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. It is important you do your research and prepare before a job fair, know how to make the most of the job fair while you are there, and follow up in a way that demonstrates your commitment to hiring veterans and being a veteran-friendly employer.
Before a Job Fair
Employers attending veteran job fairs should be as prepared to find the right veteran candidates as the veterans are to find a job. Some ways to do so include:
- Understand which type of job fair you're attending. Are you attending an exhibit-only job fair, or one where there will be presentations, workshops, and more? Find out more about job fairs on the Military.com job fair page.
- Know your goals. Are you building awareness for your company as "veteran-friendly," or are you specifically seeking a team for cyber-security networks? Specific goals will help you evaluate return on investment from costs.
- Clarify all of the costs associated with participating. Some job fairs are free for employers to attend, but many come with a cost for attending. Also consider costs for printing materials, renting booth space, creating exhibit signage, spending time away from the office, sponsoring break-out sessions or meals, and other fees.
- 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.
- Know your audience. If you are attending a veteran job fair, you should research veterans and know the differences between veteran job candidates and civilian applicants, and what unique characteristics veterans have to offer.
- Research your competition. Some companies have invested time, training and resources to understand and integrate with the military community. What benefits, resources, and perks do your competitors offer to veteran candidates? Be sure your value proposition is clear and relevant to the applicants you seek to attract.
- Prepare your marketing materials. Ensure your marketing information -- online 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).
During a Job Fair
During a veteran job fair, employers should know what to expect and how best to take advantage of the opportunity. Ways an employer can get the most out of a job fair include:
- Be clear about 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 how a veteran's military experience, skills, character, or background would be a good fit.
- 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.
- 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.
- Demonstrate a positive 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.
After a Job Fair
Following the veteran job fair, employers should be considering how best to approach the veteran job candidates in terms of interviews, onboarding, and retention. Be sure you've considered the following:
- Ask the right questions. Veterans don't always speak the same language as their civilian counterparts, so it might help if you know what sort of questions to ask veterans during the interview. Ask them about their brand, what inspires them, and more. Also, have an idea of what their military skills translate into.
- Educate your staff on veteran hiring. Ensure your senior leadership and human resources individuals are familiar with veteran backgrounds and hiring, create a team of veteran recruiters and train them on reading veteran resumes, and consider creating an Employee Resource Group. Educate your company on veteran hiring processes, benefits, and cultural differences.
- Ensure you are veteran friendly. Becoming a veteran-friendly company means taking such steps as including military families, encouraging collaboration and an open dialogue, and possibly starting a group focused on veteran issues and needs.
- Use PR to ensure veterans are aware of your efforts. List your efforts on your website or through part of a more advanced PR campaign. Consider having your company offer military-friendly discounts and listing them on the Military.com discounts page, as well as other ways of getting the word out about what you are doing for veterans. It's not just about going to the job fair and having a position open, but showing veterans why they should want to work for you.