Career fairs, otherwise known simply as job fair, are great opportunities for employers to connect with possible future employees. It's also a great way for employers to make their business known, to create a brand in their market, and to showcase their products or services. Similarly, job fairs are helpful to potential employees, often acting as a fast track to a successful career.

While no one can deny the multiple benefits of a job fair, organizing a successful one has its challenges. Knowing how to attract high quality employers and competitive potential employees is tricky. You'll have to create visibility, market the job fair and find a suitable location. All these take time, hard work and planning. Let's see how you can organize a successful job fair, both for employers and potential employees:

  1. Selecting the date

Finding a suitable date (or time period, if the fair is longer) is hugely important for a successful career fair. Depending on the market, you'll have to take into account various factors. For instance, if the job fair is focused on the construction industry, try to set a date early in the year, preferably early spring. It's around this time that employers are looking for new employees, as construction work is growing. Similarly, if you want to organize a job fair for recent graduates, try to find a date during early summer, before potential employees head for their post-graduation vacations.

  1. Define your market precisely

There are two different types of job fairs: general or industry specific. If you want to organize a general job fair, you will have to prepare a list of companies from various industries, preferably as many as possible. The downside to this approach is that you will likely have a huge job fair on your hands, with hundreds of employers, all with different needs and preferences. The most successful job fairs are the industry specific ones. For instance, you'll need a healthcare industry job fair, where you invite major healthcare industry players. The organization will become much easier, the companies in this industry have similar needs, and the potential employees have similar needs.

  1. Find a location, contact companies, employment agencies, exhibitors and volunteers

After you set a date and determined what industry you will focus on, you'll have to start looking for a good location for your job fair. Look for a location that can welcome hundreds of potential employees and has plenty of room for exhibition stands. Next, you will have to start contacting  companies and employment agencies. Don't focus on attracting hundreds of companies or exhibitors, it will only cause tremendous logistical problems. Instead, try to contact important industry leaders, big companies and well established employment agencies. Most of these companies have special HR departments that will help you with company details, their needs and their availability. Similarly, good employment agencies will be able to contact competitive potential employees in various fields.

  1. Develop a budget and create a general layout for the fair

As soon as you have a location, a list of companies and an approximation of potential employees, you can determine a general budget for your fair. You may still have extra expenses coming, but you can safely determine how much you will spend. Keep in mind to add costs related to table and chair rentals, car rentals, advertising, cleaning, audio and visual equipment, paper supplies, as well as food and refreshments. Together with the budget, you'll have to plan a layout for your fair: how will the exhibition look like? how many tables do you need for the employers? how many chairs? do you need special display areas or conference rooms? You will need to know the answer to all these questions before going to the next step.

  1. Prepare an advertising strategy

Let's face it: advertising can make or break a job fair. Partner up with a good advertising company and make your fair visible everywhere: from local newspapers, to radio stations, to online advertising, or even outdoors with a custom printed flag from a company such as Build a Flag, as well as, you'll need to tap every marketing channel available.

  1. Prepare a final checklist

Create a list with some important issues regarding the job fair. Make sure you have enough room for everyone on the list, make sure you have a security company to handle the afflux of visitors and make sure you have proper signage around the location. Manage the food and refreshments area together with your catering company, make sure the audio and visual equipment is working and is easily accessible. You will have to cover these key elements before the launch day and make sure that everything goes according to plan.

  1. The launch day

The launch day should run smoothly if you followed all the previous tips and made sure everyone knows what their job is. Even if you run into possible problems, accidents or issues, you should know exactly how to deal with them. An employer wants an additional table? Are there too many potential employees at any given time? Is there a shortage in refreshments? You will have to solve all these problems on the launch day, but eventually everything will be fine.