Career (Un)fairs – Blast Past the Competition at Career Fairs

May 17, 2015
Traveling to your first student career fair? How to make the most of it.

Traveling to your first student career fair? How to make the most of it.

It’s surprising how lightly some companies take student career fairs. This is your chance to nab some quality talent who can have a huge impact on your company.

Consider your presence at a career fair as a sales presentation. In this case you’re selling your company to the brightest minds a school has to offer. How much effort do you put into a sales pitch? The same dedication should be going into your appearance at the fair.

PREP

There are 2 major items on your prep checklist.

Item 1 – Choose the best representative. Do not underestimate how big an impact the right or wrong rep can have with students.

Your representative should have two main qualities. The first is that they know your company in and out, from soup to nuts and back again. Student enthusiasm for your company is going to fade fast when their every question is answered with a “check our website for details.”

An unresponsive rep isn’t going to be much of a hit with the students at the career fair; and if they’re not a hit, your company isn’t a hit.

Which brings us to quality number two – your rep should be someone the students want to be. They should be enthusiastic and someone who look like they’re on their way up in both your company and in your industry.

What you don’t want repping you is someone who appears beaten down or who clearly wants to be anywhere else but there.

Item 2 – Build Flexibility Into Your Schedule. While you want to make sure the essentials of your career fair schedule are firmly in place, you need to have time available for further interactions with the students.

You (or your rep) want to be that “yes” person:

Do you have time to talk more about your company later? Yes.

Could you possibly take a look at my CV and see if it makes an impact? Yes.

Can you give an (unscheduled) talk about your company’s culture? Absolutely yes.

Aside from these 2 essentials, here are some extra prep tips:

– Make sure you or your rep has the right clothing. Some schools and/or events have dress requirements.

– Get to know the school’s coordinators in advance. If you require help getting set up at the career fair make sure the on-site help is scheduled ahead of time – they’ll be run ragged during the event itself and extra help will be hard to scrape up.

– If your rep is alumni check to see if the school has any sort of pin or badge that identifies people as such. It’s one more way to get a little edge on your competition.

– Arrange for someone to be at your stand or table when you or your rep can’t be there such as at meal times or if your rep is giving a speech in the auditorium.

– Have all your promotional stuff and papers ready. This includes any sign-up forms for interviews.

– Get alumni on your side. They can be a huge help in steering the cream of the student crop to your presentations.

– Rehearse your presentation. Anticipate closing questions you may encounter.

– If you can, take a quick walk around the campus and the career fair area ahead of zero hour so you’ll know how far you have to lug your gear.

The Big Day(s)

So you’ve done all your prep work, you’ve made friends with the event staff, and now you’re ready to go.

So is a lot of your competition. How do you show yourself to be the biggest kid on campus during the student career fair?

Start with the obvious – plan to get there early. Construction, confusion, there’s always something that wants to get in your way. You definitely don’t want to still be setting up your display while your competition is sharing wonderful work-related laughs with the students.

Have all your student info at hand. For example, if you’ve set up interviews but are suddenly called away, you’ll be able to communicate with the scheduled students and reset the interviews.

Turn off your cell phone. Unless you’re planning on getting a call from Bill Gates then the students are not going to be impressed by how busy you are. The only thing they want you to be busy with is them.

Let students know how long the vetting process usually is. Even better, show that you’re the company that doesn’t just treat them like a herd of cattle by guaranteeing that you’ll be keeping them informed step-by-step where they are in the vetting process. This constant communication and insight is going to be huge to a student who is desperate to be noticed by the business world.

The Rest of the Year

The student career fair is just the tip of the iceberg – student recruitment is a year-round effort. You want to remain as a constant presence in the minds of both the students and the school career-aid staff. Out-of-mind equals out-of-luck.

Get in contact with department heads and staff in the areas of academics that are best going to feed you the quality students. Added bonus – they might even ask you to give presentations throughout the year, which is yet another chance to maintain your presence.

Access to those department heads will also allow you to arrange tours of your business throughout the year.

Are there charitable organizations on campus that you can tie into? Aside from keeping you in the mind of the student body, it will also let you see some of the students in action as they organize and work events.

The key is to stay in contact. Stay in contact with the school and stay in contact with the students. Keep them ever-informed of where they stand in the hiring process and keep reminding them why you should be at the top of their company most-wanted list.