After a two-year hiatus for COVID, in-person job fairs are back — and they’re drawing the kind of talent your organization needs. Read on for 5 tips on forming meaningful connections with candidates.

Recruiting is a high-tech business these days, but there's still plenty to be said for meeting candidates in the flesh. At a real-world job fair, you can connect with talent in ways that are hard to replicate on a LinkedIn chat thread.

Thanks to COVID, however, it’s probably been a while since you set up a booth at an in-person event. Your skills may be rusty. To help you get back in the groove, here are five tips for making meaningful connections with job fair attendees.

1. plan for the job fair

There's a time for winging it, but a job fair isn't one of them. You need a game plan, including clearly defined goals for what you hope to accomplish and input from non-attending colleagues on their hiring needs.

Also, research the fair's expected demographics so you know the kind of people you'll be talking to. For example, a diversity job fair may require a different approach than one aimed at students and early-career talent.

2. cut to the chase with candidates

Unlike a virtual event, candidates can’t dial into a real-world job fair from their dorm or living room. All attendees have made a physical effort to be there, so you can guarantee they’re motivated to connect with you and engage.

They also have a lot of folks to talk to. So, after introducing yourself warmly, move quickly to find out what the candidate is looking for and the skills and qualifications they can bring to the table. Once you’ve given your pitch and they’ve given theirs, you can shoot the breeze for a while. But it’s those first impressions that matter most.

3. bring your best swag game

An uncluttered, minimalist job fair booth would be efficient and budget-friendly. But this is America, and people want swag. Failure to provide and prominently display your freebies could mean that candidates don’t even approach your booth.

Everyone gives out pens and tote bags, so if you want to stand out, consider dispensing quirky items like ping pong ball shooters and branded bean bag toss games.

Some of the best swag has practical, long-term value — a computer mouse pad, for example, or a magnetic business card that reminds candidates of your existence every time they grab a soda from the fridge.

For swag inspiration, Pinterest is an ever-expanding resource.

4. don’t get sidetracked

Think of the qualities that make a great restaurant server. They're alert and focused on customer needs rather than absorbed in their phone or chatting with colleagues.

A great job fair recruiter has the same vibe. Candidates won't approach you if it looks like you have better things to do, so if you need to eat or send some texts, do it somewhere else. (Bonus tip: candidates are also more likely to approach you if you're standing, so this isn't the time to break in a new pair of shoes.)

5. network with other recruiters

Candidates aren’t the only people worth connecting with at job fairs. This is also your chance to size up the competition, see what they have to offer and adjust your strategy accordingly. And who knows? In this most fluid of hiring markets, this year’s job fair rival could be next year’s teammate.

Job fairs are a great way to find talent, but sometimes your staffing needs are more urgent. We can help. Get in touch with Randstad today to learn how we can solve your workforce challenges.