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Careers: 4 Keys to Successful Career Fairs

Have you ever been to, or participated in, large-scale career fairs? On the company side, it’s all about glitz, glam, and making the sale. Whatever happened to job seekers being attracted to great jobs with great companies? Do we really need the other stuff? But, I guess if you’re going to compete at these venues (and, let’s face it, it IS a competition), you ought to compete effectively. Here are some suggestions:

Have you ever been to, or participated in, large-scale career fairs? On the company side, it’s all about glitz, glam, and making the sale. Whatever happened to job seekers being attracted to great jobs with great companies? Do we really need the other stuff? But, I guess if you’re going to compete at these venues (and, let’s face it, it IS a competition),
you ought to compete effectively. Here are some suggestions:

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Fancy company signage. Good idea, rotten design. Have you ever tried to put one of those things together? I’m not sure who designs those things, but in most cases you’d need a PhD in architectural engineering just to unpack it. And would it be too much to ask for some easy-to-follow instructions? I once tried to help a recruiter put her display up and, after about an hour, it still didn’t look right. But, if you’re going to stand out, the fancy free-standing company sign (with subtle halogen spotlights) is a must. Be sure to list the jobs you’re recruiting for so candidates don’t have to ask every time they approach your booth.

Giveaways. Who comes up with this stuff? It’s like there’s a think tank comprised of the folks from SkyMall Magazine and Sharper Image developing a thousand variations of the stress ball. This is your company’s chance to stand out in the crowd. Unilever gave away free Ben & Jerry’s at one national career fair. I would have hated to be staffing one of the surrounding booths. If ice cream isn’t your thing, how about iTunes gift cards branded with your company’s logo?

Mascot. Not every company is lucky enough to have a mascot, but if you’re one of the fortunate few, nothing creates a stir like making your mascot available for pictures and staffing someone at the booth with a Polaroid. In the interest of full disclosure, I had my picture taken with the Pillsbury Doughboy. And I think I can say, based on the reaction of job seekers at the career fair, the mascot was a HUGE hit.

Generalists. Whenever possible, make sure the people you send to staff the event can speak to a broad cross-section of openings within your company. Candidates are often frustrated when they approach a booth and find the person they’re speaking with isn’t familiar with the job they’re interested in. As mentioned above, listing the jobs on your display will also help to head off some of those questions.

Every company is looking for the best job candidates, and it’s unfortunate that you have to create a circus to attract them. But, in a very competitive recruiting market, you do what you have to. Just think through your presentation: you want all the attention of playing in the center ring, but you want the attention for all the right reasons.

Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com).

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About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning

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