College career fairs can be an excellent opportunity for any company, from established national corporations to local startups. Students represent the future of your industry, and meeting potential candidates face-to-face is a surprisingly effective screening process, like a pre-application interview!
Want to hire graduates? Consider these eight career fair tips part of your essential tool kit.
1. Remember: You are the face of the company
Maybe you’ve got a few staffers tagging along, but when it comes to the actual talking, keep in mind that you are the face of the company to the career fair attendees. It goes without saying that courtesy is important, but as the ambassador for your company, putting in a little extra effort is a must. That means you dress to impress, but leave the black tie and cuff links at home. College career fairs are about winning over a demographic, and if you look more like you belong at a New Year’s gala you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
2. Design an appealing booth
You’re not the only thing that needs to look good. Putting a booth together may seem like a breeze, but it’s an integral part of your presentation. Use plenty of dynamic graphics and feel free to include pictures – just steer clear of stock photos that college kids will spot from a mile away. Instead, show off your office, your valued employees and the exciting projects your team has worked on in the past years.
3. Be organized
As ERE pointed out, the job seekers are going to show up properly equipped with their resumes and cover letters. Just because you’re courting applicants doesn’t mean your paperwork shouldn’t be equally tidy. Organization is good for your company image, and it will also make your life easier. If you want to cut down on paperwork at the fair, direct applicants to online job postings.
4. Know your audience
Remember, you’re at a college, so engage the audience on their grounds. This doesn’t mean beer or free T-shirts – although a few promotional giveaways can’t hurt. Rather, ERE suggested preparing a list of majors and minors pertinent to positions you’re trying to fill. If you plan to offer an internship program, include information about that in your booth. Some students may be a year or two away from graduation but still eager to get their feet in the door via internships.
On this note, the Houston Chronicle also suggested recruiting alumni representatives. If you have a former student on staff at the office, bring him or her along as a peer-to-peer voice.
5. Be engaging
This is surprisingly difficult for some career fair attendees. After all, there’s a lot of down time, and your smartphone is always beckoning. No matter how great the desire to check your email, remain hands free and attentive at all times.
Blogging4Jobs added another bit of advice: Avoid eating at the booth. Everyone needs a lunch break, but having a conversation with a student through your sandwich is not the way to do it. If need be, keep a few small snacks like nuts and fruit by your booth or wait for a convenient break.
Generally, being engaging is also just a matter of being personable. Talk to students on an individual level. Ask about their studies, their achievements and their career aspirations. And whether or not you think someone would make a good candidate for premium entry level jobs, remember his or her name.
6. Play the name game
As politicians know, nothing is as personable as remembering a name. This goes for the career fair, too. You won’t remember the name of every student who comes to talk at your booth, but do your best to memorize the majority of them. This is a good tool to have in any situation, but it’s a must for business and hiring – especially when you want to win over a candidate and make them feel wanted.
7. Bring marketing materials
Naturally, application forms and supplemental information about your company is invaluable. But there are other approaches. Want to go a green route that’s low on paper? This can make a good impression on students, and you can use other marketing materials – pens, T-shirts, postcards – to direct candidates to your website.
8. Always follow up
This doesn’t imply you should follow up with every student you talk to, but do so with the ones who apply – even if they’re not a good job fit. If someone very promising comes along to your booth, make sure to get their name and contact information before they leave.
A final tip for career fair attendees actually has nothing to do with the fair itself: Prioritize your website. Whether they’re filling out physical applications or not, you’re meeting with college students, and if there’s one thing they know, it’s the internet. They will look up your company website, and when they do it should look good. And the “Careers” page link should be big, obvious and easy to click on.