Spotlight for Recruiting and Employment Professionals, June 22, 2011
Carly Miller has heard students’ complaints about companies attending career fairs wasting the student attendees’ time by not having jobs, not accepting resumes, or not engaging them. She also knows that to be effective, employers need to not only work to achieve their own hiring and/or branding goals, but also to meet the expectations of the students, who want to network with recruiters and find out about internship or full-time opportunities.
Miller, Country Financial’s college relations and employment coordinator, and her colleagues satisfy both of these by engaging each student who has an interest in the company.
“While students may have to wait in line to talk with one of us, we take a look at their resumes and ask real questions and engage our potential candidates,” Miller says. “We take a few minutes to get to know each student and tell [him or her] about Country. If we take a few minutes with a potential intern or employee, it can make all the difference in bringing us the best for our organization.”
For example, Country has a large internship program. Miller says meeting a candidate who has applied for one of the company’s positions gives her and her recruiter colleagues the opportunity to conduct an impromptu mini-interview.
“When we sort through hundreds of resumes,” she points out, “meeting candidates helps us with the screening process. We also enjoy the opportunity to tell potential clients and employees why Country Financial is a great organization.”
Following are some of the best practices Country Financial uses in its career fair approach:
- Know the audience—Country Financial’s recruiters learn what college students are looking for in internships or full-time jobs. Recruiters share both how the company can benefit a student and the student can benefit the company. For example, Country Financial has an active volunteer network that interests college students who are eager for opportunities to give back to the communities in which they live. In turn, such programs help the organization by creating stronger bonds between employee, company, and community.
- Be prepared—Country Financial’s recruiters and employees assisting at career fairs know which positions are available, and which skills and qualifications the company seeks in candidates. Having specific positions to share creates deeper dialogue between candidates and recruiters.
- Bring subject matter experts—Country Financial speaks with a large number of marketing and accounting majors. It’s helpful to bring employees from those specific areas to talk with students. Questions such as, “What do you like about your position?” and “What opportunities for growth have you had in the company?” are best answered by employees who have traveled the same career path the students are pursuing.
Like Miller, Lara Grice, corporate recruiter and manager of campus development for Lafarge North America, touts the effectiveness of career fairs as a marketing tool because they “give us an opportunity to been seen by and talk to students face-to-face.”
A good deal of work is done in advance of the career fair. Lafarge asks its interns who are back on campus, career services professionals, professors, and student organizations to spread the word about the company.
“We also have university alumni conduct a classroom talk for some of their former professors to apprise them of developments in the company and industry, and offer insight into Lafarge’s culture,” Grice adds.
Grice says Lafarge uses its time on campus to hire interns who it can transition into full-time employees upon graduation and meet diversity goals. The company works through the career center, faculty, and student organizations, such as the Society of Women Engineers.
“We advertise in the career fair handouts, reach out to student associations to make their members aware of our company and hiring targets, and we sometimes have our current interns who are still in school at the university at the booth with us, which attracts students and others who they know,” Grice explains.
Prior to the career fair, Lafarge also hosts an on-campus information session called the “Lafarge Social.”
“It’s a fun-filled, interactive 90-minute session during which we introduce Lafarge, and conduct a workshop discussing gender in the workplace and breaking through gender workplace barriers,” Grice says. “We wrap up with a game and prizes for the winning team.”
Lafarge recently launched a new campus branding initiative through which it revamped its table top, banners, tablecloths, handouts, giveaways, attire, and more to give it a fresh new look that appeals more to the Millennial generation.
“As far as attire goes, we are now wearing jeans to career fairs because we feel it’s a better reflection of what most of the engineering students would wear if working for us in a plant,” Grice adds. “We try to have a diverse range of culture, age, and gender recruiting at our booth with most of them being line managers rather than all from HR.”
The latter addresses one of the common mistakes Grice says employers make when on campus. In addition to not including managers among company representatives, Grice says other common missteps employers make at career fairs include not having hiring targets set when students come to the career fair and hosting lackluster information sessions.
There also needs to be thorough follow up. During the career fair, Lafarge recruiters schedule interviews with the candidates they see as potential matches for open positions and meet with them the next day on campus. The company sends a “thank you” e-mail to everyone else that stopped by its booth and left their resumes, and asks career fair attendees to complete an online survey about their experience with Lafarge during the event.
“We’re looking to brand our company as an employer of choice on campus,” Grice says. “Engaging students at career fairs and following up afterwards is an effective way to achieve this goal.”
Does your organization have an effective strategy or program for branding during career fairs? At the same time, how do you ensure you are meeting—or exceeding—student expectations during career fairs? Please share your work with us by e-mailing Kevin Gray.
NACE’s Career Fair Finder is an easy-to-use tool to search for career fairs by college, location, major, or date. (Members only)