Relying on Career Fairs to Recruit Students is So '80s: It's Time for a Change

January 27, 2015

Let’s face it, career fairs have been around for decades and the format has not changed since Maverick and Goose soared into local movie theaters. The very words “career fair” conjure up tired images of a crowded campus hall. Students are lined up in suits, clutching their paper resumes, hoping to make a good impression with eye contact and a firm handshake. Recruiters are stationed near their company logo, spending hours making small talk and handing out swag, hoping to capture the interest of the crème de la crème students…the proverbial needles in the haystack.


We live in an age where cars can drive themselves, drones can deliver our packages and the answer to any question we have is at our finger tips.

The world has changed drastically in the past 30 years, why is campus recruiting stuck in the 80s? 

Here’s why the old career fair model is broken:

1. It’s limited:

Campus teams are hamstrung by their short list of top-tier schools – there are 21M students enrolled in colleges and universities across the US, but only time to visit and handful of schools. So, you choose the same old schools you’ve been attending year in and year out. By focusing on the obvious, you are missing a tremendous amount of talent lurking at lesser known universities, talent that may be your next best hires.

2. It’s not data-driven

Student recruiters leave career fairs with a stack of resumes and the hope they can distinguish the faces from their memory. Turning paper resumes into tangible data to present to executives is a hard and time-consuming task for any HR professional. The good news is social media has leveled the playing field. We now have the data to track offline activity like checking in at a career fair all the way to when the candidate is hired.

3. It’s sloooooow

Prepping for a career fair, spending a day or two at each campus, collecting hundreds resumes, imputing them into a clunky ATS, and then sorting through to determine who you should actually follow up with takes so much time that days can turn into weeks. By this time, the student you met may be feeling neglected and found another company that interests him. The process of the career fair needs to be working at the speed of its potential candidates attention spans to ensure they are engaged and don’t move on to the next shiny object.

4. It’s not designed with the right people in mind

High demand student talent is not going to wait around for a career fair. Students are mobile, social, and connected 24/7. When it comes to finding a job, they do their homework early. Most of them start researching possible career paths before they even get to college and by the time they apply for internships or jobs, they have a short list of companies they want to work for.


5. It’s not that cool:  Students want to work for sexy, innovative companies

Google, Apple and Unilever are not at the top of the list by coincidence. Each of these companies has a strong talent brand and utilizes social media to connect to its consumers and potential candidates. You have to think creatively if you want to attract the best students in the world, who expect potential employers to be savvy, use the latest technology, engage with them through social media and be a part of the conversation.


Overall, student recruiting teams need to get “back to the future” and live in the now.

The students of today are glued to their mobile devices and are following their favorite brands, friends, and companies. When they consider a future employer, their first instinct is to look them up on the internet, not wait around for the career fair to come to campus. How can you capture the interest of this increasingly connected, mobile savvy, “social media jedi” future employees of your company? How can you reinvent your recruiting strategy to be more student-friendly?

A good way start finding answers to these questions is to download the Student Recruiting 2.0 guide. This guide will walk you through how to take your campus strategy online and engage the best students year round, long before your competitors have access to them.

Student Recruiting Ebook