Over the past few years, career fairs have taken a lot of heat for being boring and ineffective. I’ve heard them described at “stodgy,” boring, and basically a waste of time – obviously, people aren’t pumped to go to them. I think this is an unfair characterization to what basically boils down to a goal-oriented networking event (the goal being to fill an open position at a company). I want to reclaim the “career fair.” A career fair is simply people meeting people, communicating, and companies and job-seekers mutually learning about each others’ work culture. They are great opportunities.
At Just Be Scene, we believe a career fair can only be as energizing and productive as the people involved. Do you want career fairs to stop being “dull?” Want them to stop being “ineffective?” Want to full take advantage of a room full of rock-star job-seekers? I’ve got a couple best practices for companies participating in career fairs that have helped us re-categorize our JOIN events as awesome opportunities.
1) Make sure your company’s career web page is up to date and reflects all of the positions for which you are hiring. Most, but not all, job seekers do research on companies beforehand to find out which have positions well suited for their skills. If the job isn’t listed on the website, your table may be overlooked by qualified candidates. This could be the reason that you never seem to meet the right people . . .
2) Have the members of your team who are attending the career fair wear company shirts, if available. You not only want your team members to be easily identifiable to the job seekers, but you also want to show the job seekers you are enthusiastic about your company and team. If you don’t have company shirts, you can all wear the same color, for example. Show solidarity. Or, if you prefer to show personality, you can opt for something that more accurately reflects the attitude and culture of your company (Hawaiian shirts, anyone?).
3) Don’t send HR, unless you are hiring in the HR department. The best usage of time at a career fair comes from one-on-one discussions between an member of the department where the position will be filled, and the job-seeker looking to fill it. Looking for a developer? Send the Senior Developer on your team. (S)he has the best understanding of the skills and qualifications required, but more importantly, has an understanding of how her/his specific team works together and the cultural fit that is sought. This is a first interview opportunity – countless hours will be saved later by not having to interview ten candidates that the HR rep guessed might be a good fit to that team. Instead, you will only interview the three or four that you actually met and perceived could be “the one”. Time well spent!
4) Don’t sit behind your table. Sitting behind your table makes you look distant and uninterested in connecting with people, which can be incredibly intimidating for job seekers. The job seekers see you as a reflection of your company. If you look bored and distant, chances are your company is boring too. Don’t give the job seekers a reason to walk by your table. Get out in front and engage people. Be excited to meet people and they will be excited to meet you, even if you have a small little startup that hasn’t hit it big. SMILE!
Don’t turn up your nose at a career fair; this event really is what you make of it. I’m calling for an end to all the stereotyping of career fairs as boring and lame!