Job seekers today have a choice, and becoming the employer of choice more candidates choose means choosing to go beyond compensation, offering the insights and information top talent is looking for when looking for what’s next in their careers.
When candidates can connect to your company’s character and culture, then you don’t need to compete on compensation to win hearts, minds and accepted offers. Your candidates are looking for more than an employer; they’re looking for bragging rights.
That’s why it’s important to make sure to convey the best parts of your company, the stuff you’re most proud of – from flexible working hours to your CSR initiatives. People want to be a part of something bigger, personally and professionally. It’s how we grow, develop and learn, after all.
Recruiting Events: Kicking It Old School.
While recruiting events might not be the sexiest source of hire in the age of social media, it’s no secret that this old school recruitment strategy remains one of the most effective, and efficient, ways for companies to showcase their culture and communicate their employer value proposition.
Instead of requiring reading a bunch of career site copy or relying on confusing Q&As or generic employer branding collateral, recruiting events provide an immediate, in person look into what working for your company is really like.
Recruiting events, done the right way, still work – and prove that in real life still really matters when it comes to talent attraction.
So why do so many employers continue to struggle with – or outright ignore – this established, effective recruiting strategy? The problem is that while many companies and employers have a proven track record (and demonstrable ROI) from hosting incredible events that expose candidates to all the great things their company has to offer, those same events may unknowingly sabotage their chances at converting top talent into new hire.
This subconscious subterfuge often occurs well before the first candidate even arrives at your recruiting event. While you may still have great results from these events, you can’t ever measure the costs of a missed opportunity. And too many recruiters these days are missing too many opportunities. The worst part is most don’t even know what they’re doing wrong.
Event Horizon: 10 Keys To Recruiting Success.
As an event planning professional turned tech entrepreneur, I’ve had the chance to see both sides of the recruiting event business, and, after speaking with hundreds of talent pros and job seekers alike, have identified 10 of the most common mistakes companies make at recruiting events.
Stay on the lookout for these 1o landmines if you want to make sure you’re not sabotaging your own recruiting event success.
If you’re making these common mistakes, don’t worry. The first step in fixing them is knowing what you need to change is knowing what you’re doing wrong.
Here are some of the most common recruiting event related mishaps, and what every HR and recruiting pro can do to avoid them.
10. Understand the Value of An RSVP.
Nothing can sink an event faster than underestimating the value of an RSVP. When a candidate or job seeker actually takes the time to RSVP to your recruiting events, this often represents a milestone moment in the recruiting process: the first point of contact many candidates have with an organization.
While they’ll get to meet the real you at the event, this is an ideal opportunity to make sure you leave the right first impression – and gather the right information for developing those candidates during the event registration process, too.
If you don’t get this initial, critical component of the events process right, there’s a good chance you may be turning away the most valuable candidates.
One way to make sure you have the information you need to convert a passive job seeker into an active candidate is by customizing your RSVP form. Think beyond requiring superficial identifiers like e-mail addresses, Twitter handles or phone numbers. While you’ll want to capture this stuff, of course, make sure to include checkboxes or drop downs pertaining to specific career experience and expertise (which can be expedited by allowing candidates to fill out forms or submit their LinkedIn profile while registering).
Many employers have also found that asking basic prescreening questions, such as a candidate’s work eligibility or salary requirements, or even providing fields where candidates can input their ideal job situations or motivations for looking, are a great way to get the intelligence they need to not only develop a candidate, but also to further personalize and target event related engagement.
You’d be surprised at how much information top talent is willing to offer up. All you have to do is ask.
9. Always Allow Plus Ones.
I’m consistently shocked that some companies don’t offer any way for candidates to add guests when registering to attend a recruiting event, or how many employers have policies prohibiting plus ones in the first place.
This makes no sense, considering the fact that these first degree connections might not just be potential candidates themselves, but potential sources for referrals, too.
Allowing guests to bring their friends is a smart move for a couple reasons; in addition to being a surefire way to open the pipeline to new talent by introducing new connections, it also increases the chance that event registrants will actually show up (something no employer should ever take for granted).
