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I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I attended a recruiting event as a candidate. But I still vividly remember what I hated about those events.

Here’s the short list:

  • Walking into the expo hall and not knowing where the heck to go, who to talk to, or what each employer was looking for. I was a journalism major, so I was rarely high on anyone’s list and the brands everyone knew were always crowded.
  • Carrying a folder full of resumes that I spent hours editing down to one page (because God forbid I have more to say than what fits on a single sheet of paper).
  • Knowing that resume would get dumped in the trash, lost in a pile of others, or ignored by 95% of the companies I talked to.

Yea, I’m still bitter.

Now, I’m not saying career fairs, on-site recruiting events, or industry/initiative specific events aren’t worthwhile. Done right, they can be a recruiter and candidate’s best friend — providing a rare opportunity to meet face-to-face and get a sense for who someone really is, rather than what’s on their resume.

But if you’re going to invest in events, don’t just go to them and hope for the best. Take a proactive approach and treat each event like the unique branding, marketing, and candidate engagement channel it is. To do that, you need to start thinking about how to optimize your event strategy before you ever step on-site.

How do you do that? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Create a landing page and talent form that you can market and promote to drive awareness and interest before the event. Ideally, this landing page would be optimized for search, linked to your career site, and shared via social channels. By adding a registration or talent network call-to-action to the page, you can capture candidate info that helps you market to people before the event, schedule meetings during it, and automatically pipeline candidates afterward.
  1. Track registrants, set registration limits, and segment contacts into lists that hiring managers can review before an event. This helps recruiters prioritize who they schedule meetings with, but it also allows you to segment registrants or contacts by skillset, background, or qualifications, and communicate with them in a way that’s much more targeted and personalized. The net result: The best candidates get in front of hiring managers faster.
  1. Build campaigns to keep registered candidates (and internal volunteers) informed as the event gets closer. These could be general nurture emails that help candidates learn more about your company and its culture, or they could be reminders that give candidates key details on where and when to meet you, and what to bring with them.

Notice a theme?

By treating each event like the unique brand building, candidate engagement, and lead capture opportunity it is, you’ll not only boost the results you see at events, you’ll also create an experience that feels a lot different than what most candidates expect.

And in an environment where everyone’s fighting for attention, that little bit of extra effort can be just enough to make your brand stand out.

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