Most Companies Make This Mistake at Career Fairs – Here’s How to Avoid It

May 30, 2017

These days, college career fairs can feel a lot like a speed dating experience where the students awkwardly move from table to table, while the recruiters desperately try to find their “prince” and “princesses” in a sea of frogs. The reason this happens? Because most employers make a huge mistake when they attend a job fair: they don’t plan a way to stand out.

As much as we’d like to think students do their homework on our company before coming to the career fair, the reality is they don’t really know what we do. And therefore, they aren't very excited about the idea of meeting us. Yes, getting a good job after college should be the incentive. But we forget sometimes that they don’t have any work experience and thus don’t know what a good job looks like.

The solution is to do something memorable. This is the way to A) attract their attention, and B) get them comfortable and excited about the idea of talking to you.

Having cool SWAG just doesn’t cut it anymore

For years, companies used SWAG as giveaways to students, hoping the free stuff would generate a positive impression about the company. However, students today are wise to this ploy. They’ll take your stuff, but it doesn’t mean they’ll take your job. Instead, they expect you to connect with them.

Besides a good paycheck, grads are heavily focused on doing work that makes them feel good - and that begins with feeling good about the company they work for. Buying their approval with SWAG doesn’t make them feel good because plain and simple: it’s a bribe.

Instead, you need to really study your audience and build an attraction strategy

Recently on an episode of RecruitHUB, my colleague Ed Nathanson and I discussed the power of creating a WOW experience for students at a career fairs. In the video below, Ed even shares a story about how he helped an employer become the main attraction at a MIT career fair.

The process is really simple. All you need to do is follow this 4-step plan:

1. Outline the persona of the kind of student you want to attract. What background, coursework, and personal traits do you want them to possess?

2. Think of ways you can attract them with either humor or heart. Use their hobbies, beliefs, and interests to identify unique ways to get their attention. For example, Ed explains in the video above how he helped the employer create some fun t-shirts and banners that used memes and a little sarcastic humor to get them noticed.

3. Choose a unique way to have them interact with you once you get their attention. Instead of focusing on the boring background questions, think of other ways you can get them relaxed and talking. For example, in the video above, I suggests hosting a game at your table for them to play with you so they identify having fun and being part of a team with your company.

4. Don’t forget to follow-up. After the career fair, make sure you follow up with every candidate, even the students you don’t want to pursue. Remember, your employer brand is on display. How you treat candidates post-career fair says a lot about you as an employer.

Don’t waste your time at a career fair being unoriginal

If you're going to put time and energy into attending a career fair, make sure you do your best to be exciting and memorable. As Maya Angelou said, “People don’t remember what you say, but they remember how you made them feel.” When you follow the steps above, you’ll make students feel like you are an employer worth working for.

J.T. O’Donnell is the co-creator of RecruitHUB, where recruiters go for courses, coaching, and community to improve their skills and abilities. Watch her and fellow RecruitHUB creator, Ed Nathanson, in their new *free* tutorial, “How to Be Your Company’s Recruiting HERO” to learn more about how you can earn the respect of your hiring team!

*Image from USF

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