Going Full Circle: Revisiting the Job Fair in 2019

Kelly Dingee candidate experience, College Recruiting, Generations, Job Fairs, Talent Acquisition

Do you ever have a moment in your day where you’re thinking, I can’t believe I’m doing this again? I mean I’ve been a sourcer for eons, I’m pretty adept at finding anyone online. A job fair? Seriously?

Why, why, why….

When I was fairly new in recruiting, job fairs were my life.

For sure if I was the newest member on the team, management tagged me with going out to all these events. Particularly when I worked in tech. One that stands out in my mind the most from 20+ years ago was a Tech Job Fair at an Embassy Suites in the area. They rented tons of rooms all doors were open and the interviewers used the front end of the suite (aka living room) to interview. I thought it was the weirdest set-up ever. Four hours of meeting with people every 10 minutes or less, what seemed like hundreds of resumes in a stack.

And at the other end of the spectrum, for the same tech company, I hit up the College Job Fair tour, where I was tasked with conquering the greater mid-west and hitting up as many Big 10 schools as I could. I was hauling swag, shipping displays bigger than me, and distributing business cards and one sheet flyers.

So here I am, 20 years later, totally capable of sourcing online and instead, visiting local college job fairs. The first visit, a local community college. It’s been part of my local recruiting strategy for what seems like forever–always yielding high-quality candidates and really providing a diverse talent pool. As times have changed and the needs of the labor market have evolved, so has this school. I brought the swag, the pop-up banners, the business cards, and of course, the candy. Four non-stop hours later, in this digital age, I had a stack of resumes and booked calls for the next day.

Last night, I attended a totally different job fair for B-School students in Downtown DC–a perfect spring night, in one of the city’s iconic buildings. It involved a three-hour meet and greet–no displays needed, high top tables, fancy food…and lots of candidates. With resumes.

So what’s my why on this–why am I going through the gymnastics of these job fairs?

  1. There’s nothing like an in-person meeting. If you’ve got the moxie to step up and introduce yourself and drop your elevator speech, I like that. A lot. And it resonates so much better face-to-face than on the phone.
  2. Immediate gratification. Within three to four hours, three things normally happen: I find several candidates I can immediately drop into interviews, my feet hurt, and I lose my voice. Even though so many people know about the company I work for, they don’t know about our temporary assignments, so I get to talk a lot.
  3. The Resume. I have a love/hate relationship with paper. It annoys me. I’d love to do everything in a cloud, no paper required. But when you hand someone your resume, that you’ve taken the time to print on high-quality paper and you actually speak to the content, you are winning. And for some reason, when you tell me you have multiple versions, I like that too. You’re thinking about how to position your abilities.
  4. The Career Services Team. I am incredibly impressed at the Career Services professionals I’m encountering, from the quality of resumes they’re helping their students develop to the focus on job fair etiquette (a good handshake, looking people in the eye, politely asking to join a conversation, and so on), let’s just say I’m floored.

Will I keep up with the in-person job fair?

I think so, yes, I will–because it’s yielding amazing candidates willing to step out from the digital world. Job Fairs, particularly college job fairs, bring the humanity back into the digital age of recruiting, and reminds us that connection is incredibly important.

Kelly Dingee

Kelly is an HR Pro focused on recruiting Temp and Executive Talent in the Hospitality Industry and a 10 year writing veteran on FOT.