Business people lined upJob fairs are dead….or so goes the mantra of many of the online blogs and articles today.  They state that you can find your next job on Twitter or by asking for LinkedIn connections from people you do not knowor probably will never know.

No, noyou cannot.

Very few people find a job by hiding behind their computer monitor every day.  To find your next, great job, you need to employ many different strategies. You do need to be online, but you also need to be outside – meeting recruiters face to face, attending functions, building your network.

This includes going to job fairs. Job fairs (or career fairs) can offer you an opportunity to make personal connections with people that are actively looking for you.

So make the most out of every job fair opportunity.  Here are 5 tips to get the most out of them:  

It is not just about the tchotchkes. Sure, employers pass out great trinkets and novelties.  But you are there to land an interview. So plan. Know which employers you want to connect with ahead of time, research them, prioritize them, and make sure you have enough resumes to pass out to them (along with a couple of extrajust in case). When you enter the facility, you will probably get a map showing where different employers are located. Take a moment to figure out your path. Focus on not hitting each and every table during “rush hour”. It is harder to make a positive impact when you are one of many vs. one of few.

Dress like you would for an interview. What you wear is important, and jeans and flip-flops simply do not express the fact that you are serious about your job search.  You have no idea what the recruiters on the other side of the table notice, so make sure that you are dressed professionally,

Remember that this is a networking opportunity. As a job seeker, you should collect as many business cards, vcards and general contact information as possible. Focus on making a good first impression and remove yourself from the crowd – if you have to – to jot down some relevant information you may have learned from your conversations. After the fair, send thank you emails, using your newly acquired contact information and your notes.

Listen to everyone around you. If you are stuck in a crowd, use it to your advantage. If you are waiting in line to speak with an employer, listen to others’ conversations and leverage what you hear from the employer into your own exchange.

After the fair is done, apply online. You may pass out your resume at the job fair, and the employer may take it.  However, that does not mean that they have kept track of it.  So apply online and use the information you gained from speaking with the recruiter at the fair to highlight key issues and phrases. Do not forget to reference the fact that meet with and talked with a recruiter in any type of cover letter attachment.