10 Tips for Better Results from Job Fairs

Army Reserve promotes Private Public Partnership at New Jersey job fair.

To source and recruit veteran job candidates, many employers participate in job and career fairs. Some job fairs are exhibit-only, where rows of employers display highlights of their company, jobs, and culture. Other job fairs offer presentations, workshops, and interview exercises, in addition to the exhibit area for employers. Find our more on the Military.com job fair page.

Job fairs are sometimes free for employers, but most come with a cost to participate, exhibit, screen, and interview candidates. How can you, the employer, make the most of the cost of participating in job fairs, regardless of the entrance fee?

To get better results from your investment in job fairs:

  1. Have clear goals. Instead of playing it by ear, create a game plan. What are your goals for the event: Are you building awareness for your company as "veteran friendly," or are you seeking to hire six or twenty-six program managers? Specific goals will help you evaluate return on investment from costs.
  2. Clarify all of the costs associated with participating. You will spend money on printing materials, renting booth space, creating exhibit signage, spending time away from the office, sponsoring break-out sessions or meals, and other fees. Are you clear on what the event will actually cost you?
  3. Prepare your team. Are you bringing civilians and veteran team members? Consider the ways veteran job candidates are different from civilian applicants and prepare your team with talking points, relevant questions, and tools to initiate and maintain meaningful conversations.
  4. Consider on-site job coaching. Instead of shaking hands, receiving resumes, and asking candidates to fill out applications, offer some coaching and counseling. Here's your chance to learn more about each candidate and build your company's brand by holding a personalized "job coaching" session in your booth.
  5. Have jobs available that veterans are qualified to fill. Attending job fairs where employers aren't hiring, or aren't seeking applicants like them, frustrates job candidates. Be clear about the positions you have available, and how a veteran's military experience, skills, character, or background would be a good fit.
  6. Offer a takeaway of value. What would a veteran candidate appreciate to receive that could serve you, the company, too? Instead of a branded mouse pad or pen, consider a tip sheet, book, or reusable thumb drive containing marketing information.
  7. Research the audience in advance. If your company is new to hiring veterans, research the people you're about to meet. Learn about the differences between a veteran job candidate and a civilian applicant. Become knowledgeable on the opportunities and unique qualifications someone brings coming from the military. Conducting your own research is invaluable if you'll be recruiting from the military community.
  8. Know your competition. Some companies have invested time, training and resources to understand and integrate with the military community. If your organization is just starting to recruit veterans, look at who your competition is in the community and industry you're in. What do other companies offer as benefits, resources, and perks to veteran candidates? Be sure your value proposition is clear and relevant to the applicants you seek to attract.
  9. Prepare your marketing materials. Simply taking your standard recruiting materials and switching out the photos to show a person in uniform isn't enough. Ensure your marketing information – on line and print – reflects the experience, goals and needs of a veteran candidate. Double check that you aren't portraying stereotypes (i.e. all veterans are men) or using inaccurate images (i.e. stock image of a soldier giving an improper salute).
  10. Bring a good attitude! Show the applicants you'll meet that your company is inclusive, fun and interesting. By displaying a confident and positive attitude, you are building the brand, can better engage with others, and are highlighting the values your company stands for. Even if you can't hire the candidate today, a good attitude will reinforce that your company is an employer of choice and should be considered for future employment.

Job fairs can be a costly part of your recruiting effort. Instead of leaving your return on investment to chance, have a strategy, understand your audience, and represent your company brand to ensure success!

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