Hold Your Own Job Fair in One Week

So many of us have wasted days going to local job fairs to come home with, well, nothing to show for it. Holding a company job fair at your location or a neutral space is a great way for your company to see a ton of employees who want to work for you all in one location at a time.

One company I worked with eventually stopped spending money on job fairs and now hosts its own once or twice a quarter.

Step One: If You Plan It, They Will Come

Assuming you have a space available at work that you don’t have to reserve, you can plan it in one week. To do this the right way, be sure to follow these six logistical planning steps:

  1. Reserve the room. Get a room filled with 10 to 15 computers so everyone can enter their information into your applicant tracking system at the same time. Obviously that isn’t always possible, so you’ll want as many computers as possible, or a room with tables and pens out for paper applications to be completed. Remember, they aren’t even applying for a specific job at this point.
  2. Find helpers. Get one to three helpers to greet people at the door, point them in the right direction, and give them an application and list of open jobs and their requirements. If you can’t enlist that much help, put up signs to point people in the right direction, and have one person take and give out applications.
  3. Assign a numbers system. Hand out numbers so you can keep track of who is next for an interview. If there is no time to prepare them, add all new resumes to the bottom of the pile and read through the pile from first to last.
  4. Maintain a list of current openings. Have a list of open jobs and their requirements for both people coming to the job fair and those conducting screenings. At a minimum, have one copy per table where applications are being filled out, a few hanging up on the walls, and one for everyone screening.
  5. Train the trainer. Have a skilled group of five to 10 professionals trained in the mechanics and art of interviewing. Have an interview form that has two to three basic questions you want asked, a space for their name, the interviewer name, any jobs they may be a fit for, and a quick ranking to circle “Probably,” “Maybe,” “Definitely Not.” If five to 10 recruiters or HR reps aren’t available, grab whomever is willing to stay late from any department. Include admin support, people from any of the jobs you’re looking to fill, interns, etc. Give them a crash course on what they should look for and what they should do with good people. Remember, these are two- to five-minute interviews.
  6. Organize the resumes. Have a pile for “Probably,” “Maybe,” and “Definitely Not.” Make sure each interviewer includes their notes page and puts the application, resume, and notes in the correct pile.

Step Two: Publicity Counts

While there are as many ways as you can imagine attracting people to the fair, here are six of the most common and time-effective approaches:

  1. Publicize the event. On the Friday before, post on your online job boards and include in the title “On-Site Career Fair: Entry and Professional Level. Immediate Interviews.” or whatever is true for your organization. Make sure in your job-ad body you include all of your keywords that a person may search for. If you have a large variety of positions, you may want to run a few online job ads targeted to the different groups.
  2. Send a press release to the paper. Small-town papers honestly report on anything. For whatever reason, people still think there’s a bad economy (see the election results) and hiring makes news.
  3. Use a display ad. If you have unskilled or general labor needed, advertise using a display ad. It’s more expensive, but you get better results.
  4. Network, network, network. Use your ERE, LinkedIn, MySpace, and any other job networking area you have created contact lists in. Send out a notice to all of the people in your group letting them know what you will be doing and to send people they may know.
  5. Offer a referral bonus. Send an email out to your employees and retirees letting them know when you are having it and what you are hiring for. If you offer a referral bonus, remind them of that; or, offer it just for this event.
  6. Use your ATS. Send an email out to people in your database, if you have an applicant-tracking system. If you don’t, you and I need to talk, because it is 2006 and there are a lot of very affordable options that are good out there. You can target this as much or as little as you want. Even better, send an Evite. In some ways, this will feel more personal than an email and will help you manage invitees.

Prepare for a large turnout but relax if it bombs. It very well might. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it again; it may just mean that wasn’t the right time. You can’t control the weather, television, and sporting events.

While not the norm, and possibly totally unexpected, there are a few additional things you can do with a little more planning to really make your job fair a success. Enlisting the help of professional sourcers, like Maureen and others, can help you specifically call and target people within your competitor’s organizations to personally invite them to the job fair.

If you do this, I strongly recommend having a way to fast-track these busy professionals that you invited to come. There’s nothing worse than a true recruit feeling like another sheep.

Another tool that I’ve seen lately is a video interviewing online software by HireVue. It sends Webcams that can be set up with any computer and allows candidates to answer interview questions that you have written in general or based on position requirements. The interview is saved in a very recruiter-friendly online interface and is easily accessible by a recruiter or manager. Employers can “view” the interview as if they were really there.

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While obviously more impersonal, it sure beats making someone wait for an hour or two for their two-minute interview with the accounting intern or bringing someone back for a full interview because you didn’t have time to screen everyone in person during the event.

If you are still wondering if this will work for your company and the types of positions you offer, I say it’s worth a try. I’ve seen company job fairs bring in hundreds of candidates and generally a much better quality turnout than public job fairs.

Candidates are being recruited for positions ranging from skilled/non-skilled labor to management level. The draw of an onsite interview and confidentiality it gives will often attract working professionals that you may not otherwise meet. Often, they’re afraid to go to public job fairs since their current employer may have a booth.

Company job fairs are also often held during off hours, such as 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., when busy people can leave work a little early and still make it home at a decent time, or make it home to change and come back to meet with your company.

The key is making sure that you are clear in your emails and advertising what types of positions you are looking for. In fact, some companies I have worked with have actually grown out of holding them at their own location and now rent out meeting rooms or halls at a local hotel to handle all of the traffic.

All in all, while not currently practiced by most recruiters, it is a relatively easy and cost-effective technique that can be used by corporate and agency recruiters alike.

Sarah White (sarahw@mranet.org) has spent her career aligning talent strategies with business strategies. As the Recruiting Solutions Group Director at MRA (www.mranet.org), the second largest employer's association in the nation, she works with companies of all sizes on recruitment strategy design, recruitment process optimization, online recruiting, employment branding, college recruitment and internship program development, and applicant tracking software selection. In addition, she runs more than 20 training events each year and has served as keynote speaker and guest lecturer for business groups and university classes on topics related to recruitment and selection, applicant tracking systems and professional development. She is frequently interviewed as a recruiting expert, recently by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News.

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