As a business leader, you might be asking yourself, “Have career fairs fallen by the wayside like newspaper classified ads did years ago?”
The answer: yes and no.
While online job boards and social media reign in the recruiting world today, career fairs still hold relevancy in certain instances.
So, how can you determine which career fair opportunities will help you find the best talent and make the most of your recruiting budget? These guidelines are a great place to start.
1. Evaluate your hiring needs
Career fairs aren’t right for every hiring scenario.
For example, if you only have a couple of job openings, or if you’re seeking candidates with specialized or hard-to-find skills, other recruiting techniques might be more appropriate.
However, for companies in high growth mode looking to fill many positions at once, or for those that are seeking entry-level candidates, career fairs offer direct, immediate and in-person access to multiple candidates.
Evaluate the positions you’re trying to fill, and then decide if your needs can be met by a career fair.
2. Do your research
You can’t simply sign up for a career fair and expect the talent you want to magically appear.
You must first do your research to ensure you’re attending the right event. Start by considering the local job market and how it stacks up against the positions you’re hiring for.
For example, if your business is based in Boise, but you need to hire five computer programmers for your new office in Tulsa, is a local career fair the best choice? Are there enough qualified professionals in the local Boise market who might be willing to relocate, or would you be better off focusing your efforts online? You might also consider career fair options in Tulsa, in this case.
Talk to the career fair organizer, and try to evaluate the opportunity. For example, has this event occurred before? If so, what was past attendance? What other companies participated? What was the mix of candidates like? What’s the unemployment rate in the area? Are any relevant statistics available?
Career fairs can be expensive, so you want to make sure you’re using your money wisely. Carefully review each opportunity – and your business priorities – before diving in head first.
3. Attend the right events
There are a number of different types of career fairs you might consider based on your specific needs.
- Local workplace development center career fairs: If you have specific geographic needs in areas outside your local market, workplace development centers might have events that will be helpful in filling your vacant positions.
- Privately sponsored career fairs: Many large career fairs are organized privately by private event companies or associations. Be sure to do plenty of research on these events before participating, as you’ll want to be certain they’re worth your while.
- Invitation-only career fairs: If you want to avoid showing up to an event where the majority of the candidates are unqualified, invitation-only career fairs might be a better bet. At these more exclusive events, resumes are screened beforehand and candidates are pre-qualified to attend.
- University career fairs: School-sponsored events are best suited for companies seeking a high volume of entry-level talent.
4. Make events work for you
Especially at larger career fairs, you’ll be competing with other businesses for the attention of attendees. But with a little creativity and effort, you can make your company stand out.
- Bring giveaways: While you may not have the budget for a high-tech booth, consider other ways you might be able to catch a candidate’s eye at the big event. You may want to have a few giveaways that entice attendees to stop by, like a keychain, water bottle or a snack. Giveaways provide a great conversation-starter. After that, it’s up to you to keep their interest.
- Get the digits: Career fairs tend to be fast-paced, so once you get attendees to your booth, you won’t want to spend too much time talking to any single candidate. Instead, your number-one objective should be to capture their contact information, including their name, phone number and email address.
- Sell your company: With contact information captured, it’s your chance to quickly sell the opportunity and create excitement about your company and available positions. Keep in mind that candidates have choices. They’ll likely be more attracted to companies whose representatives have energy and excitement about their employer. Come prepared to pitch your company’s story, and why your mission matters.
- Take note: As you interact with attendees, try to keep record of those who came by – and who you might want to pursue. This can be as simple as putting a star next to their name on the signup sheet.
- Don’t forget: Send stand-out candidates home with contact information for your company. Make it easy for them – hand out business cards with a direct phone number and email address for your recruiting contact.
5. Act fast
You came to the event to a make a hire, and the best way to do that is to act quickly.
If you find a candidate you really like, you need to create a bond with that person as soon as possible. You might say, “I really like your resume and background. I’m sure you have choices, but I’d love to talk to you more about this. Are you free sometime next Tuesday for a phone call?”
You might even consider staffing your booth with the appropriate hiring managers to perform onsite interviews. Many career fairs will have private rooms available for this purpose.
If that’s not an option, begin making phone calls to your top candidates as soon after the event as possible. Don’t let time go by. Shortening the hiring process is the best strategy for getting good candidates through the door.
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