Planning for and Attending a Job Fair
We are going to a job fair
Mahmand Arsai, the Manager of Recruiting at Winston Services, calls Melissa Jones, his senior recruiter, into a meeting. Winston is about to start a new product development project. There will be a large software development component. Effective immediately, Winston needs to hire these skilled professionals.The software development management team has decided that they want to do it in two rounds of 8 to 10 people. The first group needs to be on board as soon as possible. The second group will be hired in 2 months.
Mahmand tells Melissa that will be a large IT oriented job fair three weeks from today. He thinks that this might be their best bet short circuiting the hiring of these folks. However, he is concerned that neither Melissa or he has little to no experience hiring at job fairs. He suggests that Melissa contact Nanita Jofe to see if 21st Century can help.
Two different ways of approaching the job fair
Melissa and Nanita arrange lunch. Nanita describes job fairs and how they work. Then she describes two very different ways of attending one, one of which she calls traditional and one which she labels innovative. The innovative one takes much more work. But 21st Century has helped other clients take this approach. One client were looking to hire over 100 IT professionals in a matter of months. They managed to find close to 30 of them at the first job fair they attended.
The traditional approach
Nanita describes the traditional approach to job fairs first. A HR recruiter or two, and perhaps a hiring manger or two, take a room at the job fair. The company name is listed in the directory given to the attendees. A paragraph or two is added about the kind of skills sets and background for which they are looking is added to this directory.
The recruiters and hiring managers wait in the room for interested candidates to turn up. The recruiters act as first contact. They review the candidates' resumes. If they see someone of interest, they do a first interview. If they conclude the person might be a fit, they pass the person onto a hiring manager for a second interview.
All of this takes time. Candidates often get back up, waiting in a line outside the room. When they do, the recruiters may be forced to just take the resumes, and indicate that they will follow up with the candidates after the fair.
The innovative approach
The innovative approach requires more preparation and more people to make work. It is based on the following principles.
- Candidates who do something to advance their candidacy are more desirable then candidates who do not. Creating an environment at the job fair where candidates have to do things increases the likelihood that the most desirable candidates will self-select themselves into the filtering stream.
- Creating a set of layers that candidates have to move through acts as a filtering mechanism which reduces the number of people that hiring managers have to see. If the filters work well, hiring managers will only see candidates who are a reasonable potential fit to the job requirements.
- Reviewing resumes is useful for as a first blush evaluation of candidates. But it is far better to get candidates to describe what they would do in a "typical" work situation, and select people for more in-depth review based on this candidate behavior.
Collecting the essential information about the positions
Nanita goes onto to talk the preparation needed, and the process to be followed at the job fair. The first step is to meet with the hiring managers. They must describe each of the positions they want to fill. Often, this involves a number of types of position. They may want to hire multiple individuals for each position type.
For each type of position, two kinds of information are collected. The first is the "core" technical skills / experience required to do the work. The second is 1 to 2 key performance metrics that define success in the job. Essentially, this means asking the hiring managers "How will you measure successful performance in this position in the first 3 months, and in the first year?"
Greeting the candidates
This information is used to prepare a set of large wall mountable posters, one for each position type. They are intended to be read from a few feet away, meaning they are about 3 feet wide by 4 feet high. Each position poster contains a summary of the technical skills / experience required, the performance metrics for the job, and the salary range being offered. These are mounted on the walls in the first room to be used at the job fair. As well, close to the entrance of the room, there is a large poster which describe the sequence of events that candidates will go through - essentially, a simple flow diagram. It uses graphics and words to make all of the steps in the process clear to candidates.
This first room is set up so that there is an greeting table at one end and an candidate in-take table at the other. (In the best of all possible worlds, the room has two entrances - on labeled Enter here, and the other Exit here. The greeting table is close to the entrance. The in-take table is close to the exit.)
The greeters meet each each candidate coming into the room. They point out the process flow diagram. They give each person a one page form which lists the type of positions available. There is a one-to-one correspondence between the position types listed and the position posters on the walls. There is a check box beside each position type on the sheet.
The greeters ask the candidates to wander around the room, look at the posters, and decide if their background fits any of the jobs. If the candidates decide that this is so, they are to indicate the position checking it on the sheet they have been given. The fact that the salary ranges are also visible acts as a self-selection device. If candidates decide that one of the positions fits their background, and the salary range suits them, they indicate this by taking their sheet to the in-take table. If not, they can either leave, or come back to the greeting table to leave a copy of their resume for future consideration.
