Why do employers attend career fairs? What are employers trying to achieve?

27 February 2017 | Careers Advice | Thomas Peacock

A new year, a new round of career fairs. Whether you are a school leaver, seeking to gain an apprenticeship, aiming to go to university, seeking an internship, or chasing a graduate programme there is a plethora of shows, advice clinics, workshops, and employer fairs from which you can learn more. Fairs provide the opportunity to meet universities and potential employers without too much effort on your part. Why do employers attend fairs and what are they trying to achieve? If you understand their rationale you will be better positioned to gain more from these fairs.

Gain access to a large number of candidates in a single setting.

This is probably one of the two main reasons why employers and universities attend fairs. Whether over a single or a few days, there can be in-excess of 8,000 attendees each typically spending three plus hours going from one exhibitor stand to another. Routinely, each of the 50 or more exhibitors offer a range of enticements.

It is fair to say that the vast majority of attending school leavers and graduates are actively looking for a job (an internship, apprenticeship or graduate programme), or a place at a university. When combined with those first and second year forward-looking students, exhibitors have an active and captive audience.

How does this compare with students visiting an employers’ recruitment website? Fairs offer interested parties with far more than just information. In truth, the face-to-face interactions that are achievable means that both parties can not only exchange personal information, ask more challenging questions but also assess the many non-verbal messages.

On-line recruitment platforms potentially have a far greater geographic penetration over time than individual recruitment fairs. However, a fair embodies a concentration of individuals who are actively looking, compared with the diffused nature of on-line searching. In our experience, when on-line potential employees tend to be less engaged and far more self-deselecting than they perhaps should be.

Increase brand awareness

Graduates and those seeking an apprenticeship naturally migrate to companies and organisations that are well-known. The likes of BBC, Shell, Royal Bank of Scotland, Unilever and Google are all household names. Each offering their own brand of employment opportunities. Their individual brand identity has developed over many years at the cost of millions of pounds. Not surprising therefore that school leavers and graduates naturally migrate to these strong brands. After all, if you had the choice between employment with Unilever (an established multinational) or BQP Products Ltd (possibly an obscure company based in Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll, Wales) which one would you choose?

Recently an established but little known UK based company complained to me that they had problems recruiting talented graduates. A significant issue was that graduates preferred to interview with the likes of Jaguar and Microsoft even though the employment packages being offered (financial and benefits) were comparable. Attending recruitment fairs provides these employers with real opportunities to sell their brand, one-on-one, to graduates and school leavers.

In addition to these principal reasons employers also save both money and time, whilst gaining a snap shot impression of the type and calibre of graduates and school leavers looking for work. Ironically, fairs also enable employers to assess their competitiveness. So what does all this mean to you as a school leaver, as a graduate? Simple. Use the different recruitment events to gather information about as many potential employers as possible. Remember when organisations exhibit they are saying to you, “this is who we are”. Then they are waiting for you to tell them who you are.

By the way, whilst there is a place in Wales called Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll, BQP Products Ltd is entirely fictitious.


Juliana Storey
www.alexanderpartners.org.uk

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