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Experimenting With Immersive Technology to Increase Candidate Engagement at Job Fairs

by May 13, 2014, 12:14 am ET

Hershey_LogoThe candidate experience at job fairs hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years. Booths have gotten bigger, with more creative use of space, but the concept is still the same — attendees line up, talk to a company rep for two or three minutes and walk off with a paper brochure. If they’re lucky, they get a chance to interview in a makeshift, curtain-walled office flanked by three other candidates doing the same thing.

In this environment, candidates often don’t have an opportunity to engage with the company culture, understand the direction of the business, or clearly see the reasons why they should join.

With a key university job fair approaching, a crack team of three Hershey employees — myself, a graphic designer, and a university relations analyst — decided we were going to attempt to improve candidate engagement by taking a more modern approach. After a quick ideation session, we landed on an idea to experiment with augmented reality technology.

Augmented reality is a technology that uses computer vision and object recognition to overlay an experience on top of something in the real world. While this technology is not common at job fairs, we hypothesized that we could use the concept to create an experience that would excite the age demographic, while informing them of the key pillars of our employee value proposition.

After exploring a few different options, we decided to partner with Blippar, which had experience developing immersive experiences for other big brands. To save time and money, we recycled pre-approved content from our corporate communications team and did all of the design work in house.

By keeping our team small and nimble, we were able to quickly create a high impact booth that we hoped would improve engagement levels in our brand.

To find out how it worked, view the slideshare presentation below.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Richard Araujo

    Haven’t you people ever seen The Matrix, or heard of Skynet from the Terminator series?

    What if I told you that neither you nor those applicants ever left the booth?!

  • http://www.morganhcm.com Morgan Hoogvelt

    Very interesting and kudos to the Hershey team for forward and innovative thinking (and for also the best chocolate ever!)

    While I agree that the candidate experience is all but dead and repetitive at career fairs – innovation is definitely key. However, the article mentions that Hershey wanted to “improve candidate engagement by taking a more modern approach” and sometimes, now days a more modern approach can be found in simply having a face to face conversation, assessing skills and screening candidates on the spot for potential opportunities.

    I have attended numerous job fairs where companies have all this fancy foo foo and frills and at the end, the applicant is told to apply online. Sometimes less technology and innovation and more human interaction can actually be a step forward. I applaud Hershey’s thinking and efforts and also saw the mention of assessing candidates post their virtual tour.

    At the end of the day…all job seekers want is to be heard and get some face time.

  • James Colino

    @Morgan I couldn’t agree with you more. Our main goal was to improve engagement. What we found is that our conversations with candidates after they went through the experience were much deeper. They asked better questions because the content introduced them to things about Hershey that sparked an interest. So the typical “what is your culture like” or “why should I come to Hershey” discussions were taken off the table allowing our team to spend more quality time with each candidate. Our event workflow was designed such that the technology was the catalyst to the conversation…not the replacement.

    To your point directly, I see a lot of companies designing their booths around a “lounge” concept, which I think is great. Google and Microsoft for example have mastered this and it results in a great opportunity for them to sit and connect on a human level with each candidate, as opposed to over-engineering the tech side — which they could easily do if they wanted to.

    Something for us to think about as we continue to experiment with candidate engagement…

    Thanks for the feedback!

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, James. This sounds interesting, but it still seems like just refining a passive approach to recruiting. As an alternative to a job fair where you hope to attract and keep good applicants as they come by, how about directly sourcing and pre-screening the people you want, and have them attend an open house, either at HQ or at a location where you’re looking for a lot of applicants. That way is more active/proactive and allows you more control…

    Cheers,

    Keith “Put On Job Fairs Back in the Day” Halperin

  • James Colino

    @Keith Thanks for bringing this up because I think your point is valid for anyone hoping to create a holistic recruiting strategy — especially as it relates to University.

