Jun 17

Creative Ways to Improve Student Participation at a Career Fair

You can’t facilitate connections between students and their potential employers at a campus career fair if the students don’t show up!

When you plan such an event, it’s easy to put most of your focus on bringing in high-quality employers for campus recruiting sessions. However, engaging students and attracting them to your career fair is a vital step, as well. Here are some ways to improve student participation at your campus career fair.

1. Schedule Special Events

While you want to fill up the booths at your career fair so students can make direct connections with potential employers, don’t stop there. Many students need help making the emotional and practical transition from student life to the workforce, so plan seminars that ease that transition. Students are attracted to free food, so host dinners or provide snacks at workshops. Encourage employers to speak to student organizations or to host workshops or lunches of their own to help make that initial connection.

2. Facilitate Follow-up Between Students and Employers

Students often become discouraged about campus recruiting events because they feel the employers aren’t taking them seriously. Typically, this is due to lack of follow-up once the employer has left the campus. Spread good word of mouth about your event by establishing a procedure for post-career fair follow-up. If you can show the students that the fair is worth their effort, they’re more likely to participate.

3. Cater to Students’ Desires and Needs

Part of your career fair planning should involve learning what the students are looking for in this type of event. Communicate this information to the employers attending your career fair so they can customize their approach to your unique student body.

4. Help Students Start the Process on Their Own

Advising millennials can sometimes be frustrating because of their intense desire to figure things out on their own. This trait isn’t surprising, since they’re the first generation to have grown up with the internet. However, much of the professional career advice they need isn’t readily available in a personalized way on the internet, and your millennial students don’t know what they don’t know. Design workshops, pre-event teasers or connect them with tools that provide a personalized candidate experience that help them prepare for your career fair.

5. Prep Your Visiting Employers

If the employers coming to your career fair send HR reps who would clearly rather be somewhere else, you can’t expect a successful event. Prepare visiting employers by explaining that today’s students are looking to work for companies where they feel they fit in and that company culture may be more important to prospective employees than pay and benefits (to a degree, of course). Encourage visiting employers to send a wide diversity of representatives to your campus career fair.

6. Prep Your Students

Consider holding pre-career fair workshops to help interested students learn how to get the most out of the event. Training students on meeting etiquette and on the role of a job recruiter may help them take advantage of the presence of recruiters and employers during the event.

7. Enlist Alumni

Many alumni are happy to return to campus to help the next generation of students move forward. Encourage visiting employers and recruiters to send alumni of your university to your career fair, and seek out alumni who have thrived in their respective fields to come speak on panels or hold workshops about what they’ve learned since graduation.

8. Plan Ahead

Give yourself plenty of time not just to plan your event, but to market it to students. If your career fair is occurring near the beginning of the fall semester, gather information from the visiting companies to let students know ahead of time what types of jobs will actually be open and looking for candidates when they come to the fair. Knowing that they could walk away from your career fair with interviews scheduled will help spur student enthusiasm for the event.

9. Encourage Employers to Treat Students With Respect

When a job recruiter interrupts a conversation with a student to take a phone call or return a text, he sends a profound message of disrespect. Encourage the employers sending representatives to your career fair to capture the student’s interest rather than just accepting a resume or sending students to a web portal.

10. Add a Touch of Fun

Come up with competitions or giveaways that make your career fair seem fun and less intimidating than it might otherwise. Set up five-minute massage chairs to help students relax, and (as always) be sure to provide snacks. Encourage recruiters and employers to bring swag such as T-shirts or baseball caps, and hold raffles for small prizes such as gift cards to keep students lingering.

College career fairs are ideal events to start to build relationships between recruiters, employers and students. Use these tips when planning your career fair to increase student participation and engagement.

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