Can You Survive a Job Fair’s Lack of Etiquette by Recruiters?

This past spring I attended 8 job fairs representing my current company. I enjoy these events. It energizes me and of course reminds me of how hard it is to look for work when you are competing with 100’s. I also like to meet my fellow job fair hosts and trade business cards. I look at it as networking opportunities.

When I first arrive I like to check out the room and see what other companies are in attendance. I want to know who I will be competing with for the attention of the candidates. I bring my business cards with me and walk around the room. I introduce myself, and offer my card. I expect the same in return. To my surprise that was not always the case. I get the look of why are you here, and why do I need to meet you, along with the “oh” — nice to meet you. Then I ask for their card in return. Am I a dinosaur or what? 15 years ago when I attended a job fair, that was automatic. We used to race around the room, greet each other and our business cards were practically in each other’s hands before we finished saying hello. It was expected. It was fun. At some point during the day, you might even break for lunch and hang out. Then you would have a friendly and familiar face at your next job fair. It was how we networked.

Once the job fair opens and the candidates come to the table, it is time to sell. Yep, sell our company and our opportunity to the candidate. What? Yes, sell. There were several companies that sent people out to do just that. Sell the opportunity and keep your eyes out for the diamond. This was not the case across the board. There were companies in attendance that when the candidates made inquiries, they gave them a business card with the website address, and told the candidate: “to apply online”, or “all our openings will be posted online”, and my personal favorite: “here is our website address, you need to apply online”.

What I didn’t’ hear, was “Hello, how are you”, or what kind of position are you looking for, or “what brings you to “ABC” company today? Where was the excitement about meeting the candidates? Looking for that diamond, stellar possibility? There was a lot more of — “here is our website, you need to apply online”. I know that is a requirement of a lot of companies and in mine as well. It is a part of the design for process and the procedures. At the job fair, a little face time with your candidates can be very productive. Instead, there was the face of that company, telling people to go online and apply. Why should a candidate bother going to the job fair in the first place? They can do that online from home, in their pajamas. These candidates took the time, made a bunch of copies of their resumes, got to the fair, and swallowed some pride to walk up to your table. Can we at least say hello or say thank you for stopping by before you chase them back to your website?

The candidates are not off the hook either. The expectation is that you know what you want. I would like to suggest that next time you walk up to booth or table, you ask about the company. What is it like to work there? How do you recognize employee accomplishments? Do you have any accounting openings? (Accounting can be interchanged for any job)Or are you hiring for any part time positions right now? Or, I am a recent college graduate and I would like to learn more about your company.In other words, ask them something productive. Avoid answering (if you get asked what kind of position you are seeking) “I don’t know”, or “I just need a job” . In other words candidates, be specific and know what you might want. Even if you get the “go online and apply” script, ask your questions. There are a lot of articles about job fair etiquette for the candidates, so I won’t spend too much time on that. Just Google (yes, I used that as a verb as in search on the google.com website) “job fair etiquette” and you will see 100’s of returns.

Go ahead and call me old school, but I believe in the power of face to face networking. I believe that if we are going to invest in marketing and branding tools and represent our company at hiring events we could be a lot nicer to the candidates and give them a positive interaction with our company. It is a small world. Those candidates that you are ignoring could be your boss some day!

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