Sunday, May 22, 2016

Getting the Most Out of a Career Fair – Companies

Many companies attend and attempt to work Career Fairs without the proper focus.  Remember your booth and staff are branding your company as an employer.

The purpose of this post is to guide company recruiters to squeeze the very last great potential candidate out of the crowd.

My background has been in recruiting since 1981.  My first contingent client was a very little known (at that time) long distant firm, MCI.  In 1992, my business began the recruiting model known as Contract Recruitment.  Appropriately, my first contract recruitment client was MCI.  Since 1992, I have worked over 100 Career Fairs nationwide for my clients – and invited as a paid speaker to speak to groups of candidates at many of them.


Companies planning to participate in Career Fairs or sponsoring their own Open House (internal Career Fair), need to plan at least 4 months ahead for their first organized participation.  Once the best practice model is completed and practiced, the preparation time will be cut in half.

Recruiting mirrors the sales process perfectly.  Therefore, the people participating in the planning and at the event need to have a recruiting/sales mind.  They are not used car sales people nor are they long term enterprise sales professionals.  Recruiters simply need to be nice relationship building people – who are not afraid to close a candidate nor counter a counter offer.

The first step is to determine what materials your company needs for its booth.  Do you have a trade show display?  Depending upon the size of your booth and staffing, you may be able to simply use a table cloth.  However, if your marketing team has a display, it is far better to use it.  

Does your company have a “toy box”?  These are giveaways with the company name and website imprinted to attract people to your booth (I call them bait…).  Depending on the location of the Career Fair, your company may use chap stick tubes, pens, stress balls, etc.

My client and I decided to attend the Comdex Career Fair in Las Vegas in the 1990’s to attract engineers.  We had a nice booth, decent giveaways, and really cool jobs.  Unfortunately, directly across the aisle from us was Gateway.  They were passing out their famous Holstein stress cows.  We saw the backs of heads for 3 ½ days.  We did chat with the engineers – after they received their stress cows.  Sometimes you cannot control your environment, especially in someone else’s Career Fair.  We did recruit a few special people.

Your preparation must include posting your available positions at least on your website.  Too often, the postings on the company website are not a priority.  It would also be wise to promote your attendance at the Career Fair on your website homepage for a week in advance, at the very least.  Depending upon your needs for new employees, your company may purchase drive time radio spots.  Remember, your potential employee may be streaming music from SiriusXM, MP 3, or another source – But someone they know is listening to the radio.

The final preparation is to select the staff to represent your employment brand at the Career Fair.  If the Career Fair is local, I try very hard to bring a hiring manager or two with me.  More about that in a minute.

Participation at the Career Fair

It is important to arrive at the facility where the Career Fair is being held at the earliest allowable time, find your company’s space and set up your booth.  If a hiring manager is attending, ask them to arrive 30 minutes prior to the Career Fair start so you may prep them on the best way to work a Career Fair.

Now a few RecruiterGuy secrets:

1)    Set your table at a right angle to the flow of traffic.  This practice removes a barrier between you and the candidates.  More importantly this gives you a “room” where candidates may pause without being jostled by the crowd in the aisle.

2)    Place your “bait” at the back on your booth, next to the display.  Now candidates have to enter your space instead of doing a “drive by” and grabbing a handful of toys/stocking stuffers/bait. Then you may decide if they are the quality of candidate you want to engage.

3)    Once your booth is set, walk around the Career Fair.  Quickly you will recognize who read this article and understood the importance of the information.  They are your direct competitors for the best candidates.

This is the reason you arrive early.  Well, sometimes there is some food too…

Remember, the people staffing your booth represent, and more importantly, may create your employment brand in candidates’ minds.  Therefore, they need to engage with the candidates – not hand them a card and say, “Apply online.” (How many thousands of times have I seen/heard that?)  What kind of impression would that leave with you?

Behavior in the Booth

Remember the importance of your brand as an employer.  Everyone participating in the booth needs to be coached on that importance.  How many times have you seen “recruiters” sitting behind the table barrier either sulking because they did not want to be there or looking at a computer reading email or worse?  Once is too many for that company.  If you feel a Career Fair is a big waste of time, you will make it so.

