Hospitality career fairs are like a rehearsal for a job interview. You have the opportunity to meet with prospective employers, present your skills and credentials, and plan your employment strategy. But as with any job interview, you must prepare properly to make the most of the fair.
First a couple definitions: there are job fairs and career fairs. Job fairs in the hospitality industry are generally hosted by individual organizations, like Starbuck’s looking to fill specific positions and holding their own recruitment days, or big resorts hiring seasonal staff. Career fairs, on the other hand, are organized by universities and colleges on the institution’s premises, where job seekers looking for a hotel job, for instance, can visit booths run by Starwood, Hyatt, Delta, Fairmont and others. If you’re embarking on a hospitality career, these fairs are ideal for getting the right information on the industry.
“It’s all about approachability and access,” says Jordan Romoff of Lecours Wolfson, a North American recruiter of hospitality executives, managers and chefs. “Career fairs provide potential employees with information, a friendly face and access to potential employers in their chosen career. There’s a huge difference in taking your resume to the HR director at a major hotel and possibly getting a reply or not and going to that career fair where you can make a personal connection, show up, shake hands, get a card. You’ve already had the first interview and can move directly to the second stage.”
The shortage of talent in the hospitality industry has made the career fair an indispensable recruitment tool for hospitality companies hiring both reactively and proactively – for specific positions and future openings. Says Romoff, “Successful companies at career fairs are there proactively. They are attending whether they need people or not. They’re getting the message out, ‘this is a great place to work, we’re interested in talking to you.’” In addition to scouting for talent, they are also branding themselves, putting their companies on the map, and creating a positive buzz among job seekers.
You need a strategy to attend career fairs successfully so you avoid information overload and hone your search, just as you would if you were sifting through job postings online.
“The best way to approach a career fair is to become prepared,” says Mary L. Douglas, Director of Placement, Conrad H. Hilton College, University of Houston. “That means dressed professionally with several professional resumes and most of all, research on the companies that you plan to talk to. I have a career fair in my college each semester. The students get a list of the companies that will be in attendance, and I insist that they do research. They should be prepared to listen to the company representative, they should be prepared to ask questions about the company as well. They should leave a resume with the representative and get a business card. The next day or so, they should follow up with a thank letter or note indicating that they enjoyed speaking with them about job possibilities and look forward to hearing from them.”
After attending a career fair, the door should be wide open for you!