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Simply filling a booth at a college career fair doesn’t promise you the interest of talented soon-to-be graduates. Even so, on-location career fairs are still one of the top recruiting and hiring methods when it comes to recent graduates.
But listen up: students who successfully use career fairs to land their internship account for only 3.8 percent of students. That means the majority are using traditional networking and online job sites to land their internships.
So what gives? Career fairs at colleges were once an outstanding way to connect with students, but this no longer seems to be the case. It’s probably because you’re failing to attract and engage the right kind of students during your attendance.
Here are seven ways your company may be failing when attending in-person career fairs:
1. You don’t have a strategy, or the one you do have is poor
Passing out free pens isn’t going to land you an exceptional intern. (Click here to Tweet!) Start by taking a look at your hiring needs and strategize accordingly. Do you plan on accepting resumes from intern candidates at the job fair? Will you be screening candidates upon meeting them? Do you know exactly what you’re looking for in your intern candidates?
If you can’t answer these questions outright, it may be time to hit the drawing board.
Plan in advance to ensure you’ve got your recruiting and hiring strategy locked in before you even set up your booth. If you’re interested in screening or interviewing students at the career fair, contact the college’s career service center to schedule a room to do so.
2. You’re just not connecting
Who are you taking to the career fairs you attend? If your answer is less-engaged staffers or employees who have no association with the college, you’re probably not going to connect well with students. You need a knowledgeable and engaging staff to spread your message and gain the interest of career fair attendees.
The right employees for staffing your career fair booth should fall into the following categories: alumni from the college you’re visiting, those who may have started out as interns, employees who are willing to speak about their personal experiences and day-to-day happenings, or the manager of your internship program.
3. You aren’t showing them what you’re made of
Students want to know why your internship program is the best. Find new ways to share the awesome elements of your program with students. Rather than just talking about the great experience you’re providing, bring along actual work your interns have completed.
For example, your previous intern may have created and presented a knockout marketing plan during their time with you. Bring along your laptop and allow students to take a look at the work that’s come out of your internship program.
If you’re feeling extra creative, consider setting up a Google Hangout or Skype session with some of the current interns or employees at your office and leaving it open during the career fair. Allow interested students to virtually say hello to the office or ask them questions.
4. You haven’t spread the word
If you haven’t informed students you’re coming, how will they know to show up? Get the attention of students you want by reaching out prior to the career fair. Send out email announcements to specific departments, student organizations and even professors or advisors to ensure you’ll have a good turnout.
You can also let students know you’re on campus by making announcements on your social media accounts and tagging the university.
5. You’re not leaving your mark with something extra
Tight intern recruiting budget? No problem. Pieces of employer swag, like pens and t-shirts, aren’t going to draw in the best students, anyway. Instead, focus on attracting and engaging students with interactive games, puzzles or challenges.
If you’re looking for a hyper-creative visual communications major for your graphic design internship, consider challenging them to design something on the fly within a given time frame. If you like what you see, reward them with a chance to interview after the career fair.
6. You have no idea what your competitors are doing
There’s no better way to entice potential interns like topping your competitors’ internship programs. Do a little research and find out what they’re doing in comparison to your own internship program.
If rotational internship programs or virtual internships are all the rage in your sector, it’s time to refresh what you’re offering students. Your competitors have probably already tapped into the wants and needs of students, so make sure you’re also following suit.
7. You never follow up
Stop waiting for the students you met to head home and immediately apply for your internship listing. Start taking down the names and contact information of students you’ve met — yes, even the ones who didn’t really impress you — and send them an email to thank them for attending, direct them to your internship listing and link to your social media pages.
For the students who really left their mark on you, immediately set up an informational interview based on their availability.
Career fairs offer a golden opportunity to get in touch with qualified and eager talent. But simply showing up isn’t enough. Use these tips to ensure your company doesn’t fail during a career fair opportunity.
Ashley Mosley is Community Engagement Manager of InternMatch, an online platform connecting the best intern candidates and employers. Connect with Ashley and InternMatch on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.