Therefore, your booth should be welcoming and engaging.  Smiles all around, excitement about your workplace, and focus on the candidate (each one) are all important.  During slow times, learn more about your hiring managers’ current and near future candidate needs.  I always ask if while sourcing for their current positions I came across a super candidate who does not fit their current positions, what would that person look like?  That question has led to many hires of top talent.

More RecruiterGuy secrets:

Why would you want managers to work the Career Fair with you?

1)    The word gets out quickly among the candidates that ABC Company (my client) has a hiring manager in the booth!  That attracts the best candidates quickly.  Even whisper to the organizers prior to the Career Fair that you have a hiring manager or two attending.  They will sing it to the world for you!

2)    Coach your managers why they are there:

A)  Attract the best candidates;

B)   Take those candidates out of circulation from your competition by interviewing them out of the hall immediately; and,

C)   Possibly filling their position immediately – or suggesting another opening and manager where they should be directed.

D)  Only give their personal business cards to candidates who have their interest.

Candidates sweat blood trying to create the resume that best represents their skills (you have too!).  Please respect that effort and accept their resume.  You may certainly ask an admin to enter the resume into your applicant tracking system or do it yourself.  Thank them for their resume and suggest they may also want to apply online too.

More importantly, if the candidate is someone that may interest you and introduce to the hiring manager, you NOW have talking points in your hand.  Otherwise, you will need to hope they post and pray before you see their information.  Unfortunately, many companies have conditioned candidates that they will apply online and never hear from the company again – so they have decided not to waste their time.

This is important – Never write on a candidate resume!  Not even in code – or, especially not in code.  If someone writes on a resume, shred it after using the information.  You may use a post-it or paper clip for notes but destroy them when you are done.

If I am working the same Career Fair as your company, feel free to break down your booth early.  Invariably someone who is working and arrives late finds the hall starting to dismantle.  Recruiters are no longer focused on the candidates, just getting out of there.  My clients have hired some super candidates because I welcomed them while other recruiters had their back to them, or worse, had already left.  Obviously, towards the end of the Career Fair is a great time to meet serious candidates who already have jobs.

After The Career Fair

One priority is to retrieve the resumes that your manager(s) snagged.  Actually had a manager with a mischievous look show me his jacket inside pocket that contained several resumes.  Since the Career Fair was on Saturday, I told him to copy the resumes on Monday morning.  I would drop by his office to pick them up.  That way we were co-conspirators; and his trust in me grew.  I ensured they were entered in our applicant tracking system.  We hired two of those candidates.

The next morning, call candidates that you are very interested in interviewing.  Ask if you answered their questions.  I guarantee they will be excited to hear from you!   Ask for their availability for either a phone screen or onsite interview.  If you want them to interview onsite, forward the link to your online application or send them a paper application so that step is completed prior to the onsite visit.

Why call the next morning? Remember, the other companies who read this article and are your competition will do so.  My clients have interviewed those candidates and received an acceptance from them before other companies bothered to get in touch with them.  If you are spending the time preparing and attending a Career Fair, aggressively pursue the good candidates that attend.

Being a little selfish, there are a few other Career Fair secrets that I have saved for my clients.  However, if your company follows these fundamental steps, your recruiting experience at Career Fairs will improve. 

Looking forward to seeing you there!

 (Published with permission from RecruiterGuy Blog)

Bill Humbert is available for speaking and training contracts.   435-714-4425

©1999-2016 B. Humbert – Provocative Thinking Consulting, Inc. – USA 01-435-714-4425 The right to reprint is hereby granted, as long as the copyright notice and contact information remain with the article.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Getting the Most Out of a Career Fair - Candidates

People who are unemployed or simply looking for their next position are often at a loss how to proceed.  In many instances, they were never taught how to begin a successful job search, not to mention the nuances of attending and participating in events such as Career Fairs. 

