to work on a road crew, show up to all interviews in nice clothes.  You want the interviewer to focus on you and your skills, not on your ripped jeans and paint-splattered t-shirt.

Don’t hesitate to revisit employers.  The types of businesses seeking seasonal employees typically have higher-than-average turnover.  An employer that did not hire you a couple of months ago might need more workers now.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Tips For Overcoming Long-Term Joblessness

After months of slow, almost imperceptible job growth, private-sector payrolls are finally beginning to grow at a more significant and accelerated rate.  However, one group continues to struggle with finding employment: the millions of Americans suffering from long-term joblessness.  Their plight poses the biggest obstacle to continued job growth and could threaten to stall the recovery, according to one employment authority who offered some strategies to re-ignite one’s job search.

“Unfortunately, the longer one is out of work, the more difficult it becomes to achieve success.  You have to overcome a lot of employers’ preconceptions about candidates with significant gaps on the resume.  You also have to overcome the many negative emotions that naturally accompany a long, frustrating job search,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., the global outplacement firm, which provides employment transition counseling to individuals following job loss.

There is some hope for long-term job seekers in the latest employment figures, which show the strongest job growth since the recession ended in 2009.  Private-sector payrolls experienced a net increase of 760,000 new jobs between February 1 and the end of April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That is the largest three-month employment gain since 2006, when the private sector grew by 861,000 jobs from January through March.

However, the hiring surge that saw more new jobs created in the last three months than in previous six months has yet to have a significant dent in the number of long-term unemployed.  Over the three-month period ending in April, the number of Americans out of work for 27 weeks or more fell by 371,000 to 5.84 million or 43.4 percent of all unemployed.

The 5.84-million figure represents an improvement over the record 6.7 million long-term unemployed in May 2010, but it is has a long descent before reaching the pre-recession level of 1.3 million.

“It is also important to understand that this figure does not include the many Americans who have quit looking for work and, therefore, are not counted among the unemployed.  In April, there were 6.5 million people not in the labor force, but who wanted jobs.  There are no statistics on how long these individuals have been out of work, but it is probably safe to assume that a majority have struggled with prolonged joblessness,” said Challenger.

“The problem of long-term joblessness is one of the biggest threats to a sustainable recovery.  If we cannot find a way to get these people back on payrolls, the costs to the economy will be significant, not only in terms of decreased consumer spending, but in increased government spending on social safety net programs, retraining programs and other programs to assist those left behind following the nation’s economic upheaval,” said Challenger.

For the long-term unemployed, the task of securing a job presents unique hurdles.  One of the biggest obstacles can be time-pressed hiring managers who are under pressure to quickly narrow the field the candidates.  As a result, they are often compelled to focus on those with the freshest skills.

“In companies that rely on software technology to sort through incoming resumes, it is even easier to isolate the candidates that are currently employed or have the most recent experience.  That may seem unfair, but when an employer receives thousands of applicants for a posted job opportunity, they have no choice but to establish wide parameters for weeding out the largest number of applicants,” Challenger explained.

“For long-term job seekers who make it beyond the initial screening process, there is the challenge of addressing the significant gap in experience with the person conducting the interview.  The interviewer is going to wonder why you have not been hired and whether your skills and/or work ethic have deteriorated.  As the interviewee, you have to overcome these preconceptions,” said Challenger.

“The long-term unemployed also face personal barriers.  Many have lost self-confidence due to the length of time out of the workforce.  Others have had a series of rejections, which may leave them feeling defeated even before they walk through the doors of an interview.

“Financial stress may play another role.  Many long-term unemployed have lost or are close to losing their unemployment benefits.  Some estimates put the number of unemployed workers who have exhausted their benefits from 3 million up to 6 million people,” said Challenger.

