Career fairs can be great opportunities for businesses to find prospective employees, but these venues can quickly become quite hectic without proper preparation. Lack of screening, tons of resumes, and the chaos of the day can take a super productive idea and make it a hot mess. If you want to take advantage of career fairs without acquiring a giant headache, here are some tips to keep your search focused and successful.
Make sure all YOUR paperwork is prepared in advance. Job seekers will be trying to get all of their documentation in order, and it is equally important that all of your ducks are in a row as well. Make sure the job fair organizers have created an accurate description of your company or group and that your booth’s location has been correctly listed. If possible, post the kinds of jobs you are seeking to fill in the career fair’s online forum before the event begins.
Make sure your staffers know what’s up. The people representing your company help ensure that specialists in your field, not people without the qualifications you are looking for, fill out your application. Make sure that whoever is staffing your booth knows exactly what you are looking for and can speak at length about your organization, the positions you are looking to fill, and what the hiring protocol is.
Make your hiring protocol crystal clear. Because the number of people attending job fairs can be quite large, it can be tempting to blur lines and allow for exceptions to your normal hiring procedures to accommodate the sheer volume of potential applicants. Employers, however, should adhere to their standard hiring practices at a career fair for everything, from the type of applicant you are looking for to how positions are pitched to prospective employees, from what application procedures and resumes will be accepted at the fair to when people can expect to hear back from you. Having a solid outline of how the day will go keeps you from missing a great opportunity or taking on dead weight.
Take a look at the college angle. If the career fair is happening at an academic institution, use that venue to your advantage. Prepare a list of appropriate majors and minors and other academic requirements for the positions you want to fill. Is your company willing to offer internships as well as regular jobs, and are some of the applicants too young? Have a stack of business cards on hand so that you can network today for future assets and employees. In addition, be sure that any of your current employees who are alumni of that particular school are present (if possible) to discuss the transition from college life at that institution into the outside workforce.
Make your booth look awesome. Exciting graphics and pictures of what your company is doing and fun, company-based giveaways, and demonstrations keep people’s attention and attract stronger applicants who may not otherwise have considered your group. Of course, make sure career fair etiquette is in effect — be presentable, on time, and ready to talk.
Personalize the experience. Obviously, not everyone who comes to your booth will be hired the same day as the career fair, or any time for that matter. However, you still should recognize the individual merit of each potential applicant. Spend some face time with each visitor, even if you believe the person is someone you would never hire. Potential applicants who get a good vibe from your company may surprise you on paper, or may become clients and customers in the future.
Remember courtesy counts. Some career fair participants are not as polite as they should be. Stand, rather than sit, at your booth. Shake hands with applicants even if you are afraid of germs and illness (hand sanitizer is usually omnipresent at career fairs). Although office concerns may weigh on your mind, put the phone away. You wouldn’t hire someone who was texting the entire time you were speaking; that’s a two-way street. While there may be pressure to eat quickly at career fairs, make sure that you eat at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place. Unless absolutely necessary, do not leave your booth unmanned. And while colloquialisms may make you seem more relatable to younger applicants, keep conversation polite and vulgarity to an absolute minimum.
Avoid the temptation of the hard sell. You may be very excited about your company, the career fair, and potential employees and job seekers. However, there is such a thing as overkill. Be informative without being domineering. Ask questions when in doubt (e.g., “What are your interests academically?” or “Have you ever considered going into this field?”). Being friendly is great. Being scary is not.