Maximizing Your Success at College Career Fairs

Building authentic relationships and having a genuine connection with candidates is extremely important to me as a recruiter. With the United States unemployment rate staying at a consecutive all-time low, it makes building relationships even that much more meaningful. Part of those relationships goes past the candidates and hiring managers and into college recruiting. At one point or another, many sourcers or recruiters attend a college career fair for their company.

The most prominent issues I hear from my colleagues attending a college career fair are low attendance and not getting many leads from the career fair. Therefore, they wonder if it is worth the time and money.

I believe that it is more than the value of hiring a young professional to an organization from every career fair. College recruiting is a two-way street; it can’t always be about the hire you make. It’s about being involved with the community, building relationships with direct campus organizations, and creating genuine relationships with the staff and professors.

Have you ever seen the movie “Yes Man” starring Jim Carrey? It’s about a man who challenges himself to say “yes” to everything for an entire year. I like to take this approach when it comes to colleges. From the relationships I’ve made with colleges, I get asked to be involved in quite a bit. Now, most of you are thinking, those are sponsored events that companies pay to be a part of, and you’d be right. Most colleges ask for some sponsorship at the beginning of the year. Your support partly helps with funding for the campus organizations, which can range from $1,000 on up and that usually doesn’t cover the two career fairs within the school year. I come from a small organization where I’m unable to be a sponsor for each college I’m involved. I wish it were in the budget, but that just isn’t realistic.

I live in and work out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. In Kalamazoo alone, I have three colleges out my backdoor, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Community College. Throughout the year, I work with close to nine different colleges. Out of all those colleges, my company only sponsors one. However, I’ve come to be surprised to see how many organizations fail to show up or cancel last minute.

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When that happens, it leaves the college in a pinch. After all, they still have hundreds of students who were depending on the event. That’s when building a relationship with the college is so important. If they ask me last minute, “Can you attend this interview panel?” Yes. “Can you help with mock interviews?” Yes. “Would you be willing to be a part of our speed networking?” Yes. It’s a win, win for everyone, the college, the students, and me. I’m helping out last minute, so I get to attend the event for free. I’m able to have brand recognition for our company, get in front of students, and show that our company is dependable.

So how do I do this? Well, when a career fair is slow, it gives me time to talk with the professors and administration. I try not to leave an event without at least one business card. Most of the time, I get asked by a professor if I’d like to come into the classroom to speak with their students, “Yes please!” It’s letting the college know that you are willing to step in and help out last minute, convenient or not. I’ve made a three-hour drive one way to a college just to participate in a networking event. I mentioned that I’m with a smaller company, which usually translates to students as “not cool.” We can’t all be Google. However, by helping out in various ways and attending all available events, students come up to me because they remember that I helped out with mock interviews or went into their classroom. This creates a priceless recruiting network. It will take up your time, that’s for sure, but in the long run, it far outweighs the inconvenience or time factor.

Kayleen Shafer is a Recruiter at KSS Enterprises along with 5 sister companies. She covers any requisition such as Custodian to Director in the full cycle recruiting process. KSS just won the 2018 Employer of the Year Award from Western Michigan University for the recruiting partnership built with the Business College.

As a young professional, Kayleen is a newcomer to the sourcing & recruiting trade. She spent 5 years in the banking industry before finding her true passion for H.R. & sourcing. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Grand Valley State University. Kayleen believes in 100% transparency and building relationship within all facets of recruiting. She is a member of ATAP, KHRMA, a local Recruiter Round Table group, & a board member of Kalamazoo Parks & Recreation.   

In her free time, Kayleen loves to go kayaking with her husband Karl and aquatic Goldendoodle, Luna. Please email kshafer@kssenterprises.com or connect with her on LinkedIn, linkedin.com/in/Kayleen-shafer-b97728112.  

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