These obstacles are significant, but not impossible to overcome.  Challenger offered the following advice to the long-term unemployed looking to take advantage of the recent surge in job creation:

Re-ignite and re-connect with your network

There may be a large portion of your network with whom you have not spoken to in several months.  Now is the time to re-connect with and expand your network.  If you have not joined online networking communities like LinkedIn, do so now and start connecting with former colleagues, classmates and other acquaintances.  If you are on LinkedIn, revisit your list of contacts, because chances are good that their professional or personal situations have changed in recent months.  So, not only do you have a reason to check in with them (to congratulate or otherwise acknowledge their changed circumstances), but that change could put them in a better position to help your job search.  From each existing contact in your network that you reconnect with, make a goal to get the names of two to five new contacts they know who might be able to help with your employment search.

Move away from resume-centric job-search strategy

Most Americans take the traditional approach to job search: scour the help wanted ads and send out resumes by the hundreds.  The only difference is that the help wanted ads have moved from the print newspaper to the Internet.  The biggest problem with this approach is that the resume is really just a way to weed out candidates.  A long employment gap on the resume is going to stand out and not in a good way.  Even without the red flag of prolonged joblessness, relying on a resume to get your foot in the door is a numbers game that favors the employer.  You might as well be playing the lottery.  In today’s market, employers posting a job opening will receive hundreds if not thousands of resumes.  They will maybe find 10 to bring in for face-to-face interviews.  Do you think they will go through every resume to find those 10?  No.  The initial key-word screening might narrow the field to 100 that a hiring manager will go through.  He or she will only go through enough to get the 10 for interviews.  Maybe that’s 50.  If you are number 51 in that stack, you are out of luck.

Uncover the hidden job market

The other problem with relying too heavily on help wanted ads — whether online or in print — is that these represent a small fraction of the available jobs.  We estimate that as few as 20 percent of the available jobs are ever advertised.  The other 80 percent will be filled through employee referrals, personal connections and other backdoor channels.  This is why expanding and staying connected to one’s professional and personal network is critical.  It increases the chances of being in the right place, at the right time, when one of these hidden opportunities arise.  The other way to uncover these opportunities is to simply start contacting companies where your skills would be a good fit.  Your goal is to make contact with key managers in the department(s) where you would work.  Avoid going through the human resources department (unless that is your profession), as their goal is to screen you out.

Reset expectations

You may need to consider working for less money than you imagined, working in a different industry or accepting a job title that differs from your aspirations.  However, your primary objective at this point needs to be getting back on the payroll so you can start filling in the experience gap.

Remain positive

Don’t be defensive or take on the role of the victim when it comes to your prolonged unemployment.  Avoid phrases like, “no one is hiring” and “nobody wanted me.”  Focus only on the positive attributes you possess, what you have done to keep your skills fresh.  If the topic of your prolonged unemployment comes up, don’t dwell on it.  Move past it quickly with a statement like, “There have been many opportunities, but a mutual fit has been difficult to achieve.  During this time, however, I have had the opportunity to round out my experience through (education, professional development, volunteer work, etc.)”

Step outside of your comfort zone

An aggressive job-search strategy often requires you to do something that makes you uncomfortable.  You will have to tell people you have not seen in ten years that you lost your job.  You will have to cold-call employers about job opportunities.  An aggressive strategy also includes asking a friend or former business associate for the names of five people who might be able to help with your job search, and then calling those people to request a meeting.  You will have to engage in conversation with complete strangers at a networking event.  These are difficult activities for the most confident among us, but you must abandon any misgivings you might have in order to find a position.


Advice For Entry-Level Job Seekers


This year’s crop of college graduates are entering the best entry-level job market in three years, but the competition for positions will continue to be fierce, according to the workplace authorities at global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., which offered some tips to help recent graduates improve their chances of job-search success.

“The key to success for graduates is to be aggressive.  Yes, the job market is improving, but they are not only competing against their fellow graduates, they are also competing with people who graduated last year and the year before and may already have some work experience under their belt.  Job seekers, regardless of age or experience, cannot afford to take a passive approach to the job search in the current environment,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

College graduates could not be entering the job market at a better time.  While the previous two spring graduating classes entered during a jobless recovery, this year’s class is entering the job market just as it finally appears to be gaining real momentum.  April marked the third consecutive month in which payrolls experienced net gains exceeding 200,000.  Since February 1, the private sector has added 760,000 new workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Further evidence of the improving college grad job market is found in a survey of employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which revealed that hiring of new graduates across all degrees and majors will increase by 21 percent.

