Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Corporate Recruiters - Getting the Most out of a Career Fair

These notes are probably not for the very experienced corporate recruiter who has dozens of Career Fairs behind them. You have already figured most of this out!

This column is for the less experienced corporate recruiter who wants to learn a few tricks that the old, Wiley recruiters use.

I have worked over 100 Career Fairs and presented at many of them. Therefore, these suggestions come from years of experience.

How do you prepare for a Career Fair? Most recruiters check to see if they have their handouts and bait (toys to attract candidates). Then they locate their display and either ship it to the Career Fair location or make arrangements to bring it. Depending on the size of the company, they may take a look at all of the openings or they may be working on all of the corporate openings and know what they are looking for in each position.

How often do they check to ensure that the information on the handouts is up to date? Depends on the company and person. How often is information passed to the candidate without a corporate website? More than you would think in these days. Instead of your or your managers’ business cards, make up corporate logo cards with the corporate website and career site links on them. These cards will go to the majority of candidates. Only give your business card to candidates that interest you.

How do you dress for a Career Fair? Let’s start from the bottom up – the feet. Wear comfortable shows with comfortable socks. If your feet hurt, they will distract you especially as the day goes on. Wear business casual slacks and preferably a shirt with your corporate logo. This makes you a walking billboard for your company. It also helps you network with other recruiters.

When I enter the hall where a Career Fair is about to be held, the first thing that I do is look for the recruiters with the “Predator” eyes. You can tell they have already begun to focus on their day. They know who they are looking for and will recruit them when they spot them. They are friendly and very focused. Typically only about 5% of the recruiters in a Career Fair fit this description. Sadly, many recruiters have sad eyes, dreading the long day of talking to people they would never recruit. The recruiters with the “Predator” eyes are your competition for the best candidates.

When you go to your booth location, typically you have one or more tables. A table is usually positioned between you and the candidates. Once you set up your booth, move that table to the side of your booth. You don’t want your candidates to be jostled while you are talking to them. This also gives them the opportunity to step inside your booth to ask questions and chat with you.

Welcome them into your booth. This creates a more welcoming presence for them and enables you to get their full attention. Ask them to tell you a little about themselves. This gives them the opportunity to give you their “Here I am” speech or “Elevator Speech”. Based on this short discussion, you will decide if you have further interest in them. Remember, every candidate may be a customer or a potential customer to your firm. Also remember, even if you are not interested in their talents, they probably know someone that you would like to talk to. Therefore it is important that you give everyone the reason(s) that they should want to work for your company. You want them to recommend your company to that person they know. Everyone should leave the booth with one of your cards, either the one with your website or your business card.

Today many companies want candidates to submit their resumes directly into the corporate website. While certainly understandable, I strongly recommend that you get the hardcopy of the resumes of people that really interest you. No point in taking the chance of losing them because they dropped your card.

The attitude that successful recruiters have going into a Career Fair is “if we hire one person as a result of this effort, it has been a successful day.” Therefore you protect every candidate who interests you.

Let’s say that you have a hiring manager who wants to participate in the Career Fair. Welcome them to your booth. This helps them understand how many frogs that you have to kiss before you find the right candidate. It also gives you an advantage over your competition. If the right candidate happens along, coach your manager to leave the premises and take them to a restaurant (or quiet spot in a lobby) to conduct an initial interview. This action has several Impacts.
1) Your manager is able to interview a candidate on the spot. If that goes well, they can pull out their calendar and set up an onsite interview. Those actions will put you far ahead of your competition, who will be reviewing the resumes they collected while the candidate is receiving an offer from you.
2) This takes the candidate out of the Career Fair and lessens the chances that the competition will see the person – also increases your chance of hiring them.
3) The candidate will like the attention and be more inclined to accept when you try to close them.

Don’t pack up before the Career Fair ends. Encourage your competition to do so. More times that not, we hired the last person that we saw. They either had to work or had another conflict and couldn’t make it until near the end. Most of the other recruiters had their backs to the candidate as they were tearing down their booths. We snagged them because we were still there and friendly. Tearing down the booth does not take much time. Many times it is worth the wait.

After the Career Fair, quickly review the resumes and aggressively follow up with the managers and candidates. Impact Performers do not last long on the market – never have and never will.

Have Fun at the Fair and Happy Hunting!