Employer Branding, Talent Acquisition

Are College Career Fairs Worth It?


Ninety percent of colleges and universities host career fairs year-round. Employers can’t wait to attend. In fact, 75% of employers in the United States report recruiting college students. College job fairs seem like a simple concept, but they’re actually quite complex. These events require time, energy and resources – not to mention serious event budgets. All of these factors put more pressure on employees to show results and to recruit great talent.

Decide for yourself: are college career fairs worth it?

The age of college recruiting

In 2013, new college grads accounted for 57% of all entry-level hires. Without a doubt, candidates with a bachelor’s degree are the most heavily recruited individuals. Career fairs tap into this talent pool of students and create face-to-face time between candidates and employers.

Each year, recruiters spend hours meeting and greeting students in school gyms or auditoriums. After only a few minutes of random conversation, they invite a select group for formal interviews, a haphazard and decidedly imperfect process.

College fairs are both overwhelming and time consuming for students. Students often flock to reputable companies, creating long lines and even shorter conversations. Unknown brands then experience difficulty attracting students to their own booths. Both scenarios further prove inefficiency in the system.

Employer branding needs more

Ninety-eight percent of companies cite on-campus fairs as the best way to brand themselves with students. What companies don’t realize, however, is that students no longer learn about companies or job opportunities through campus recruiters or career fairs. In fact, over 65% of Millennials hear of companies through friends or job boards. What’s even worse: job fairs may not be on their list at all.

Instead of wasting time competing for two-minute conversations, the savviest students research the best companies online. Corporate websites and social media are key providers of company information, including culture, benefits and more. Finding candidates on sites like Glassdoor is the easiest way to ensure that the students you’re targeting are qualified and educated about your company.

The war on swag

When did career fairs become more about freebies than jobs? It’s no secret that employers come prepared to attract poor college students with pens, coozies and water bottles. Although swag grabs students’ attention, it should not be the focal point of the recruiting efforts.

Grads want the full package. And, grads care about where they wind up. A visit to your booth doesn’t mean grads are sold. To ensure you aren’t sending the wrong message to your candidates, promote your brand – not your gear.

A costly mistake

Career fairs and on-campus recruiting account for almost 75% of employer’s recruiting budgets. Participation fees for employers typically cost $125-$225. Add on travel, hotel and food expenses, and the budget adds up quickly. And, employers average four careers fair each academic year.

With the average recruiter hiring 90 new grads for full-time and internship positions each year, it is critical that recruiting dollars are well spent. Recruiters cannot afford a bad hire.

But are job fairs worth the time?

We vote no.

It’s no surprise that Glassdoor provides 2X better applicant quality and 30% lower cost-per-hire. Stop wasting your time with unqualified applicants. Recruit top talent with Glassdoor by posting a job for free!

[1] Survey data from data conducted by a NACE survey in 2013.

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