Woo Candidates During an Invited Open House

Most career sales professionals have learned that it is easier to sell reluctant customers face-to-face versus remotely via phone calls and emails. As recruiters are essentially professionals selling career opportunities, it makes sense that nearly every recruiting strategy should leverage one or more face-to-face approaches such as an invited open house.

Unlike some approaches, the invited open house can be tailored to fit nearly every situation and industry around the globe.

Defining an Invited Open House

An invited open house is an event that can take many forms. In short, it is a “show-and-tell” held at your facility that highlights the benefits and characteristics of life as an employee of the organization targeted at potential candidates, be it known to them or not. An invited open house differs from traditional “public” open houses in that attendance is limited to those who have been sourced, qualified, and invited.

It differs from employment-related events (i.e., job fairs) in that there is a greater degree of interaction and individual attention paid to servicing the guest?s curiosities. At an invited open house, potential candidates see the facilities, meet team members they may someday work with, and explore some of the more exciting things the organization is working on. Of course, this is all absent of the pressures that usually accompany any element of the assessment process.

The premise is simple: you have a great story to tell but relatively few trusted channels that get it to the right audience, so you need to employ a mechanism that gets candidates in the door.

Around the world, invited open houses have proven an effective approach to get potential candidates to “test drive” a variety of new opportunities. In survey after survey, employed top performers have stated that the nature of the work and the people they work alongside are what attract and retain them, so let’s give candidates the information they need to trigger a job switch desire.

Not a New Concept

Open houses are certainly not new, but they all tend to produce mediocre results. Too many recruiters approach nearly every facet of recruiting from their perspective, designing processes and approaches that make their lives easier, consistently failing to realize that getting someone else to do something requires that they realize the value of doing it.

To that point, the critical success factor in any open house has little to do with the administration and a lot to do with “attractants” used to get the right audience, something few invest anytime in developing. The right audience is not a cadre of folks interested in employment; we already have approaches to deal with them.

Instead, focus on employed individuals with no intention of applying but who are open to coming to an event to benchmark, to learn, and to be exposed to the way other firms do things.

Article Continues Below

Once they are in the door, excellence in execution is key. The guests are the customers, and delivering on their every need is a critical success factor. They need to meet the right people, see the right things, have an opportunity to have their questions answered, and learn how to take the next step once they realize their desire.

The Benefits of An Invited Open House

An open house affords companies the chance to communicate a message directly, often to an audience that hasn’t built a barrier to the message that would routinely be encountered using other channels.

However, that is just one of many benefits this approach presents. Others include:

  • An opportunity to populate the room with the people most credible to the prospective candidate, increasing the probability that guests will trust the information they hear.
  • Attendees are more likely to be excited when they see best practices and innovations in person than they are just reading about them.
  • Because attendees must be invited, you won’t waste time on “lookie loos” and individuals you don’t really want to build a relationship with.
  • Because employees are involved in selecting individuals to be invited, they are more likely to take ownership of the recruiting process.
  • Because a relatively small number of individuals are invited, there is more time to build a relationship and to assess their technical skills and fit.
  • For some organizations, the process can lead to same-day hires.
  • Because there might be several professional reasons for attending, individuals are more likely to attend it over a pure recruiting event.
  • Because the scope of the event is narrowed down to a particular business unit or function, the show-and-tell and selling aspects can be targeted and focused.
  • Letting candidates see the equipment, the technology, tools, and facilities they would work with excites them and defines the organization better than any words can.
  • Having “outsiders” interact with your employees allows them to see other perspectives and to learn.
  • Because you’re telling individuals about your best practices, open houses can help build your employment brand and make your firm one that professionals talk about and benchmark against.
  • It helps get employees and managers more involved in recruiting and relationship-building by making it easy and fun to meet candidates (because it is on-site and there are refreshments).
  • It is a tool for gathering competitive intelligence, benchmarking, and assessing your organization’s strengths.
  • The social aspects of the event and “bragging to others” may improve your own team?s cohesion and help to reduce turnover.

Six Variations to the Invited Open House Approach

  1. Bring a friend to work. This high-touch variation of the traditional employee referral program is less impersonal than just having an employee make a standard referral. Employees are asked to invite people they know on a professional basis and who have the competencies needed. Recent hires, in particular, are asked to invite colleagues from their previous firm. The employee who sponsors the individual helps to make sure that they get to meet the right individuals and that they get to see the exciting things that your group is working on. The key “attractor” here is that a colleague is specifically asking you to attend because they have been impressed with your work.
  2. Benchmarking. The key attractor for this type of event is that those who attend have an opportunity to benchmark and to learn about your team’s best practices. The benchmarking approach attracts individuals that are curious and are interested in continuous improvement and learning. Employees and managers are asked to identify and invite individuals who are involved in benchmarking at talent competing organizations.
  3. Recruiter-driven. This premise offers a place for unsure candidates to informally ask questions and find out more about the company without making a commitment to apply. In this variation, the recruiter guides the individual so they see who and what they “need to see” in order to convince them to apply.
  4. Onsite seminar. This variation uses a known speaker on a hot topic or best practice as an attractant. Enveloping the guests is a user experience that affords them opportunities to network with the right people, each of whom can share specific employment desire creating stories and invite them to tour the facilities. The seminar itself might be sponsored by the company or by a local professional organization.
  5. At an industry event. If the audience you with to attract lives outside your geographic region, target locations where these desired candidates may be coming together (i.e., an annual industry or functional event). Take a team and resemblance of the company to the industry event and provide a meet-and-greet/show-and-tell in a hotel conference room. Hold your open house before the industry event, after the day’s events are over, or following the wrap-up of the industry event.
  6. Virtual open house. Again, if the talent you’re trying to attract isn’t physically located in the same region as your facilities, you still have options. A “virtual” invited open house offers the opportunity to attract a global audience. There are several relatively new electronic variations on the virtual open-house approach. For example, IBM is building relationships with individuals through the online virtual reality world known as SecondLife. Other organizations are leveraging video-sharing sites such as YouTube to deliver anytime, anywhere glimpses into daily life at the organization.

Planning Steps to Consider

  • Have an agenda for the event with timelines.
  • Use a professional facilitator to make sure the event remains exciting.
  • Make sure that key managers and your employees with the most compelling stories attend.
  • Whenever possible, have HR attend so that same-day offers can be extended to any “must-have” attendees.
  • Consider having memorable food, music, the CEO in attendance, or some other “wow” thing to instill a level of excitement.
  • Prepare show-and-tell exhibits, star employees, key projects, new equipment, executive talks, product demos, and other things to demonstrate your workplace environment.
  • Invite former employees and recent retirees you believe have a reasonable chance of wanting to come home. Also, invite people who previously turned down an offer from your firm.
  • Consider offering a small gift to all attendees.
  • Consider offering the standard referral bonus if an individual who an employee suggested “inviting” is eventually hired.
  • Develop effectiveness metrics to monitor the open-house program. Include satisfaction surveys to assess how attendees perceived the event. Check a year later to see the performance level and retention rate of open house hires versus other sources.

Final Thoughts

Employment professionals and managers often complain of a shortage of great candidates, but they continue to recruit as they always have. Just as some industries are impacted by a macro-level shortage of talent, they are also impacted by a shortage of new ideas in recruiting and an abundance of fear that prevents them from trying something new.

The results of a well-executed invited open house are worth any apprehension. Once the best and brightest individuals meet your best people and experience what you’re doing, more and more will be sold.

As much as it pains me to admit it, recruiting can be like car sales, but if you get the right person in the right car for a test drive, the sale really is pretty easy.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

Topics