We’re the first to admit that job fairs have gained a tarnished, “old-school” reputation in recent years.

For most of us in the recruiting business, these mass hiring sessions conjure up visions of cattle calls in dingy hotel ballrooms. Using a shotgun online and traditional advertising and job posting approach, these events notoriously attract a wide range of moderately qualified candidates clutching briefcases anxiously waiting in line for their 10-minute chance to make an good impression with your company. In today’s world however, budgets are slim, time is precious and recruiters are held accountable to quality metrics for every events’ success.

These elevated expectations have created a new class of custom and public online career events that can be marketed to a highly targeted candidate pool in a very specific geographic market. Candidates interested in learning about the opportunities being promoted are driven to an online Career Event Website where they can register for the event, or in some cases, select their own interview time with hiring managers. Some employers even follow-up with each registered candidate within 24 hours to confirm the candidate’s attendance, and to pre-qualify the candidate so as to not waste their time, or hiring managers’ time. In our experience, this approach results in very positive experiences for both candidates and employers and, when done right, geo-targeted career events attract better quality candidates and speed up the hiring process. The keys to success are to:

  • Couple the event with an online, pay-per-click geo-targeted and keyword-targeted social media advertising campaign to attract and engage active and passive candidates online
  • Include either a pre-qualification either on-line or by phone to ensure that candidates meet minimum requirements before showing up for the event
  • Enable candidates to schedule their own interview appointments to simplify and automate the process, save time for everyone and avoid the “cattle call” environment of traditional career fairs
  • Involve hiring managers by having them commit to the interview day schedule and by prepping them for the interview so they know how to sell the opportunity as well as assess the candidates consistently

To illustrate this, consider a recent online career fair strategy that TalentRISE developed for a client in the consumer electronics repair business. Our client needed to fill 20-plus positions in a suburban location that has historically presented challenges in recruiting. Our goal was to attract specific technical talent with a personal and/or professional interest in electronics repair resident or wanting to work within a 10-mile radius of the facility. With a small internal staff, the client turned to TalentRISE to help create a sustainable, turn-key recruiting approach that can be turned on and off as needed to fill current as well as future needs.

First, we created a career event website to which we drove all advertising so that potential candidates could learn more about the company, career opportunity and specific open positions.

Using messaging that invoked curiosity among a target population of self-proclaimed “geeks”, we sent emails and promoted the event online with the tagline “Unleash your Inner Geek with us! We will train you to repair iPhones and iPads!”. Those interested in learning more were driven to our career event website which was written to engage and attract people with a personal and professional passion for technology. If they wanted to learn more about a particular opportunity, information articulating the technical qualifications was spelled out very clearly to allow potential candidates to self pre-qualify or withdraw from consideration.

Qualified website traffic was driven in a number of ways using mobile-optimized technology geo-targeted at passive and active job candidates online. The messages were delivered via purchased email lists of people living within a 10 mile radius of our client’s offices, niche and general job board postings, social media-targeted push emails and relatively inexpensive and highly targeted pay-per-click social ads, which ultimately proved to be among the most effective resources used. As an added incentive to encourage participation and to elicit viral referrals within our target group’s social network friends and peers, we promoted the fact that everyone attending the career event would be eligible to enter a drawing for an iPad.

Once candidates decided to participate in the event, they provided basic information, a resume and then, using a proprietary TalentRISE on-line interview scheduling system, self-scheduled directly into a hiring manager’s interview slot the interview day most convenient for them. Knowing that they would meet with an actual hiring manager at a scheduled time rather than a recruiter or HR person was our golden carrot to engaging truly passive talent. This, in our view, not only shortened our hiring cycle time but also created a level of excitement for candidates who knew that they were essentially interviewing with the ultimate decision-makers and thus sidestepping the dreaded resume “black hole” commonly experienced when simply applying for jobs online. The hiring managers also viewed their early-stage involvement very positively as a more scheduling process, while filling multiple open positions much more quickly. Prior to the interview day, communications to the candidates were completed via email and phone to ensure candidates had directions to the event location and confirm their scheduling. This was critical as we had a number of rescheduled interviews up until the day before the career event.

On the day of the hiring event, roadside signage was strategically placed on both the main and side roads to direct people to the location within an office park. We also had a career fair banner outside the main entrance so that people knew they were in the right place. Refreshments were available in the reception area and candidates were greeted by our client’s HR Manager who asked them to complete an application and the iPad drawing raffle form while they waited for their interview time. Upon completion of their interview, everyone was given a baseball cap with our client’s logo on it and thanked for their time.

All in all, within four weeks (two of which were used to set-up the campaigns), TalentRISE ran an online career event that generated 165,000 impressions – while high, we managed to target the right people on the click-throughs generating 300 unique visitors to the webpage. Out of that group, 64 registered for the career fair and submitted a resume and 21 were pre-qualified and interviewed over a two day interview period. 18 (86%) were brought back for a second interview and 12 offers (67%) were made with 4 accepts and 8 still in negotiations at the time of this writing. The social campaign and advertising costs were less than $3,000 (about $10 per visitor to the event website). Candidate and hiring manager experience was rated very high and the event was deemed a success even though not all 20 open positions were ultimately filled. A follow up event is currently being planned to fill the remaining positions in the near future.

The TalentRISE team has run career events using the same techniques and technology for smaller organizations as well as for large multi-national organizations and for a variety of positions, from oil rig workers to lab technicians. Across all, we have found that there is both an “art” and a “science” to doing these well and at the end of the day, a positive candidate experience is critical. The “science” of setting up and scaling the process is relatively easy, whether an organization prefers to conduct in-person, “physical” events or virtual career events over a specific time frame. The “art” involves figuring out the campaign strategy that will generate the best quality candidates who meet your target hiring profile and match your cultural fit.

Carl Kutsmode

About the Author

Carl Kutsmode has over 20 years expertise in talent acquisition transformation — assessing and optimizing corporate recruiting capabilities for greater efficiency and performance.

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Tags: best practices, career fairs, cost saving, geo-targeted recruitment, optimized recruiting, social media for recruiting