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Hiring from job fairs better in theory than in practice

Job seeker Marcia Cerny went to her first job fair last week, and she was not happy: There were too few employers looking to hire, and she had to pay $3 to park.

"Until I do more research, it's not going to happen again," said Cerny, 51, a Plantation, Fla., resident seeking a job as a law firm receptionist.

The odds usually aren't good for finding a job through a job fair, experts say. Still, job fairs often draw thousands of people. Job seekers complain that too often employers are collecting resumes but that they don't have positions open. But the jobless go anyway, sometimes standing in long lines to talk with a popular employer, with hope in their hearts that their struggle for employment will soon end.

The retail store chain Total Wine & More was the major attraction for job hunters at the recent job fair in Dania, Fla.

"You get to meet a lot of different people," said Greg Baker, assistant manager for the chain's Fort Lauderdale store, who was there to interview people for jobs including cashiers, merchandisers and sales.

Overall, job fairs are considered the least effective way to search for a job.

"The allure of the job fair is that you have a large number of employers under one roof," said John A. Challenger, chief executive of global outplacement consulting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, who urges job seekers to use a variety of methods, including networking, online job boards, social websites and even cold-calling employers. Job fairs scored lowest in a survey of human resources executive asked about job-search methods in 2009.

Don Williams of employment service said job fairs can give job seekers the opportunity to talk face to face with a hiring manager. But he recommends that they try several methods, including LinkedIn, the professional networking site.

Matthew Marsh, a recruiter who participated in a recent Florida International University job fair in Miami, said attendees were not the CPAs with at least three years of experience, the level he normally hires. Still, he found the job fair useful in promoting his business. "We like to get our name out there," he said, "especially with young accountants."

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