Contrary to popular belief, career fairs are not dead. In fact, they’re alive and well —and employers of all sizes and specialties find them extremely useful.
Here are a few ways employers can benefit from attending a job fair:
1. You gain access to a large number of candidates in a one-stop environment. In the four to five hours of a career fair, an employer can meet with dozens of candidates per representative, says Michael Petro, an assistant director in the University of Connecticut’s Center for Career Development. “Recruiters and managers get the chance to have a face-to-face interaction with candidates that are interested in their organisation. For many, the career fair can be an initial screen of talent and numerous employers will decide to offer first round interviews based on those brief interactions at a career fair table.”
2. You can increase brand awareness. Katharine S. Brooks, executive director of the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, says a career fair is a form of public relations for a company. “It’s a way to get your name out in a positive light, to encourage talented job seekers to consider you, and to have a conversation with real people, rather than resumes.”
Employers that participate in a career fair develop strong brand awareness among job seekers, students, staff, and even other employers, Petro adds. “In the brief time they are at a career fair, thousands of sets of eyes filter past and get to take in the marketing collateral they provide. Strong visual displays draw people in and numerous employers have stated that building brand awareness is a key component of participating in these public events.”
Moreover, by participating, companies get their names, logos, and websites attached to marketing materials sent out by university career centres and other organisations that host career fairs. “In a sense, it becomes a marketing multiplier for them that is attached to some excellent connections with a pipeline of new talent,” he says.
3. You have an opportunity to meet with non-traditional candidates. “While many recruiters have a strong idea of a talent profile they are looking for such as a management major or a computer science major, career fairs also allow recruiters to find and talk to ‘non-traditional’ candidates,” Petro explains. “One of the most frequent examples would be the outstanding liberal arts student, regardless of major, that has built up a rich and diverse skill-set that not only meets a recruiter’s needs, but exceeds them.”
4. You can meet and network with other corporations. Brooks says recruiters often enjoy the chance to meet and network with other recruiters and professionals in the field.
“While there is a continued increase in so many communications and transactions being done digitally, there is still nothing quite as effective as face-to-face contact,” Petro concludes. “Career fairs serve as a vital bridge to connecting individuals and companies in mutually beneficial ways.”
So what should you do to make the most of a job fair? Here are few ways to prepare and stand out:
- Bring useful and original materials. Potential candidates can learn almost everything about your company with a quick Google search. Make their time at the job fair worthwhile by offering information they couldn’t easily find elsewhere. For instance, if your website doesn’t show any visuals of the physical workspace, bring a laptop to the career fair and play a slideshow or video that offers job seekers a virtual tour of the office.
- Set up an eye-catching booth that will attract job seekers. “Have an attention-grabbing display that will make people more likely to stop by and visit your booth,” says Brooks. The more job seekers you attract, the greater your talent pool will be at the end of that day.
- Move from behind the table. You have to stand out in a crowd (literally), says William Jones, a director in the Rutgers University Career Services office. “Push your table out of the way and show your own enthusiasm for the work that you do. You can’t expect talent to always come and find you — especially when you are competing with other similar organizations looking for the same skill sets.”
- Clearly identify the job openings within your company. Brooks says a board that reads, “Now hiring for…” and lists the available opportunities can go a long way to ensure that the right candidates stop by.
- Be open to all majors and backgrounds. Don’t present materials that will only attract a specific group of candidates. For instance, you should avoid displaying signs that say things like: “Looking for business majors!” or “Are you a computer science professional? This is the company for you!” You could be missing out out on a highly qualified candidate who’d be a great fit.
- Don’t just refer job seekers to your website. Brooks says the No. 1 complaint from job fair participants is that they talk to the employer and then they’re told to “go online and apply.” Candidates want to know that they have an “in” or a special relationship because they came to the career fair. “Otherwise, they could have just stayed home and applied online,” she says.
- Utilize the alumni within your organization. No one is more excited and committed to recruiting students from a university than graduates of that university, Jones explains. “Many universities that host job fairs will provide recruiters or company representatives who are alumni with special pins or ribbons to help identify them to students.” Students tend to seek out these representatives because they automatically have something in common with them, he says.
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