It’s this simple: smart people hang out with smart people. That’s why smart people already know that not allowing plus ones at every employment related event is just plain stupid, period.
8. Ditch That Clipboard, Already.
I still cringe when I see recruiting event hosts clutching those old fashioned clipboards, checking candidates in on some Excel worksheet printout – or worse, not even checking them in at all. No matter what system you’re using, if you’re still relying on manual processes to keep track of attendees, you’re missing out. These days, it’s imperative that every single recruiting event has digital check in capabilities.
This way, you’ll have a much more accurate, real time record of exactly who showed up, who they came with, and even which recruiters they interacted with.
This information is not only imperative for companies to capture to ensure they’re not losing candidates, but it’s also a great chance to create targeted direct e-mail campaigns either thanking a guest for coming or giving no-shows another opportunity to connect even though they weren’t able to make the event.
A little follow up goes a long way.
7. Not Every Guest Is Created Equal.
Much like when sourcing online candidates, the best recruiters already know that their RSVP list represents a target research list, and it’s imperative for employers to do their due diligence on event registrants so that they can make sure they’re focusing on rolling out the red carpet for the best potential candidates and targeting their event efforts on engaging the top talent they’re looking for.
If possible, create a way to personally offer those candidates with the most potential a “VIP experience,” ensuring that from check in through to engagement and follow up, every recruiter at an event knows to make sure to ensure an extra special event experience for those VIP guests.
Some employers even go the extra mile, like having personal meet and greet opportunities between VIP guests and their CEOs, for example, or having special swag bags or greeting them with a personal champagne greeting when they check in. The world’s smartest recruiting event planners freely borrow from hospitality industry best practices when rolling out the red carpet – and building a personal, white glove approach for top talent into their recruiting events strategy.
6. The Event Doesn’t End When The Candidates Leave.
A recruiting event is kind of like a first date. If you don’t follow up within 24 hours with a pitch perfect message, you’re likely to get relegated to the friends zone. The best way to score a recruiting relationship after an in person meeting involves sending personal thank yous to any candidates you might have met, along with any interesting, relevant content that may make your company stand out.
For starters, some great recruiting event related content many employers create includes things like recap videos, photo galleries or any content, like company blog posts, related to the event itself. You might even consider going beyond content and giving candidates an offer or something of direct value when crafting this follow up messaging, like an e-book on your company culture or a discount on your consumer goods or services.
If you’re really smart, you’ll personally invite them to sign up for notifications about your next career related event – and any relevant opportunities that might come up in the interim.
5. Success Doesn’t Always Mean Showing Up.
Every recruiting event will produce three different lists, each with intrinsic value for employers. First and foremost, there are the attendees who RSVPed and actually showed up; be forewarned these can often be the minority of actual registrants.
Second, there are the attendees, like plus ones or last second registrants, who showed up without RSVPing ahead of time. Third, and probably the majority, of registrants, however, will fall on the final list: those registrants who never actually attended the event.
While it’s tempting to place a premium on only the attendees who were at the event, when following up, it’s important to treat every single person across these categories the same – they’re all potential candidates, after all.
Just because someone who registered for an event didn’t end up making it as an attendee doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not still interested. Stuff happens. It’s important to think of an RSVP as the equivalent of an expression of interest.
It’s akin to a candidate raising their hand and asking to hear more about careers at your company. Even if they don’t end up showing up, to me, that’s way more important than any Facebook like, Twitter follower or LinkedIn profile view – and way more powerful, too.
4. Take Care of the Regulars.
Most recruiting events have a regular roster of candidates who rotate between events, whether that’s actually attending multiple career fairs in person to RSVPing to a handful of events advertised on your career site, even if they don’t show up. These regular registrants, regardless of how often they really show up in real life, are really important to your company.
This is one reason it’s so imperative to switch from manual to digital attendee tracking and event management – it’s essential to be able to track and monitor every candidate’s every interaction at every event, from their RSVP responses to their event attendance to click throughs on follow up e-mails, this data represents a great way to analyze, personalize and segment follow up communications and engagement with candidates as they move through the hiring process.
