The Employers Guide to College Career Fairs

by Rich DeMatteo on February 25, 2010 · 2 comments

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In a post last week, I wrote a Students Guide for College Career Fairs, and compiled a list of action items that would ensure students have a competitive advantage over their peers when it comes to career fairs.  Somewhere in that piece, I mentioned that most employers are god awful at college recruiting, and especially with career fairs.  As promised, here is my Employers Guide to College Career Fairs.

Obviously, the amount of planning, time and money spent, and number of universities to attend will vary based off of how big or small the company is and the industry that company fits into.  Once this is mapped out, a company needs to select a number of target schools to attract talent from.  Unfortunately for most organizations, just selecting a school, and attending their career fairs alone won’t bring the college kids running through your doors.

To have a successful college recruitment/college career fair program, a number of connections need to be built with each school.  Relationships need to be built with faculty, professors/teachers, and students.

Faculty

When I say faculty, I mean those folks working in the career services office, the people who schedule and set up the career fair, and basically anyone that has access to influential people at the college.

Why build a relationship with these people?

  • Better booth locations for career fairs
  • Access to information that employers generally don’t have
  • They’ll spread the word about your company

Knowing why to build is one thing, but how do you go about building the relationship?

  • Employers often times complete career fair registration online, with no interaction with the staff.  If possible, go into the office, or make a phone call in order to set up your registration for their events.
  • Schedule a short in person meeting with career services faculty.  Show them the benefits of working for your company, and explain that they are a target school.  Schools always aim to develop strong relationships with employers
  • Find out which employees are alumni of the school, and let faculty know that these employees are willing to come in to run work shops discussing the industry
  • Send the career services office a small gift, thanking them for their help in your college recruiting efforts

Professors/Teachers

Why build these relationships?

  • They’ll provide referrals, and access to top students
  • Give you an opportunity to come in and speak to their class
  • Most of them are looking for consulting jobs to make extra cash.  Never know when one of them could help out as a consultant

How to build a relationship?

  • While it is also an advantage for your company, offer to come in and speak to their class.  Teachers love a nice break from speaking (make sure to bring in quality SWAG for the teacher and students – no pens please)
  • Talk to them about possible opportunities to consult with your company and make extra cash.  Unless independently wealthy, they will be listening
  • Keep in contact with them.  Have a representative from the company speak in his/her class every semester, and when a consulting opportunity does come up, make sure to reach out when ideal

Students

This should be obvious, but this is why you’ll need to build relationships with students:

  • Build up a pipeline of students who can work internships, co-ops, and permanent positions with your company
  • Word of mouth advertising on campus
  • Pre-selected list of students to talk to further at the career fair

How to build relationships with students:

  • Utilize your connections with faculty and professors to reach the most talented students
  • After speaking on campus or in a classroom, allow students some 1-on-1 face time with you or whoever spoke
  • Have your company sponsor a wine and cheese event, or an information session on the company.  This should be done weeks, if not months before the career fair
  • Take a small, select group of students out to dinner to talk about their career.  Have the company pay for this event
  • Allow interested students a chance to come tour the company/office.  They’ll like feeling familiar with the area, office, and company
  • Schedule 1-on-1 time with them for the career fair.  They will feel privileged, and will put your company on their short list

The Big Guys

What about the big time companies, like Google and other well branded places?  While the small companies suffer from low to zero traffic at career fairs, the large organizations suffer from too much traffic, and not enough time to converse with each student.

Even the big guys need to make connections with, and identify top talent before the career fair.  There is no way they will gain value from talking to all 500 interested students, but if they make lasting connections with 50-75 of the most talented students, then they will have themselves a successful college recruiting experience at the career fair, and beyond.

A Word on Marketing

When you do everything above, you don’t need to spend thousands on expensive SWAG, and the most ridiculous booth set ups.  With that said, students will definitely want to see a neat set up, so do spend some time and money on creating a nice atmosphere at the event.

Bring inexpensive handouts to give to students that aren’t on your list, and give your top students something special.  Something like a personalized mug, or even an i-pod shuffle (if your company can afford it) will win over their student hearts for good.

Final Remarks

If your company isn’t doing much of my above recommendations, realize that it does take time and effort to build up a relationship with a school.  Try starting with just one or two, and go from there.

Reach out to me if you have any questions on my suggestions above.  If your company is looking to upgrade their college recruiting program, feel free to contact me if a consulting opportunity is an option.

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