    While Hershey does quite a bit of proactive outreach to students, we can only do it for our core set of schools because it’s resource intensive. So we partner with profs, career centers, campus associations, diversity groups, etc and host info sessions, speak in class, sponsor events, etc year round. This allows us to source, pre-screen and have hiring days across the country, particularly for our Sales organization.

    This is certainly much more effective, but again, really resource intensive and not sustainable across multiple functions or too many schools. For the schools where we can’t physically have a presence, we attend broader events like NSHMBA, NBMBAA and Enactus to capture audiences that we simply can’t reach.

    It’s definitely a passive strategy but it covers a critical segment of talent that we don’t want to miss. We’re also working on some ways to create a meaningful virtual presence to up the game in this area as well.

    Moral of the story is that these days, you have to work really hard to get great talent across multiple channels with both passive and active approaches. A measurable, holistic strategy is the key to covering your bases.

    Thanks for bringing this to light!

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, James. This sounds like Hershey has a thorough and well-thought staffing strategy, and should be commended for it.
    Ilook forward to reading more about this from you.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  • PAUL FOREL

    James,

    You left out some valuable metrics in your article-

    You did not indicate how many people who inputted their information were subsequently hired.

    Every company wants to have the ‘best’ booth at trade shows.

    But what counts at the end of the day is from how many business cards left at the booth were sales captured?

    Or, in your case, how many people were hired and for what type of positions?

    The other shoe needs to be dropped for your article to have meaning.

    I think they call this ‘measurable results’.

  • James Colino

    @Paul Great call out and you’re absolutely right…the article is a little anemic when it comes to metrics.

    I think the best thing for me to do is circle back on this one in about a month because we’re still in process with several candidates. We have two confirmed offer acceptances and several in final stages.

    To provide more context, this particular “job fair” is not a big recruiting event, so we don’t go into it every year with big conversion goals. It’s more of a “conference” that takes place really late in the university recruiting cycle — most students already have jobs by April.

    So our goal is really to “engage and excite” candidates whom we might be able to recruit for the following year. Sophomores & Juniors. Now that we have their information in our CRM, we plan to start messaging them in September when they’re starting to think about internships and full time roles.

    With the learnings that we gathered from this first event, we plan to take the concept with us to our high converting events this fall. ROI and metrics will be closely watched.

    On the topic of metrics, I will share that I think we missed the boat measuring something really critical at this event.

    Our main goal was to “increase engagement” and yet we relied too much on anecdotal feedback and “time in booth” to measure it.

    What we should have done is take a quick pre-and-post test with candidates to check their interest level and knowledge of Hershey before and then after. This would have given us a more analytical view into whether we actually moved the engagement needle or not.

    Lesson learned…lots of room for improvement! Thanks for bringing this up!

  • Kathleen Smith

    While it is easy to bash job fairs, we actually have increased candidate engagement significantly with our Cleared Job Fairs. We noticed in 2008 that the experience was taking a bad turn in the very competitive market of security cleared candidates, so we developed the Best Recruiter program. Each job seeker is asked to vote for the teams that provide the best overall recruiting experience. At the end of each Cleared Job Fair we announce the winners over social media and to the companies. At the end of the year, all the recruiters are celebrated for making a difference in the overall experience. Speakers at this Best Recruiter Celebration have included Gerry Crispin (twice), Kelly Dingee, and Jenny DeVaughn.
    This has meant a change in attitude not an increase in resource investment by the companies and their teams. There is now a friendly competition among the companies as to who will win at each event.
    What is noticeable is that the recruiters understand that this is about building their brand and the beginning of candidate engagement in this community. Many of the smaller to medium size companies now have a change competing with larger brands as they can build their relationship with hard to find candidates immediately.
    While I applaud leveraging technology to reach candidates, I also believe in old school of building one to one relationships.
    http://clearedjobs.net/bestrecruiters/
    Kathleen

  • Richard Araujo

    The measurement part is where most people come up short, it’s good to see you guys are doing this to at least make a supportable claim for ROI. It’s never going to be hard science, but the effort is necessary.

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