There’s nothing so good it doesn’t have to be sold. And that includes working at your company. Yes, the competition among job seekers for employment is intense. But so is the competition among employers looking for the very best talent available.
That means when you show up to a job fair or other recruiting event, you have to put your best foot forward. Your booth or table has only the stroke of an eyeball to make a favorable first impression.
Here are some of the things you and your staff should be doing to ensure your job fair appearances and other recruiting and retention experiences are as effective as possible.
1. Focus on getting contact information, not on giving away your cards and brochures. Be a card getter, not a card-giver. Most of your swag and bling will wind up in the trash anyway. Focus on ideas that allow you to capture contact information and resumes on the spot, and allow you to control the follow-up process.
That doesn’t mean you don’t want to have attractive, professional-looking materials on hand. You do, and you want to get them into the right hands. But brochures and giveaways should not be the focus of what goes on in your booth.
2. Go to the fairs your peers are going to. Those are the ones the candidates will be going to as well. The more focused the fair is on your industry, the stronger the likely pool of candidates are going to be. Remember, you get one kind of job seeker at an event billed as “job fair.” You get quite another kind of offer at an event billed as “Software Engineering/Programming Job Fair” that also offers some of the best career-enhancing workshops in town. See the difference?
3. Hook the job seeker with people, not with a display. They’ll remember a positive interaction with the recruiter a lot more than they will remember a brochure or poster display. Be proactive and talk to people.
4.Know what positions are open and the qualifications sought before the job fair.
5. Sponsor or actually execute one or more industry or continuing education workshops on the site, or nearby, that is relevant for the kind of candidate you want to recruit. Bonus points if they can get CE credits for whatever industry. Have some of your people take it. They can suss out the best of the other job applicants also taking the same class or workshop – and alert your hiring manager.
6. Invest great booth and display materials. Because this helps maximize the effort to attract the best people, and because you can use the material over and over again, it’s some of the best marketing dollars you can ever spend.
7. Go to the fairs that actually advertise.
8. Don’t eat in your booth.
9. Give people a reason to come to your booth. One prominent A/ V distributor was looking to strike up conversations with potential home theater installers and home security professionals. So they created an actual café. They invested in a big booth, put in a coffee bar, actually hired baristas, put in several tables, and had their reps chat up people at the show while they were resting their feet and recharging their batteries. The technique was a huge success, and the company opened up dozens of relationships with installers and distributors using this semi-passive approach.
10. Unless you’re interviewing and taking applications on the spot, ditch the chairs. Even then, only the people actually interviewing should sit down, if possible. The rest of your booth staff should be on their feet and proactive.
11. Lose the cell phones. Unless you have an incoming call, your job is to reach out to people and talk to them in person. You can’t do that with your nose in the phone.
12. Put the table at the back of the booth. Not in the front. Your booth should be welcoming people to come in, not putting a barrier like a table in the front to keep people out.
13. Ask about sponsorships available and try to get them early. If there are name tags and lanyards, try to be the company sponsoring the lanyards. That’s a great branding opportunity, and people keep those.
14. Try to set up interviews on the spot. The employer that can act the quickest is the one that will have the inside track on the best talent.
15. Have a strategy to reach shy people. These can be terrific employees, but you’ll have to reach out to them to draw them into a conversation with you.
16. Have technology on hand that allows you to capture resumes, LinkedIn profiles and other contact/screening information electronically.
17. Have an organized plan to follow up with your contacts from the fair and follow up immediately with a thank you note and an explanation of what’s next in the hiring process. For the hot candidates, though, give them a little extra. Reach out to them with a phone call and let them know that they aren’t in the ‘form letter’ pile. Tell them it takes a bit of time to work through all the information, but go ahead and try to schedule the follow-up interview, if any, early. Do it while the masses are just getting their form letters thanking them for their time. Remember – the best talent will get hired fast. You have to move quickly to get them.
18. Work the whole event, not just your booth. Have someone working the aisles, attending the happy hour, talking to people at the workshops and classes. The bigger the event, the more opportunities there will be.
19. Ask for referrals. In the act of chatting with someone who looks like a terrific potential candidate but who who turns out not to be seeking what your company is offering, ask who this individual knows who might be a good fit. Nearly everyone knows someone looking for a job or to improve their career prospects. You can even get them to call their friend from their cell phone on the spot.
20. Attitude is everything – and it’s more difficult to maintain at the end of a long fair when you’re tired. Not everyone is cut out to be a great job fair professional. Have everyone invest in a good pair of shoes and inserts, have everyone hydrate throughout the day, and have everyone take an occasional break to recharge and get refreshed. Sometimes the best candidates come along at the end of the day. Think about it: The best candidates are often the ones currently fully employed – and they just couldn’t make it until the end of the day.