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Many universities host college career fairs as a way to support undergrads and soon-to-be grads in the job search.
But a job fair offers benefits to the host school, as well.
For universities, the benefits of hosting a college job fair include:
Timing is an important factor when planning a college career fair. The more closely you can align job opportunities with students’ peak need, the better you serve both your student body, the employers you’re hosting, and the reputation of your school as a job-placement heavy hitter.
Time of the month, day of the week, and even time of day can all make a difference in the success of your university career fair.
For college students, the best time of year to host college career fair is in the middle of a semester.
The beginning of a semester is very busy for students. They’re navigating their way around campus, setting up their dorm, making new friends — the list goes on. And the end of a semester means studying for finals and making plans for summer or winter break.
Hosting a career fair at the beginning or the end of a semester will likely conflict with busy times for students, which makes the middle months ideal.
In the fall, that means mid-September to mid-November, while in the spring it’s mid-February to mid-April. Keep in mind that midterms often fall right in the middle of those time periods, so you may want to avoid a career fair during those exams.
Planning your career fair at a convenient time for employers will increase the number who can attend the event, which in turn increases the value to your student body.
The middle-months of a semester are typically when employers send recruiters around the country to job fairs, which aligns with students’ peak job search times. But you’ll want to be sure to schedule yours around job fairs at other major schools so you don’t miss out on any over-booked employers.
An early fair (in September or February) will give your students a first shot at open positions. A late fair (in November or April) will help employers fill still vacant positions.
Just as the middle of a semester is the ideal time to host a career fair, so is the middle of the week.
Exams and deadlines are often on Mondays or Fridays, so you don’t want to compete with those stressors. And since student attendance in class is typically lowest on Mondays, you can’t expect anything different for a job fair.
College students often go to parties and events or head out of town for the weekend, so they’ll either be tired or not even on campus by Monday morning. If they are on campus, the weekend may leave them underprepared for meeting with employers, which can lower their chance of landing a job.
Friday is essentially the beginning of the weekend for students, so planning a career fair on Friday (or during the weekend) is an obvious no-go.
The middle of the week is also an ideal time for employers. Staff don’t have to travel on the weekend and can fit in a job fair as part of their normal work schedule.
Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday are all good options, but Wednesday is the most common day for career fairs, as it allows your school the opportunity to send out reminders in the beginning of the week and follow-up surveys in the end of the week. This type of communication increases attendance and helps in optimizing future job fairs.
The best time of day for a college career fair can vary from school to school.
Start by checking with your registrar’s office to find out what times of day most of the students are in class. If mornings are a heavy class time, you’ll want to be sure your career fair either extends into the afternoon or takes place entirely in the afternoon.
If you’re planning a half-day fair (a small school may be able to reap plenty of benefits with a half-day fair, while a larger school may need a full-day or two-day fair to accommodate more attendees), consider a start time that is convenient for employers and students alike.
Employers tend to prefer later starts that go into the afternoon, for the simple fact that it means they don’t have to wake up with the sun in order to be set up on time. Students will appreciate a later start time for the same reason.
The best strategy for setting a time is to check availability at the job fair venue, then poll the school’s staff, students, and guest employers about which times they prefer. Make sure your fair is long enough to accommodate expected attendance, and then set a start and end time that suits the preferences of as many people as possible.
Common times for college job fairs include 9am-1pm or 12pm-4pm for smaller schools, and 9am-3pm for larger schools.
The earlier you start planning your next college job fair, the better. Setting a date 4-6 months in advance will allow you to accommodate the schedules of both students and employers, ensuring a high turnout with lots of job opportunities. That means higher job placement numbers.
Planning early also gives you more time to promote the event with on-campus materials, as well as on social media. More promotion will also help increase attendance.
For a university, a job fair is all about showing your students that you care about their success beyond graduation. And there’s no reason you can’t use the opportunity to show prospective students that you value job placement, too.
With social media, you can share photos, video, and student testimonials from your job fair to engage high schoolers and other prospects and boost enrollment.