Top 10 Career Fair Tips For Employers

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A successful recruiting strategy is one that’s made up of a diverse set of sourcing initiatives. Career fairs are one such initiative that can be a valuable asset as part of your overall hiring program.

In an informal survey, 84% of companies polled said university career fairs are the recruiting event they participate in the most. Industry career fairs and in-house fairs also ranked highly. But many companies aren’t maximizing their ROI from such events. Despite such a heavy level of participation, only 8% of all interviews stem from in-person meetings like those at job fairs.

So how can you make the most of career fairs–and the hefty price tag you typically pay to attend them? Follow these 10 career fair tips for employers to improve the career fair experience for your company and the prospects you interact with.

1. Set Goals

Before you even begin planning job fair ideas, like your booth setup or promotional strategy, start by setting career fair goals. Ideally, this will be part of the discussion when you’re deciding which recruiting events to attend for the quarter or the year.

What type of candidates are you looking to reach at this particular job fair? Are you seeking diversity? New college grads? A candidate with expertise in a specific area/?

How many candidates are you hoping to speak with? What percentage of them do you expect to continue on to the next step of submitting a resume or being offered an interview?

What are the overall goals for your organization? Is it to fill a certain number of jobs? Build brand awareness? Gain an edge over an industry competitor?

This is one of the most impactful career fair tips because your answer to these questions will help guide your actions in all of the steps that follow. Furthermore, they’ll help you determine the return on your investment after the fact and assess whether it’s a good idea to participate in the event again in the future.

2. Plan Your Booth Setup

If you’re new to career fairs, there’s more that goes into your booth setup than you might think. First, you’ll need to check with the venue for specifications on the size of your space and the materials they’ll provide. Some venues provide a table. Others require you to bring your own. Some offer electrical outlets and WiFi to every exhibitor. Others charge extra for these.

Think about how you’ll use your booth to catch the eye of career fair attendees. Will you have banners? Digital media like TV monitors or computer screen displays? Interactive elements?

Remember, it’s going to be crowded, so anything you can do to set your booth apart from the sea of others will be helpful.

3. Determine Staffing

Now that you’re registered for the event, it’s time to decide who you’ll send to man your booth. Ideally, you’ll select your career fair staffers based on what makes sense for that specific event. If it’s a university career fair, for example, choose alumni of the school. If it’s a neighborhood fair, select team members who live nearby or grew up in the area.

Ensure that your recruiters working the event are armed with a solid knowledge of the goals you outlined above as well as key talking points about your company (more on this below).

It’s usually a good idea to send more than one or two people. Career fairs are long and tiring, and you want your staff to be energized and enthusiastic, not worn out from talking to 100 prospects in a row. Plan to have enough people on hand so that your staff can take adequate breaks while still keeping your booth manned at all times.

4. Design Promotional Materials

While you don’t need to go overboard—attendees will be inundated with paper materials from all the different companies—plan a few key promotional items you can place in the hands of prospects.

A nice freebie is a great way to get people to stop at your booth and take your brand home with them. Aim for something people will actually use rather than a throwaway novelty item; earbuds, phone chargers, and water bottles are a few good picks we’ve seen lately. When in doubt, branded pens and snacks are always a safe bet.

Make sure your printed materials contain your main contact info: your website, email address, and social media channels at a minimum. And don’t forget an often-overlooked career fair tip: having name tags for everyone who’ll be staffing your booth.

5. Agree on Instructions for Candidates

Before the event day, decide how you’ll instruct interested candidates to take the next step with your organization. Will you accept resumes at the booth? Direct candidates to submit them online? Consider having tablets on hand with a dedicated landing page attendees can use to submit their contact info on the spot.

6. Prepare Talking Points

Small talk can give you a feel for a booth visitor’s personality, but it doesn’t bring a whole lot of meaningful value for you or them. Prepare a set of thoughtful questions that will help you steer the conversation in a useful direction.

Based on the goals you outlined in step 1, what questions can you ask to help pre-screen candidates to meet those goals? For example, if you’re at a college career fair and your goal is to source candidates for entry-level roles in your IT department, you might ask the following:

  • What are you majoring in?
  • What types of on-campus activities are you involved in?
  • Which of your classes are most interesting to you?
  • When do you graduate?
  • Do you have plans for after graduation?

The idea is to discover the information that will help you identify promising candidates.

In addition to preparing questions, come prepared to talk about things like benefits, company culture, and your company’s staffing goals. Your booth staffers might not be able to answer every question attendees have, and that’s okay. They should, however, know where to direct visitors for more information.

7. Spread the Word

Once you’re confirmed as an exhibitor, spread the word far and wide. Use your social media channels to let your followers know about your upcoming event. Add it to the news or events page of your website. Keep an eye out for pre-event publicity opportunities offered by the fair’s organizers, like adding your contact info to a media list, and take part in these opportunities wherever possible.

8. Arrive Early

You don’t want to be caught in setup mode when the first visitors arrive. Find out what time the facility will open for setup—sometimes it’s the night before, which is ideal—and arrive to assemble your booth then.

If you’ve had items shipped to the venue, allow ample time to track them down. If you’re bringing all of the gear yourself, consider bringing a dolly along to help transport it all, since it can be a long walk between the unloading area and the actual exhibitor space.

9. Stand in Front of Your Table

Seriously! There will be dozens or even hundreds of other companies there, and if you’re parked in a chair or blocked off behind your table, it’s far too easy for candidates to stroll on by without even looking at your booth. Even if they do stop, being on the other side of a table or in a chair creates an awkward dynamic for having a conversation.

Instead, get the most out of your investment in this opportunity by having your recruiters on their feet, actively engaging with the fair attendees. Again, this is a great reason to bring several people to share the staffing responsibility.

10. Outline Next Steps for You and Your Prospects

Once the fair winds down, take a deep breath and give yourself a pat on the back… but don’t relax for too long, because now the real work begins. To maximize your return on a career fair, follow up with top prospects quickly. Many other companies will be reaching out to schedule interviews, and some may have sent employee offer letters.

If you collected a large volume of contacts, organize them into categories to make follow up easier. Here are some ways you might break down the pool depending on what type of fair you attended:

  • A-list prospects – people who wowed you enough to want to make an offer
  • Potential candidates you’re interested in learning more about through an interview
  • Prospects who are still students, but graduating in 3/6/12 months
  • Students looking for internships

Then, divide and conquer. Enlist the appropriate members of your hiring team to follow up with the next steps and hopefully onboard some outstanding new talent to your team.

4 Corner Resources is in Your Corner for Hiring

Need more expert career fair tips for employers? Whether you’re looking to fill an entry-level position or a c-suite role, 4 Corner Resources can help you identify the top contenders for the job.

Our staffing experts have a vast network of professional contacts across the country in addition to exclusive systems for sourcing hard-to-find passive candidates. Get in touch with us today and let us turn your next candidate search into the easiest hire you’ve ever made.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn