Blog > Making the Most of Campus Career Fairs

Making the Most of Campus Career Fairs

By Trevor Buttrum
by CACEE Admin, posted on September 20, 2016

Every year students and employers gather on campuses across the country to participate in the marquee career event – the Campus Career Fair (and, I should note, in pretty impressive numbers despite some saying that the career fair is on the way out).

A career fair may be a student’s first opportunity to be introduced to your brand and the opportunities that are available for someone like them to join your team – whether it is for the summer, an internship/co-op term, or even once they graduate.

They are equally a chance for you as an employer to engage potential talent, finally meet that LinkedIn Connection who looks like a stellar candidate in person, establish rapport with the campus Career Centre team, and ensure your organization is top of mind when students are pondering what comes next.

Career fairs can be a considerable investment – time, money, resources, energy – but, can be well worth it!  Here are 3 tips to help you make the most of the experience:

1. Do your homework

In the same way that you would hope students have researched your company and the opportunities you have available, be sure to do some homework of your own:

  • Think about: How many students are expected?  What programs have been targeted?  How do specific programs connect to your opportunities (be sure to think outside of the box here)?   Do organizers anticipate peak periods?
  • Consider:  What students might already know about your company – either from the website or other engagement opportunities you have had on campus.  Are there messages you want to reinforce, make sure they haven’t missed, or new things you want to highlight/introduce?
  • Be Aware of: What other employers will be there?  Are they looking for similar talent? What sets you apart?

These questions will help you to manage your expectations, allocate resources appropriately, and ensure your messaging is on point for the audience – particularly, how you will pitch/talk about your company in the first 30 seconds of meeting a prospective candidate.

2. Make it about the experience, building rapport and creating awareness

This is crucial for hard to fill rolls, in lesser known industries or where competition for talent can be fierce.  The more targeted and genuine the connection, the more likely it is that you are on track to identify the talent you are seeking.

You probably already know how unlikely it is that you will identify and hire a candidate solely based on the minute or two you connect at a career fair.  But, they can be an important building block in the recruitment process.

A few suggestions to help set the tone:

  • Avoid making the table at your booth a barrier – step out front when talking to a student.  Or better yet, put it off to the side.
  • Greet students warmly and with purpose – you might want to have a few questions to ask to get the conversation flowing and away from awkward starts from nervous students like “What does your company do?” These help set a bit of a stage and might even inform the focus of your ‘pitch’
  • Keep talking with your colleagues/checking your phone to a minimum – though seemingly not a big deal, they can make you seem unavailable or unapproachable.
  • Consider bringing more than just other recruiters/hiring managers – Students like to have the opportunity to get a feel for what it might look and feel like to work for your company.  It may not seem like rocket science, but engaging recent hires or alumni in the process can be really helpful.

These tactics complemented by doing your best to put a seemingly nervous candidate at ease; exposing an early year student to opportunities they may not yet have thought of; or rewarding genuine curiosity and interest with some extra time/feedback are all strategies to establish a strong connection with students and give them a good first taste of the candidate experience within your organization.

Remember, even if a student is seemingly not a good fit for roles you have available right now - they could be down the line… or, have friends who are.

3. Be clear on your goals and next steps

Set clear expectations for what you would like to get out of the event and for what next steps with potential candidates will look like–applying on-line, connecting with you on LinkedIn, attending an information session/networking event, etc.

Decide how you will communicate about these next steps to potential candidates – do you have collateral like a postcard pointing them to your opportunities, a contact sheet, an iPad for you to send you a LinkedIN  request etc.

Thinking these things through will help to ensure that you are getting the most from the experience. And of course, provide a few markers to temperature gauge, make adjustments and evaluate your success for future events.