“Despite the vastly improved conditions, college grads cannot simply send out some resumes and wait by the phone waiting for interview requests.  Many young job seekers may still have to settle for a position that pays less than expected or is not quite on the career path they envisioned,” noted Challenger.


Start job search immediately.   Some college graduates might be tempted to enjoy one last summer of freedom before embarking on their career path.  However, such a decision could be detrimental to the job search and cause prospective employers to question your commitment and work ethic.

Include volunteer work on resume, in interviews.  Young job seekers often omit volunteer work from their resumes and interviews, particularly if the volunteer work is not associated with their chosen career path.  They reason, “Volunteering at the homeless shelter has no relation to pharmaceutical sales, so why mention it.”  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  Volunteer work tells prospective employers a lot about your personality, character, work ethic and commitment, all of which are inevitably just as important in the hiring decision as the technical skills you learned in school.

Be aggressive; get out from behind the computer.  The internet has made the job search easier than ever.  However, too many young job seekers make the mistake of focusing all of their time and energy on combing online job sites and sending electronic resumes.  The online job boards are just one tool available to job seekers and one that should not be neglected.  However, most successful job seekers use multiple tools, and focus most of their time and energy on networking; meeting face-to-face with people who can help advance your job search.

Use your existing network.  Many recent college graduates mistakenly conclude that they are unable to build an effective network.  The assumption is that they are too young to have enough established contacts in a position to help.  However, college graduates have a much bigger network foundation than they imagine.  It starts with one’s parents and the parents of college and high school friends.  Fellow graduates may also be a source of information or connections to employers.  It is also important to utilize your school’s professors and alumni, all of whom are typically more than willing to provide guidance, connections and job leads.

Show willingness to work anywhere, anytime.  One major advantage recent college graduates have over more experienced job seekers is that they are far less likely to be tied down by a house and family.  They have the ability to go wherever the jobs are.  Let prospective employers know that you are willing to go wherever they need your skills.  With many companies experiencing faster growth in foreign markets, there is a good chance that a job with a multinational corporation could result in the opportunity to work overseas.  Embrace these opportunities, because they don’t come often.  Additionally, because of the expansion of the global economy, more jobs here involve working hours that line up with operations on the other side of the globe.  Let employers know that you can work hours that other employees may be unwilling or unable to.

Keep options open.  It is important to remember that your first job is not your job for life.  Be open to exploring occupations and industries that may diverge significantly from what you may have prepared for in school.  Every job provides foundational experience, even those that are unrelated to your desired career path.


Teen Summer Job Search Tips


Search where others are not. Outdoor jobs involving heavy labor or behind-the-scenes jobs are often not as sought-after by teen job seekers.

Look for odd jobs at odd hours. Offer to work evening and night shifts and to fill in for vacationing employees. As a job-search strategy, conduct a search for these types of positions during the hours they operate.

Become a door-to-door salesman when selling your skills. Do what good salesmen do — start on one block and go from business to business, door to door. Don’t simply ask for an application. Take the time to introduce yourself and build some rapport with the hiring manager.

Call relatives. Young people have not built much of a network; at least, the type of network needed to find a job. Relatives are often the best source for information on job leads.

Be a job-search ninja. Wait outside the store or offices of a prospective employer to attempt to intercept a hiring manager upon his or her arrival.

Dress for the part. Even if you are applying to work on a road crew, show up to all interviews in nice clothes. You want the interviewer to focus on you and your skills, not on your ripped jeans and paint-splattered t-shirt.

Be Punctual. If the interviewer says to be there at 4pm, don’t stroll in around 4:30. Customarily, interviewees should show up about 10-15 minutes before the designated time. You don’t want to show up too early; that may be viewed as a bother to the busy employer. Once you land a position, make sure to arrive on time for your shifts.

Turn Off The Cell Phone. Just like at a movie theater, cell phone noise is distracting, especially during a job interview or on-the-job training. Turn the cell phone completely off or set it to silent. Nothing is more off-putting to an employer than the constant buzz of incoming text-messages or phone calls. This includes MP3 players and video gaming devices. Your attention should be directed toward the task at hand at all times.

