From the Recruiting Booth to the Interview: How to Draw in Student Talent at Career Fairs

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by Tracy K and BrightMove Staffing Software and Recruiting Software

Large businesses have an easier time branding themselves as there are more opportunities for their name to get “out there”.  Businesses of small to medium size have a harder time and it’s extremely important to utilize every possible chance to let your organization be known.  This is especially true if you are trying to attract new graduates, some too young to recognize the names of even the most long-standing employers.

Career fairs are a heavily-utilized venue (though not so much now as in the past) in which to recruit new graduates.  If Jane Doe, who finished top in her class with a civil engineering degree, has never heard of your company, how are you going to get her to stop and speak to you?  What if you offer great benefits and job opportunities, but Jane will never know because the lackluster state of your recruiting booth (and perhaps company representatives) causes her to walk right by?

Ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, printed on materials from gatorboard to canvas, recruitment booth options span the spectrum of the rainbow.  Starting out, my organization used a tabletop booth with pictures of jobs sites that had used our products.  We upgraded many years later to add eye-catching details and brighter colors, without losing the company image or traditional themes.  By comparison to similarly-sized companies, our small tabletop booth was still lacking.  A few years ago, we upgraded to a canvas, three-part, stand-alone booth with vibrant details and large photos produced for us by Skyline.  Though we are only a third-party supplier selling to contracting firms, engineering students wrapped around the aisle, waiting in line to speak to our fair representatives about what our company does.

Drawing in students with the quality and interest generated by your booth is only the first step.  Most know as I do, the younger generation is all about immediate gratification.  Spelled out in career fair language, this translates to giveaways.  A pen with the company logo, t-shirts, notepads, Frisbees, all of these marketing tools allow you to deliver your “pitch” while students wait in anticipation of their freebee.  Fairly inexpensive, even if the student you spoke to doesn’t end up being your next new hire, perhaps another student will pick up a pen with your logo off their roommate’s desk, causing them to look on your website for job opportunities.

Another key aspect to having a successful career fair is the preparedness and overall attitude of the company representatives manning the booth.  If those you’ve chosen to “sell” your company are dull and boring, why would students not assume the same to be true about your company?  Make sure representatives are well trained on how to speak to students and get them excited about what you have to offer.  Also coach them well regarding potential questions students might ask about open positions.  Reps that do not have good knowledge of the career options will turn students off to pursuing your corporation.  Though ultimately the students are there to impress you and make you want to hire them, you have to make sure that when decision time comes, you are on the top of the list for those recruits you are interested in.

In addition to Skyline, other recruitment booth purchasing options include Nimlok, Nomadic Display, and Featherlite.  For those on a stricter budget, Tradeshow Joes offers discount and used booths.

Traci K. is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in recruitment and immigration.  When she’s not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.


  1. David DeCapua on February 1, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Great suggestions, however I’d like to add one more…. So you meet many people at a job fair and collect resumes – how are you supposed to remember who is who? Why not create a video interview on the spot and tie it to each resume? It’s a great way to source talent!

  2. Michael Thimmesch on February 2, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Hello Traci,

    Thanks for sharing how to stand out at trade shows. Great design, enthusiastic staffers, and attention-getting giveaways definitely boost your marketing effectiveness.

    And thanks for sharing your story! It’s great to hear that when you changed to a Skyline display the “students wrapped around the aisle, waiting in line to speak to our fair representatives about what our company does.” Job recruiters can see 47 examples of table top display designs by going here:



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