My recruiting experience began in 1981 as a contingent recruiter.  In 1992, I became a contract recruiter for MCI.  We had a great 30-month experience.  As a result of my strategy and our teamwork, my hiring managers and I were able to recruit 143 IT professionals to Cedar Rapids, IA in 12 months – not an easy feat!  In 1993, I began to recruit at Career Fairs.  Since that time I have worked over 100 Career Fairs for clients – and was paid to speak to groups of candidates at many of them on how to successfully work a Career Fair.

What is your attitude as a candidate preparing to attend a Career Fair?  If it is anything less than to expect to meet great people and possibly find a job, you are selling your opportunity short.  This is a great opportunity to network with these recruiters – and possibly to network to an interview with a company not attending the Career Fair.

How many of you are involved in sales?  Not necessarily as a job, but anywhere in your life?  Approximately 5% of you will disagree with me, based on my speaking experience.  This is Very Important.  We all are involved in sales.  It may be as simple as trying to convince a child to finish their dinner, go to bed early, or finish homework.  It may be asking someone to go on a date (You don’t think that is sales??).  It could be trying to convince a fellow employee to perform a task more efficiently.

Therefore, participating in a Career Fair is an important sales opportunity for you.  Don’t let that discourage you.  On the other side of the table, the recruiters have more of an incentive to Sell You on their opportunities – if they understand their role.

Think about this question.  What truly makes you happy?  In talking to thousands of candidates, I have heard many answers to that question.  Doesn’t it come down to 2 key elements?

1)    Am I making a positive, measurable impact? And,

2)    Am I having Fun?

If both elements are there, typically money takes care of itself.

Before the Fair

Like all sales opportunities, working a Career Fair requires preparation and practice.  Some of the preparation is very simple.  Some of the preparation takes more effort and time.

1)    Know the type of position that you want to target.  This is very important!  As a recruiter with a line of potential candidates behind you, one of the last things I want to hear you say is “What jobs do you have?”  My thought immediately is, “NEXT!”  And I have heard candidates say that hundreds of times.

2)    Go to the Career Fair website and see which companies are participating.  One or more of your target companies may have booths.  Check out their websites and listings of jobs.  Remember not all jobs are posted on a company’s Careers posting.  Typically, their director and other executive positions are not on the website.

3)    Look closely at your targeted companies’ websites.  In particular look at their press releases for tidbits of information that you may be able to use during your conversation with the recruiter.

4)    Look at the ads in the paper and on the Internet prior to the Career Fair.  You may see a pattern of needs that fits your experience and skills.  Be prepared to address them in your conversation with the recruiter.

5)    Prepare your introduction to them.  In my book, RecruiterGuy’s Guide To Finding A Job on Kindle, I call it the “Here I Am” speech.  You may have heard it discussed as the “One Minute Commercial”, “Elevator Speech”, or “Tell Me About Yourself”.  Practice your introduction prior to the Career Fair.

6)    Prepare your Resume.  Bring at least 10 more copies than you believe you will need.

7)    Dress professionally.  This is a sign of respect to the people spending hours working the fair to potentially help you find your dream job.

During one of the Career Fairs that I worked in Iowa, a gentleman came in the door wearing a clown suit.  He was overheard saying that companies were so desperate to find workers, he would get a job dressed as a clown.  Unfortunately for the clown, he gave his resume to a number of companies who networked with the rest of us to identify him.  Not good.

During the Fair

Each Career Fair is organized differently.  Some ask for pre-registration with a resume.  Others simply look for walk-ins.  As a recruiter, I prefer the pre-registration route.  You may actually hear from me ahead of the Fair if I see and like your resume.

If the organizers do not print a layout of the booths the night prior to the Fair, ask for one at the door.  They will have them for the companies who are participating with booths – or there would be absolute chaos.  Try to get there a little early and mark the companies that interest you.  I suggest that you mark them as 1, 2, or 3 with most interest as #1. 

Here’s a little secret!  Just between us.  Please do not tell anyone else!

If you have any #1’s furthest from the entrance, go to them first.  This is like Disney World!  Get away from the crowds.  Typically, people herd down the rows front to back.  This may give you an opportunity to speak to a top potential before the line forms.

