Six Alternatives to Hiring at Career Fairs

Ask most hiring managers to name their most favorite activity and you’ll find that attending Career Fairs will probably be on the bottom of their lists.  Of course, you have the opportunity to meet large numbers of candidates and personally filter the recruiting pipeline but the downside can be overwhelming.  Interviewing at Career Fairs are akin to connecting with a prospect via spam e-mail or robo-calls.  There is a chance you’ll make a connection, but the odds are you’ll end up frustrated by searching for that needle in a hay stack.

Each year, the Career Services and the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at the Michigan State University publishes a “Recruiting Trends” paper and the 2010-2011 version of this publication suggest six terrific alternatives to recruiting at traditional Career Fairs.

Virtual career fairs: Hold a national career fair for all students during the month of September.  Employers can create a virtual presence for a limited period of time, interact with candidates on-line and eventually make personal contact if both parties agree.

Venue changes: Speed fairs or round robins where small groups of students are in rooms, designated by interests, and the employer has ten minutes to talk about their company then move to the next group. This could be followed by interest sessions with students more serious about the company.  I met a lovely young married couple this weekend that met while “speed dating” so you know this method can be effective.

Networking: Expand opportunities to interact with students through student groups, information sessions and on-line technology such as chat nights.

Company hosted fairs: Where students are brought to the company.  When I was a young engineer at Booz, Allen and Hamilton, we typically brought 10-15 candidates to our offices and young engineers were involved in the interviewing process.

Coordination with career services: Better filtering of students attending fairs and more collaboration to identify appropriate pool of students to work with.  Establishing a relationship with local universities or schools specializing in your core competencies will give you a leg up in finding the right candidate.

Forums: Switch from career fairs which are one-time events to a sequence of forums to engage student interest and determine fit between companies and prospective students.  Consider sponsoring talks, lectures or events that attract prospective candidates to your firm.

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