The formula for going to a recruitment fair seems simple - set up a desk, cover it with leaflets, put one or two hiring managers behind it to snag anyone who loiters and get them to sign your list. Once you’ve got their email, the job is done!
(Hint: it isn’t.) It’s no longer enough to just turn up with some brochures. Gaining the trust of new hires requires consistent, transparent engagement. 62% of 16 to 18 years olds in an EY.com study cited open communication as crucial in workplace trust. Establishing a secure, productive and beneficial relationship before the hiring process even begins is paramount.
What’s so great about graduates?
Hiring straight out of university comes with a lot of perks. The graduates will:
- Offer a fresh, modern perspective
- Offer great ROI - they’ve just gotten three or four years (or more) of fresh education
- They’re fast learners - coming straight out of university means their brains are still hot-wired to pick up new concepts and adapt quickly
- Their knowledge of business trends is up to date
- Loyalty - having a long term career goal means they’ll likely stay with one company for the first few years
All great reasons to snag a graduate for an internship or a job offer. Pairing a good performance at a recruitment fair with a long-term hiring strategy will result in much higher graduate employment prospects.
The road to hiring a graduate starts a long time before the recruitment fair and covers a range of platforms. According to a CareerBuilder study, candidates consult up to 18 job resources but 58% of employers don’t bother tracking or engaging with this web trend. You could be spending money on a dead end and missing out on a graduate hotspot.
So where do I start?
Start researching a few months before the big day. If you can introduce yourself to the graduate pool before meeting face-to-face, you’ll have already jumped the first hurdle.
The best way for a business to set up a strategy is analyse their customer base. What web habits have they got? Do particular universities have niche courses that are particularly attractive to you? Use web tools such as Google Analytics or BuzzSumo to find out what graduates are searching for and sharing online and establish a presence there.
Graduates are well prepared to meet you. Websites like TARGETjobs offer free advice to graduates and it’s not unusual for universities to run preparation sessions for their students.
They’ll bring CV’s, prioritise their time, be familiar with industry trends and will have scrutinised your website. More often than not they’ll blindside you with in-depth, blisteringly honest questions.
What can I do to prepare in advance?
A lot of companies hold “taster” sessions and workshops on campus for second and third year students with great success. Run structured exercises, Q & A’s and a raft of promotional products for students to take away. Making a good impression will put you at the top of the list for recruitment fair visits.
These taster sessions are also a great opportunity to make first contact and open a conversation with them online. Tell them about the fairs you’ll attend, what job openings you have, and what’ll be most attractive on a CV.
You need to make sure your website is impeccable. It needs to be attractive, functional, and hold all the information a wary candidate might need. Create a space strictly for graduates - the content that’ll attract an industry veteran will only scare off a graduate, not entice them. 76% of professionals will use the internet to research a company when considering employment, according to Bayt.com.
Build your social media presence and post regular updates. Consider using Twitter as a light-hearted platform for funny and engaging material that’ll get shares and likes. Students will gravitate towards a brand with a sense of humour.
How important are promotional products?
It’s superficial, but the collateral you offer will have a big impact. Students can (and will) take every freebie on offer, like these chocolate coins from Gift Selection. If your collateral is attractive they’ll not only come to your desk, but they’ll be reminded of you every time they use your pen/guide/memory stick.
If appropriate, also ensure the employees working your desk have business cards they can hand out. By giving the student a human contact you’re establishing rapport and enticing them to reach out after the fair. They’re also going to need a lot of them - the amount of students coming to the fair could be staggering and you don’t want to be caught short.
What can I do to stand out at the recruitment fair?
Give your desk a flourish and stand out. You don’t need to put up disco lights but differentiating yourself is the easiest way to draw the eye, and the graduates attached. There might not be much you can customise if you’ve only got a tiny booth, but a colourful, striking backdrop and alert, attentive recruiters will look inviting and professional.
Looking as approachable is possible is really important. Not all graduates are natural networkers. Scaring away less confident graduates might cost you a great fitting employee.
What do I do after the fair?
Follow up with your hefty email list! Leave it a day or so to stop the students feeling overwhelmed, but then use an email tool like MailChimp to send them all a follow-up letter.
Include your contact details and make sure each email is individually addressed. Most email platforms have tools for this. Personalisation implies a feeling of value to the graduate - they’re not just a list item.
Consider this: if you just turn up to the fair and hope for the best, you’ll still get a lot of interest and brochures will get picked up. But if you haven’t built connections before the fair and don’t bother maintaining relationships afterwards, more than 90% of your emails and keyrings will get binned.
With extra effort, you’ll get a much higher interest rate and a much better chance of hiring a promising graduate, making the process hugely worthwhile.
Let them know about job openings, send an eNewsletter detailing what would look great on an application and company news. By giving them great content you’re keeping yourself at the forefront of their minds. Losing their interest could cost you the hire - more and more graduates are turning down or reneging on job offers (according to High Fliers Research in The Graduate Market in 2016.)
The Internet is a big place. Don’t forget about the thousands of graduates from other universities and even countries.
The graduate workforce is increasingly willing to relocate to where the best jobs are, so keep advertising on job boards and other platforms, such as Milkround. The best talent could come from anywhere, so while nailing recruitment fairs gives you a huge advantage, it would be unwise to not reach out to a wider audience.
What hope does a smaller business have against giant companies?
More than you’d expect. Graduates might gravitate to larger organisations but small companies offer unique benefits they might not know about. Including these benefits in your public recruitment campaign will ensure prospective hires are fully aware of the attractive workplace you offer, and will be more likely to apply to you.
Offering mentoring opportunities at large companies is impractical but smaller organisations can offer this benefit to graduate employees, making graduates feel valued and part of a team. They’ll also acclimatize to the workplace quicker and perform better with professional guidance. Employees of a small workforce will also get promoted quicker and enjoy positions of authority sooner than their large company counterparts.
By making yourself fully accessible, relatable and even fun, you’ll greatly increase your chances of a student reaching out after graduation.