Recruiters Helping Candidates Succeed at Job FairsApril 23, 2009 by Candice A
The popularity of job fairs waxes and wanes with the economy, and in our current downturn, these gatherings are back again with a vengeance. From big cities to small towns, job fairs are being organized by national job boards, local chambers of commerce and all sorts of organizations in-between. And there’s no doubt that bringing together employers that have available jobs to meet with eager job hunters is a great concept.
The catch from the employers’ perspective is in making sure that candidates have the correct expectations before they head off to a local fair. As a participating recruiter, everything you can do to help prepare candidates for the experience will make the day that much more valuable for you and them.
When a laid off project manager was preparing to attend a recent job fair in a New Jersey suburb, for example, he focused on the same things he thought about when he first attended job fairs 10 years ago: the look of his suit, the quality of his resume, and the best way to avoid traffic while getting to the hotel ballroom. Things have changed, and he was in for a big surprise.
The fair was scheduled to run from 9am to 3pm, and the job seeker arrived around 10:30am. He was greeted by a line of fellow job hunters that, as far as he could tell, stretched from the ballroom down two hallways and into another empty ballroom. And that was just to register to attend.
By the time he registered and reached the ballroom full of employer booths, it was 12:10pm, and each booth had a long line of hopeful applicants. He tried to find the employers he wanted to target, but found it hard to navigate through the overcrowded room. He eventually saw one target employer and moved to the back of their line. Unlike the line to register, the line to see the employer moved quickly, but there was a reason. The recruiter at the front (in this case, a recent college graduate who had joined the company just a few months earlier) handed each candidate a sheet explaining their open positions. The sheet also asked each candidate to visit the company’s web site for more information and to apply. When the manager attempted to ask questions about one of the available jobs, the recruiter said she didn’t have time to discuss job opportunities with each attendee, and to please visit the website. The job hunter managed to chat a little longer, but it was clear the recruiter was overwhelmed by the applicant response.
Not all employers that day took this approach. A health-care company with a wider range of open positions had more recruiters attending and was willing to spend more time with each applicant. The job seeker asked about a project coordinator role the company was advertising, and he was directed to wait in another line to talk to a recruiter who was handling that position. Three other candidates stood ahead of him in line, and by the time he reached the recruiter, who was sitting at a table behind a small screen, three more candidates were behind him. It was obvious that the recruiter he met with was tired, having met with many other applicants by mid-afternoon. But the candidate got his questions asked and answered, and thought he made a good impression. And the recruiter identified an “A” applicant who was worth a follow up.
To be sure, not all candidates have a negative job fair experience. Fairs that are targeted to a specific industry, function or company tend to attract smaller, more focused employers. The same is true for fairs in smaller towns, and those targeting entry-level or seasonal employees. And even many larger fairs offer benefits to job seekers beyond trying to meet personally with recruiters, such as those that provide free seminars from experienced career counselors, as well as resume critiques and other free or low-cost services. And of course, if job seekers use their time at the fair to network with other job hunters who are seeking similar positions, they may tap into great sources of job information.
But if a job seeker’s sole reason for attending a large fair is to seek quality time to discuss their application with interested recruiters, they likely will be disappointed. Here are a few tips that you should share with prospective new hires before they arrive at your job fair booth to help make the fair visit as productive as possible for them and you:
- Suggest that they arrive early and pre-register if possible. By beating the crowd, their odds grow of speaking with recruiters who are fresh and able to spend time with them. The chance also grows that they can meet personally with the three or four best fits for their talent early on and leave before spending their whole day in lines. This approach is a win-win for everyone.
- Advise that they must research company opportunities in advance. No sense in standing in line for a company that isn’t hiring for their function or skill level. In advance of the fair, they should visit the Virtual Job Fair (if one exists) on the job fair organizer’s website to see which employers are attending. If the VJF posts job openings from attending companies, they should apply to get a leg up on other job fair attendees. If not, then suggest that they visit your company website to review your posted opportunities, as well as spend time reviewing your latest annual report and other relevant materials online. With this information in hand, they can better target the most appropriate opportunity for them.
- Coach candidates to develop an “elevator pitch:” their 30- to 45-second statement that summarizes their background and career goals (the name comes from your ability to make the pitch between floors in an elevator). The pitch should be tailored to include their skills that are most relevant to your specific needs. Explain that it will you help them most effectively.
- After each meeting with a recruiter, suggest that they jot down notes summarizing your conversation. They should include any suggestions or next steps that the recruiter recommends, and then they can follow up if asked.
By making the job fair experience better for the many active job seekers in this economy, you increase your odds of leaving each fair with a longer list of “A” candidates.
Article by, Tony Lee and courtesy of Kenndy Information Recruiting Trends providing leading edge insights and strategies for the recruiting professional
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