Employer Tips: Preparing For A Successful Internship Fair Experience
For employers, running a career fair both can be almost as intimidating as attending the fair as a potential hire. What kind of booth should you have? Do you need flashy presentations? How many people will it take? What if no one's interested?
With the right planning and attitude, you can spend the day pulling in great candidates.
Prior to the Fair
Prior to the fair you'll want to create a brief description of each of the internship opportunities. This will be shared online with students prior to the fair and helps them to determine which organization they should talk to. Remember, your organization will be one of many and most students will have determined who they want to speak to prior, not during, the fair. Examples of brief position descriptions can be found here.
Prepare for the Show
First impressions are vital. Plan how you want your booth to look well in advance.
- What kind of setup will be the most efficient for the space I have?
- Do I have enough space for both the people running the booth and candidates?
- What displays will be both compelling and informative for candidates?
- What kind of branded giveaways do I want to offer?
- What about information handouts for candidates?
- Do I need Internet access in the booth? What about electrical outlets?
- How will I handle stacks of resumes? What do I do with them afterward?
If you or a fellow employee have event planning experience, use that expertise to plan your general presentation, process, goals and approach. Be prepared to set up your booth at least an hour in advance, and don't break down until the event is over.
Connect With Job-Seekers
If you're excited about the booth and the opportunity to speak with potential hires, attendees can tell. Professional resource site The Multicultural Challenge (www.multiculturaladvantage.com) says to "...ask yourself the question, 'If I were a candidate, would I walk up to that company?'" and offer some simple rules for presenting a professional face at a fair while attracting candidates:
- Don't use the table as a wall between you and the candidates. Stand in front of your table so that you can point at and make reference to the display on your table. This also makes it more convenient to hold a one to one conversation where you can properly greet candidates and look them in the eye.
- Don't sit in the chairs provided by the vendor. Your body position and posture communicates your eagerness, or lack of it, to talk to candidates. If you are tired, take a break.
- Don't talk and gossip among yourselves while standing in the booth. Nobody likes to interrupt conversations and many candidates will see your lack of interest as a sign of rudeness or apathy towards recruiting. Make eye contact, smile, nod your head to candidates as they pass. Be prepared to hand them recruiting materials. Look like you are 'in the game.'
- Don't catch up on work in your booth, as you’re likely to do so with your head down focused on your work and not on the candidates walking down the aisle.
- Don't use your cellular phone. Candidates may feel that if you are too busy to talk with them, they will go to one of your competitors and get a job. While it’s enticing to catch up on emails or return messages, the implicit signal that your are sending is you have got better things to do than to be at the fair and talk to students.
In addition, following are measures you can take to attract and reach out to students:
- Use a table-top displays that will help attract candidates to your table and which you can make reference to during discussions. This includes (1) Company name and logo, (2) Functions for which you are recruiting, and (3) Products/Services of your company. Utilize graphics and charts whenever possible. Text should be reduced to bullet form, with any lengthy descriptions reserved for handouts. Remember, your primary goal is to sell your organization and the positions that you are offering.
- Make your booth stand alone. You may need to step away from your booth while the job fair is still in full swing. Set up your booth so that it can stand alone and still provide information even when you're not there. A video loop or audio loop can play to anyone who wanders into your booth, and neatly organized forms and business cards give visitors something to take along, and possibly a reason to return. Leave a sign-in sheet where visitors can note their contact information and request a phone call or appointment later during the fair.
- Have brief position descriptions that help to clarify the expectations that you have for the positions that you’re offering. Make sure that these include the desired qualifications for the position, skills, major area of study, and personal qualities. Examples of position descriptions can be found here.
- Engage students as they walk by. For many students this is the first time that they’ve attended a career fair of any kind. Shy or otherwise, they may feel a bit intimated by employers. Make eye contact, greet them, and ask them to come over for a chat.
- Leave your booth. If the booth isn't drawing people in, leave it (with someone to man it) behind and hit the aisles. Talk to attendees, give them a business card and invite them to stop by your booth. While you're out, look at what booth designs and approaches are drawing crowds and take some mental notes.
After the Fair: Grabbing the Good Ones
Give attendees every opportunity to get in touch with you by providing them with business cards. Leave a sign in sheet at the front of the booth so that candidates can leave contact information; this approach will also help draw in less-outgoing candidates.
Ensure you have enough people at the booth to conduct on-the-spot screening interviews. Schedule the best candidates for full interviews within the next few days. Consider inviting at least one hiring manager to do in-depth interviews in a private area.
When you get back to the office, copy the contact information from every resume you received. Send each person a quick e-mail or note to thank them for speaking with you.
You may also want to reach out to people who attended the fair, but didn't approach you.
Pass copies of the most attractive candidates on to hiring managers within your company, but hang on to all of them for several months. If you need to hire quickly, you'll have your own small database of candidates, many of whom you've already screened, to call in for further interviews.
Following is a pdf version of this page.