Fishing for Candidates at Spring Job Fairs

Mar 27, 2014

Spring has sprung for many job seekers, and that means shifting their job searches into high gear. Your goal of course is to fish for the special few who have what you are looking for in a new employee. The problem is that most job fairs only give you three or four hours to fish, with hundreds of job seekers streaming past your table. It takes real skill and talent to hook the right ones. Here are a few tips to help you catch the winners.

Know what fish you are looking for. You can’t possibly be looking for “any applicant” — there are too many of them. Consider the skills, knowledge, and abilities that you are looking for in an applicant. If you are looking for individuals who will want to make money in financial services, that’s a very different type of “fish” than someone who is looking to make a difference in the world in social services. Design your pitch and your recruiting materials accordingly.

Catch and Release. As the fish swim by your table, you’ll notice that many of them have a glazed look in their eyes. They are often overwhelmed by all the different companies, and many are not sure what it is that they are after. Engage them: All it often takes is a friendly “Hello, what type of opportunity are you looking for?” If they say they are looking for a job in sales and you are looking for engineers, wish them the very best of luck and throw them back into the water to find their dream job. You are looking for the special few applicants that work out well for your organization.

Weigh and Measure. Many job seekers in their quest for gainful employment will attempt to throw their resumes at you, despite not having a clue what positions you might have open. And while it’s fun to think of them as fish who are doing their best to jump into your boat, you don’t want to get caught with a bunch of catfish if you are fishing for trout. So, here’s a simple tool that you should have in your tackle box — a “Job Applicant PreQual Form.” For example, you can draft a simple one-page document that asks for basic qualifying information, depending upon the positions you have open. If you are looking for drivers, it could ask if they have a good driving record. If you are looking for security officers, it could ask if they feel confident they could pass a LiveScan DOJ background check. If it applies to your business, you might ask if they feel they could pass a drug test. And finally, given them room on the form to explain why they want to work for you. It gives them an opportunity to compose a cover letter to submit with their resume, based on your requirements. If they don’t meet your qualifications, you won’t waste your time with them later in the recruiting process.

Don’t Let The Good Ones Get Away. If you have truly found some good candidates at the job fair, make sure you follow up with them within 24 hours of the job fair. Call them. Most would be amazed you actually remembered them. If you have an online process, send them a link and make it easy for them to apply. You weren’t the only one who was out fishing that day — others are certainly after the same fish you sought to bring into your boat.

Don’t Get Distracted. With only a few hours and so many potential applicants to choose from, you can’t afford to be distracted by non-value-added activities. Your challenge is to speak to as many people as possible who might turn into actual employees. The next time you’re at a job fair, notice how many exhibitors (more than half are not actual recruiters) are just passively sitting there, talking with each other, or texting on their phones. If you went to all the time and trouble to be at the job fair, get the most out of your efforts. Keep casting, keep reeling them in.

Evaluate Your Catch. How do you know if that last job fair was a good place to find fish, and would you return again next year? At the end of the job fair, count the resumes you have received. The ones that appear to have potential to turn into actual employees, place their name on a spreadsheet, noting the date and location of the job fair. Do this throughout the year and you’ll know which job fairs are worth the (fishing) trip next year.

Not all businesses benefit from job fairs, but many can. If you are committed to showing up for one of these events, make sure you do everything possible to increase your return on that investment.

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