Back when I started my recruiting career, job fairs were a staple of the recruiter role. I lived in Chicago and, being a big city, with lots of people and lots of job openings, I knew that many people would be matched up with potential opportunities at these job fairs (or at least start the process). It was a number game. We loaded up with lots of business cards and anti-bacterial hand wipes (I've shaken some very sweaty hands) and had a great time at these events.
Then something started to change. It didn't happen overnight. Companies and candidates stopped attending job fairs like they used to:
-First the dotcom boom happened. Candidates didn't attend job fairs as much because they didn't have to. Job fairs take time and effort for candidates to attend. Since companies were working harder to seek out talent (cold calling, etc) due to the competitive recruiting environment, the candidates were in the drivers seat. No need to get all dressed up for those job fairs. The internet was hot and candidates could just post their resume and get lots and lots of calls.
-Then, the economy took a downturn and companies weren't hiring like they used to. Companies had to decide whether they still attended job fairs despite the fact that they were doing little or no hiring. The candidates that attended job fairs were typically those hit hardest by the economy (lay offs, etc). The number of candidates attending went up, the number of companies attending went down.
See, job fairs work when there's a balance of interest on both sides. If you have lots of candidates interested and lots of companies interested, you have a hopping job fair. But when the candidates lose interest (dotcom boom) or the companies lose interest (economic downturn), it just ain't gonna work. And during these times, both sides found alternatives. Specifically, the found how valuable the Internet can be in the staffing/job search game. And nobody ever looked back.
It's a bummer too because job fairs were a great opportunity for recruiters to network with other recruiters.
There is one exception to all of this though, I believe. And that is the specialized job fair. National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) and National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) job fairs have been going strong. The one thing that these organizations did really right is provide additional programming around the job fair to engage the candidates. That drew the talent. And the companies were already interested because diversity is a priority for top organizations and these associations draw the best in the industry.
So sadly, I think we have to say “so long“ to traditional job fairs, but we will see you NBMBAA and NSHMBA members in Texas this fall!