Recruiting at Job Fairs: 9 Winning Strategies

Job fairs are not really job fairs. Ask a savvy recruiter about the objective and tangible effectiveness of a job fair. “Are job fairs a reliable and effective method by which to hire large numbers of people for your company?” The answer is almost always a resounding, “No!”

So why have your company set up a booth at a job fair? A well-organized job fair is an outstanding marketing event. Even companies that are not actively hiring at this minute should attend. (If your company is not hiring, they will be – very, very soon).

Making great hiring decisions is a process. It’s a process that requires time, attention and talent in building trust and relationships. The real benefit in attending a job fair is to build relationships and to interact with 3 distinct groups: job fair attendees, other vendors and trade show organizers.

Here’s why your company should have a booth and participate as a vendor/employer at a job fair:

1. Most candidates and job fair attendees will not possess the skills your company seeks. However, they are equally deserving of a small amount of your time, attention and respect. Why? Because they will remember that you took the time to listen. They become “mini” recruiters for you. If an individual appears professional and articulate, but is a programmer rather than a nurse, articulate and intelligent programmers have friends possessing similar traits. Maybe their best friend is a nurse.

2. Good chance you already know the recruiters and Human Resource employees that recruit for the same candidates as you. Having a warm and open relationship with them can allow for great benefits such as the sharing of resumes and referrals when they are not hiring. Also, when your company has attrition, you already know why their opportunities are attractive. Know your competition as a means to keep your company competitive.

3. Job Fair coordinators have influence over many factors that can impact your success at their event. Booth placement, access to the venue before the start times, advertising, etc. often go to their favorite, and repeat clients/organizations like yourself. Knowing methods that make the program coordinators, and the job fair itself, successful, can be to your advantage.

Some other concepts that will guarantee that the job fair is successful for you:

4. Booth placement . The best location is a corner. A corner allows for double the traffic exposure. Get a corner to the right (Most attendees will go to their right upon entering a convention or conference center). Do not buy the high-priced “front and center” space. While your booth is the first booth seen by all who enter, the initial visual impact of all the booths upon entering the venue can be momentarily overwhelming. Most attendees will go to the front and center booth last, not first. Go for the first corner, on the right, after the main entrance. And ask for the same location year after year. Familiarity builds trust. Trust builds relationships. Effective recruiting is a relationship-rich endeavor.

5. Aesthetics count . Make your booth space visually attractive. If you attend a lot of events, invest in a professionally designed trade show display. While a little pricey (prices range from $250 for a banner to $10,000+ for a multi functional display), these displays are evidence of a company’s professionalism. When well designed, your organization’s logo and overall branding are an enhancement to building recognition and relationships!

6. Give away food . The whole idea is get people to come to you! Food is an amazingly effective strategy to draw hordes of people to your booth! Chocolates (build the chocolate bar name into a recruiting theme. For example, use “$100,000 Dollar Bars” or “Pay Day” to indicate sweet success at your company), little bags of chips, freshly popped popcorn (the smell alone acts as a magnet), pizza, coffee, bottled water and mints are all great food choices!

7. Have a drawing for a great prize. A bread machine (“Need /Knead Bread?” “Make More Dough at ABC Hospital!”). Or a bicycle (“Take a Ride to Success with XYZ Restaurants!”). Design the entry form to gather the information you need to contact people again, especially cell phone numbers ( with an opt in to receive texts about new openings). In addition to the proverbial name, address and phone number, have spaces for email address, occupation desired, hobbies (hobbies are often an indication of additional skill sets not often considered when hiring) and the all important ‘yes or no’ box to check if they want to receive regular job opening announcements.

8. Adequately staff your booth space at all times . Once you have a high-traffic booth space that is visually attractive and you are offering a great incentive (like food or a give-away), there will certainly be a throng of attendees deserving of your attention. Share a quick, yet pleasant, exchange. Accept all hard copy resumes in an “in basket.” Have a list of current or typical openings and encourage everyone to send the profiled people your way! Another key to success- have staffers look great! If your company is typically dressed in business casual, kick it up a notch for the event- wear a more upscale look or sophisticated business casual. If your company is in manufacturing, crisp khakis and golf shirts with the company logo are in order.

9. Lastly, the BIG SECRET to job fair success: This one is really the biggie when it comes to effective recruiting…Be ACTIVE! These events are for networking, growing relationships, and building awareness about your organization. Sitting passively, behind a table, with your hands folded and just “hoping” that attendees will approach you is pathetic. If you look unhappy about working at your company, than why would anyone want to work there? If an individual is job hunting, they are looking for a warm and welcoming face and space! An unreceptive company representative who is sitting (passively), behind a table (a physical barrier) with some basic pamphlets (ho hum) can actually be intimidating! So wear comfortable shoes, a permanent smile and stand out, literally and figuratively, in front of your table!

So a job fair is not a job fair. It’s a smart networking event. The wisest hiring professionals understand that the best new employees come to them from referrals. Referrals are the cornerstone to success in any industry. (Think about the referrals you have given to friends about how great your doctor, mechanic or web designer is). The same is true in hiring. Employee referrals are based solely on a relationship of trust. Learn to develop a reputation in your community as a great place to work. So next the time a well-organized job fair is about to occur in your community, staff a booth, represent your employer in a winning manner and get to know everyone!

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