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By Marcia Heroux Pounds
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - 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; 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 last week's 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, Fla., store, who was there to interview people for jobs including cashiers, merchandisers and sales. Baker said he hires 10 to 15 percent of the job seekers who apply at job fairs.
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 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 BrowardJobs.com said job fairs can give job seekers the opportunity to talk face to face with a hiring manager. But he recommends they try several methods, including LinkedIn, the professional networking site.