Don’t Forget To Smile. We all know how intimidating a job interview can be; however, if you think of it as just another conversation, you may be able to relax. Take a moment to breathe and smile from time to time. Employers want someone who is upbeat and has a good attitude, so make sure to display these attributes in the interview and while on the job.

Tax Day Scramble: Job-Search Expenses Equal Deductions


As the mad scramble to meet the April 15 tax deadline reaches its peak this week, millions of jobless Americans could be eligible for easily-overlooked deductions. More than 3.8 million people joined the ranks of the unemployed in 2009. About 3.6 million were added to the roles of long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks or longer). For these Americans, important tax deductions to consider are those related to job-search expenses. If these expenses, along with other miscellaneous expenses, including unreimbursed employee expenses and professional association membership dues, add up to 2% of one’s adjusted gross income, the amount above the 2% threshold becomes eligible for deductions. Many people overlook job search expenses, assuming that they won’t add up to much. However, for the long-term unemployed with a significantly reduced adjusted gross income, it is much easier to reach the 2% limit. Add expenses related to professional resume services, job-search related travel, or employment agencies fees and one’s expenses could soar well beyond the 2% level.  Most deductions are only applicable if you are looking for a new job in the same occupation.
Some deductions include:
Resume service expenses (includes creating, printing and copying resume)
Career counseling

Job-Search-related travel or transportation expenses
Cost of phone calls to potential employers/contacts

Are You OVERLY Social-Networked?

As more and more job seekers turn to social and professional networking websites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, to expand their sphere of potential career-aiding contacts, blogger Tim Bursch suggests that maybe it’s time to start ignoring these networks.

While the Bursch post was written more from a marketing/customer relationship standpoint, the general theme is certainly applicable to job seekers. The point of the piece is that it is easy to get so carried away with the number of networking groups one joins that soon it becomes impossible to maintain meaningful and effective relations with any of them.

Here are the four reasons Bursch gave to start ignoring networks:

1. If you try to be everywhere, you end up really being nowhere. You spend a little time on a lot of networks and end up diluting your brand.
2. Relationships. If you don’t really invest time in one community you will probably only have transactions, instead of long-term relationships.
3. It’s about them. Your fans want to interact and it is about them. So, focus on them well.
4. You can’t please everyone. Some people will be missed. If you have something remarkable, people will find you.

There is a growing risk of spreading oneself too thinly among the expanding number of networking sites for job seekers. While LinkedIn in was once the go-to site, people are dedicating more time to using all of their networks – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. – for job-search outreach. Additionally, new sites such as and the invitation-only appear to be popping up daily.

Bursch’s rules of the marketing-oriented network can be easily adapted for the job seeker. As a job seeker, you are the marketing professional as well as the product. So, the same guidelines can govern your actions as you build your brand among prospective employers.

We would include at least one additional rule: Don’t spend so much time attending to your virtual networks that you neglect your real-world networks.

The Internet has been a boon to job seekers, but it has also become a significant crutch in that it gives a false sense of conducting an “active” job search, even though it is quite “passive.” One feels a great sense of accomplishment after spending five hours a day combing through online job ads and interacting with various networks. Unfortunately, these efforts alone, while necessary, are unlikely to result in much job search success.

Too many job seekers, however, fall into the Internet trap where rejection is easier to accept, whether it’s in the form of an unanswered job application or a networking connection who cannot offer any help.

The active job seeker, on the other hand, is talking to hiring managers on the phone, meeting with people who can help with the job search, and making the effort to go out and find the hidden, unadvertised job opportunities, which account for the vast majority of potential openings. This person is far more exposed to the constant rejection that is the nature of all job searches.

Just as sending out 50 resumes in response to online job ads can feel like the accomplishments of an active job search, maintaining a constant flow of status updates and emails to contacts can make one feel like he or she is a master of networking. However, these activities cannot replace the face-to-face interactions that are critical to building meaningful relationships that will help you achieve your career goals.