Remember, a candidate’s actions often speak louder than words, and data says everything you need, anyway.
3. Your People Are Still Your Most Valuable Asset.
And while our employer branding and recruiting events tend to shine the spotlight on the happiest, most engaged “brand ambassadors” in your workforce, they’re not the only ones leaving reviews on Glassdoor or making an impression on candidates when hosting an open house or career fair.
A happy, satisfied, engaged employee can sell new talent instantaneously; these potential peers, subject matter experts and brand champions carry a credibility with candidates few recruiters could ever hope to establish.
When current employees are enthusiastic and involved in your recruiting process, and when your top performers are also your top advocates and employment evangelists, then recruiting event success is pretty easy. You’ve just got to make sure they’re actually showing up.
Too many employers fail to notify or include current employees in recruiting events, which can be a big miss for candidates who want to learn more about what careers and culture at your company is really like – not to mention have the opportunity to meet with potential future coworkers and colleagues, too. If you aren’t involving employees in your recruiting events strategy, you need to rethink your strategy to make sure that they’re not only in attendance, but actively involved in your recruiting efforts.
Make sure your current employees receive notifications about all recruiting related events on your schedule, along with a way to register and additional instructions on attending. Follow up directly with registrants, offering them talking points or targeted candidates to follow up with at the event, along a checklist on recruiting process or best practices they can put into use.
Make sure to encourage them to spread the word about your events and invite guests, too – put their network to work by giving them easy ways to share information and links about the event to their connections. There’s a reason referrals are still the best source of hire – recruiting success starts with your current employees.
Remember, it’s not about who your employees know – it’s what who they know know about you. And there’s no better chance than an “IRL” recruiting event to leave the best first impression on a candidate, and no better person to do it than someone who they already know and trust – and who already works for you, too. The best employees will help you find more people just like them. Which is really the whole point of recruiting.
2. Strategy Starts With Your Events Calendar.
Some companies think that hosting an open happy hour once a year is part of a sound recruiting strategy. After all, the rest can be done online, right? No, it can’t. To me, the best cold call or email to a hot prospect is to invite them to an amazing event.
And remember: not every event has to scream “RECRUITING EVENT.” Strategic event calendars are ones that create educational opportunities for candidates, or help them expand their networks.
Huge, a digital agency in Brooklyn, does an exceptional job at this. Their events calendar is a core part of their digital presence, and their communications team is incredibly skilled at attracting the right people to every event through social, digital branding, and curating the best speakers. Their Brooklyn 1.0 Conference, for example, featured killer names like Paul Ford, NPR’s Brooke Gladstone, MIT’s Andrew McAfee, Jewelbots’ co-founder Brooke Moreland, and Jake Barton from Local Projects. That’s the type of star power that will attract the crème of the crop.
First Mark Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm, is also a leader in recruitment events. They post many of their curated presentations online to make it easier for everyone – from employees, to fans, to the speakers – to easily reap the benefits of having instant access to experts.
1. Be Ready For Instagram.
My advice is to provide plenty of Instagrammable opportunities at every event.
Photobooths are the easiest trick in the book, but you can get creative. For example, we let 25 puppies loose at our Advertising Week event in New York, and our Instagram feed blew up for 3 days straight.
Whatever you decide, ask yourself:
“Would I be compelled to share anything at this event to my own Instagram?”
If the answer’s yes, then you did something right.
Ben Hindman is co-founder and CEO of Splash, an event marketing platform that helps businesses and brands more effectively market through their events. An event planner turned tech entrepreneur, events are in Ben’s DNA.
Prior to starting Splash, Ben was the Director of Events at Thrillist, where he produced large-scale events from concerts to mystery fly-aways.
He also co-founded the invite-only Summit Series, a premier event which attracts the world’s leading entrepreneurs. Before that, Ben founded and sold DC By Foot, DC’s only free walking tour company.
In another life, Ben goes by Benny Beatbox, and has performed at the White House and on stage with Naughty by Nature – but not at the same time. Follow Ben on Twitter at @bennydotevents.
By Ben Hindman
Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Splashthat.com
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