After you have spoken with them, treat the balance of the Fair as you would if you were a professional football general manager.  Pick the best available on your list as they are available or their lines are short.  Sometimes you just have to wait in line.  That is the game.  We are simply trying to improve your odds of talking to everyone on your list.  At the same time, some company may not have made your list.  While you are there look at all of them in passing.  A surprise company may attract your attention. 

One of my clients was De La Rue.  They were a great British based company (still are).  They used to print 60% of the world’s currency (could be more or less now).  I was working a Career Fair for them with De La Rue all over my booth.  A young man began to walk past me.  Since there were no candidates in my booth, I asked him what he was looking for.  He said that he was looking for an international company!!  He was going to walk past me!  I sent his resume to London.

At The Company’s Booth

This is important news.  Some company recruiters do not know how to properly work a Career Fair.  Generally, you can tell who they are.  They sit behind a table and look bored.  Then they tell candidates to send their resumes online where they also have to complete an application prior to submitting an application.  As a recruiter, I love those recruiters because I snag what could be great candidates from them!  They do frustrate great candidates.

If you do find a great recruiter, the temptation is to try to interview right there and then because now you are getting a little desperate.  Unless they invite you to interview right now (and sometimes I do), let them discuss culture, position, and ask you qualifying questions.  If you are interested, let them know.  Ask if there is any additional information they need now.  If not, let them get on with their afternoon or evening – and you proceed to your next company.  But you are not done with them.

Briefly – Give a firm handshake but don’t break fingers.  Practice good eye contact but it’s not a staring contest!  Be succinct.  Don’t just collect giveaways – they make terrible stocking stuffers.  Be a good listener – if there is not a match, simply accept that reality and move on.

Collect a manager’s card if she/he will give one to you.  Usually it is generic and leads to their online postings.

Before you leave the Fair, circle back to the companies where you had substantive discussions and quickly reiterate your high level of interest.  Thank them for their time and leave.

 After the Fair

Send hand written Thank You notes to recruiters or managers who spent time with you.  Include another copy of your resume.  This is called marketing.

Keep good records of your conversations with companies.

Finally, prior to an interview with these companies, research them.  Understand their history, their future direction (quarterly calls may give some direction), anticipate any problems they may be experiencing and be prepared to offer potential solutions if the topic arises.

Following these directions will give you the potential to land your job from a Career Fair!  Good Luck!

Bill Humbert is available for speaking and training contracts.   435-714-4425

©1999-2016 B. Humbert – Provocative Thinking Consulting, Inc. – USA 01-435-714-4425 The right to reprint is hereby granted, as long as the copyright notice and contact information remain with the article.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hiring Manager Interview Training Thought Leadership

I applaud that companies are developing interview training programs for their hiring managers.  If a hiring manager has not been taught how to effectively interview, they certainly have not been taught how to select the best candidate.  Ever hear, “This person feels good in my gut”?  When I hear that statement, I respond, "Guts are great for storing and processing food, not so great for evaluating candidate skills and experience."

  In my experience it is best to include job description writing as part of the interview training.  Job descriptions, even in the same company, change every couple of years (or more often) in our world.  New software is introduced.  Continuous process improvement changes processes and possibly reporting duties.  New hardware is introduced.  Then there is the whole world of Social Media that is constantly changing.  Make sense?

 Think about this for a second - if the job description is not on target:

1) Your recruiters will source the wrong candidates;

2) As a result of the sourced talent pool, everyone will interview the available candidates with the wrong skills and experience;

3)  Then the hiring manager will be asked to choose among those candidates with the wrong skills to extend an offer;

4) The wrong person will be selected - and will not work out; and,

5) The interviewing process will be blamed.

 Just ponder that while you are creating an interview training program.  The process from opening a new or replacement requisition through engagement and retention of employees is tied inextricably together.

With 35 years as a professional recruiter, and public speaker/trainer for 23 years, my perspective may be a little different than most people. Sometimes I see things differently…

Bill Humbert is available for speaking and training contracts.  435-714-4425

©1999-2016 B. Humbert – Provocative Thinking Consulting, Inc. – USA 01-435-714-4425 The right to reprint is hereby granted, as long as the copyright notice and contact information remain with the article.