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Revamping your career fair strategy: 5 Lessons from top tech firms

We identified five of the most innovative career fair strategies out there.

When you dedicate time, energy, and resources to recruit at career fairs, you expect to see tangible results in the form of qualified hires, right? This seems like a fair trade, but employers are finding that legacy strategies are proving insufficient. To capitalize on on-campus events, employers need to revamp their approach.

See the highest return on your career fair investments — whether recruiting tech talent or for any types of roles — by following these five lessons:

Lesson #1: Prep your job criteria and qualifications

Make your company and your jobs not only discoverable, but also attractive to a variety of students. By using segments to define student audiences (i.e. who your jobs will show up in front of), you can both hone in and expand.

  • Hone in: Use STEM and TEM filters to find top tech talent, search for specific technical skills to fit your unique job descriptions, or filter for relevant clubs and organizations.
  • Expand: Don’t limit your qualifications to just major or GPA, there are a world of other measures out there! Look for students passionate about building things or ones with exceptional communication skills. And how about previous work experience?

Lesson #2: Build relationships before you go

If you’re showing up to a brand new school with no relationships — or even a school you’ve been to for years — armed with just a folding table and a box of swag, you might be in for a rude awakening. Let students know you’re coming! Invite them! And, it’s more than likely that even though you’re looking for these students, they are not looking for you (yet).

Did you know that 77% of students would prefer to join a company that proactively reached out to them, but only 20% of students have every received a message from an employer?

This is a tremendous opportunity for employers. Recruiters that listen to their candidates are sure to come out ahead. But even more than that, simplyraising awareness can be everything. A student that has heard of your brand — just knows of its existence — is much more likely to engage at a career fair than one that doesn’t recognize your logo.

For example, M&T Bank, a lesser known Fortune 500 Bank located in Buffalo, NY, leveraged Handshake to maximize visibility prior to college visits — optimizing time and resources on-campus and generating thousands of qualified applicants. By sending personalized messages to students that fit specific location interest, skill, and past experience criteria, they filled their pipeline with 161% more qualified applicants.

Lesson #3: Put your best, most authentic foot forward

Employer brand is top of mind of all recruiting organizations today. In fact, over 79% of employers have identified building their employer brand amongst students as a top priority in today’s fight for top young talent (Handshake Employer Customer Survey, Summer 2018). So how do you do this? And more crucially, how do you do this authentically?
Consider the following:

  • What is your company’s mission? What values permeate throughout your culture?
  • How can you show a more representative, inclusive face of your company?
  • What sets your company and these positions apart?

Employer branding isn’t a one-size-fits-all exercise across the student population. You want to appeal to many different personalities across many different backgrounds to make sure you are growing the most diverse and multifaceted team possible. Everyone loves to feel wanted, important, and not alone — and students are no different.

Lesson #4: Show students careers, not jobs

Gen Z isn’t looking for a 9–5, they are looking for a meaningful career and to make an impact. Show students that you care about their longer term career and personal growth — provide mentorship programs, future education opportunities, camaraderie and community.

Here are some quick tips on how to illustrate that you truly care about their development:

  • Have testimonials and anecdotes of past interns and young employees readily available. If your budget allows, maybe even bring one with you to talk to prospects about his or her experience!
  • Show highlights (photos and videos) of your culture, benefits offered, and facilities. How are they conducive to work-life balance? How is your company providing recent grads with fruitful and positive experiences?

Lesson #5: Engage students after meeting them

While this might seem obvious, it’s a necessity that often falls through the cracks. A simple, personalized follow up message after meeting a student on-campus can:

  • Boost employer brand across the student population — students talk!
  • Promote continuation of the relationship — one conversation isn’t enough, maintain an open dialogue
  • Build a long-term talent pipeline — a student you’ve engaged during his or her sophomore year will be primed to accept your offer come senior year

With our newest product suite for Fall — the Talent Engagement Suite — we’re including Event Check-in functionality, which will help you centralize all career fair activity on Handshake. Make sure to take notes and record students’ preferred roles right after your conversations so your follow up can be targeted and individualized.

It’s possible now to create a seamless candidate experience — from before you step foot on-campus to a student’s first day on the job.

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