At the in-take table
People who go to the in-take table are met by an in-take person. The in-take person takes their form, and sees which position(s) the person thinks they are qualified for. The in-take person then gives each candidate a numbered card indicating their position in the first interview queue. They also give the candidates, a one page sheet which is a copy of the poster or that position. They tell the candidates to read that sheet before the first short qualifying interview. The in-take person directs these candidates to a separate room (perhaps somewhere else in the hotel) where the first interviews are being held. This "how to get to the interview room" information is repeated at the top of the one page description of the position. The candidates take this sheet, a copy of their resume and their numbered card and proceed to this interview room.
How the first interview is done
In the first interview room, candidates find a number of interview "pits", essentially comfortable face to face chairs, as well as a number of "waiting chairs". There is a poster on the wall by the waiting chairs, telling them to take a seat, wait for their number to be called. (the number on the card they have been given at the in-take table). The poster tells them they will need a copy of their resume to hand to the interviewer. They are advised to read the one page description of the position for which they believe they are qualified. It describes the technical skills / experience needed for the job. As well, it contains the most important performance metrics which will be used to judge performance in the job in the first year.
One by one, candidates are called to meet with one of the interviewers.. These are the most experienced interviewer's available. They need experience with recruiting for these kind of positions. They must be capable of rapidly reading and evaluating resumes.
The interviewer's task is simple in concept, but complex to do in the short time allowed - about 15 minutes per candidate. They are going apply a number of filters to the candidates. They only want to pass on qualified candidates to the hiring managers. Essentially, this is an abbreviated short listing process.
The first filter
The first of these filters is a simple read of the resume. If the interviewer feels that the resume is credible and fits the position, the next filter is applied. If not, the candidate is thanked, the resume is taken, and the interviewer indicates that Winston may be in touch. The interviewer puts a note on the back of the resume indicating in a few words why this decision has been made. The resume is filed as "not likely needing follow up".
The second filter
The second filter is technical. The interviewer asks the candidates to describe what it is in their background that has prepared them technically to handle this position. The candidate has read the technical requirements twice, first on the poster, and then on the sheet given to the individual by the in-take person. The interviewer listens. Each candidate has presented her or him self as technically qualified when they went to the in-take table. Now they have to describe why they have made this decision, in maximum of 5 or so minutes. This is essentially a behavior test of their ability to organize and present information to support decisions they have made.
If the interviewer decides that the candidate passes this filter, the interviewer will move onto the third filter. If not, the candidate is thanked, told that Winston may be in touch. The interviewer writes a few notes on the back of the resume to summarize this. The resume is filed as "not likely to need follow". Nanita says that her client used plastic boxes to hold these resume. Each recruiter had one beside his or her chair.
The third filter
The interviewer now moves onto the third filter. The interviewer asks if the candidate has read the performance metrics for the job, and if they are clear. If the candidate says yes, then the interviewer moves on. If answer is no, it is noted, and the candidate is asked to read them. If candidate asks any clarifying questions, the interviewer provides short responses. These recruiters have rehearsed these responses as a group, so that so each recruiter more or less answers in the same ways.
The interviewer than asks the candidate "Assume you have the job. What will you do to achieve the performance metrics?" The interviewer listens and may ask 1 or more follow up questions. Again, this takes about 5 minutes.
If the interviewer decides that candidate has passed the third filter, the interviewer uses a cell phone to inform the receptionist in the hiring managers' room. The interviewer passes on the name of this candidate and the position involved. The receptionist matches the candidate to the right hiring manager. The candidate is given a page with directions to final interview room, the one with the hiring managers.
If the interviewer decides the candidate does not pass the third filter, then once again the candidate is thanked and told that Myriad may be in touch. Appropriate notes are made on the back of the resume. The resume is filed in separate box, so that these resumes can be reviewed if needed after the job fair.
Using this process each interview can see approximately 4 candidates an hour. With 2 interviewers, about 56 candidates can be handled in a 7 hour work day. Handling a greater volumes means setting up more interview "pits" and staffing them with experienced recruiters.
In the hiring managers' room
The receptionist has four tasks.
- The first involves greeting the candidates who make it to this room and managing their connection to the appropriate hiring manager.
- The second involves follow up with candidates who a hiring manager wants to hire. This means collecting contact information, and arranging for them to either come to Winston HR in the next days to receive an offer letter, or getting the information needed to get the offer letter to them by courier.
- The third involves handling candidates on whom the hiring managers pass. This means getting a copy of the resume from the hiring manager, as well as the other papers the candidates have picked up in the process. It means thanking the candidates and telling them that Winston may be in touch in future.
- The final task is simply to keep the score card of "will offer" against position requirements, so that the hiring managers stay up-to-date on progress throughout the job fair.
The hiring managers' role
The hiring managers do what they always do - conduct final interviews with pre-qualified short list candidates and make yes or no decisions on job offers.
It is helpful to have a "pre-job fair" session with them to help them think through the way in which they want to interview. Hiring manages tend to take 45 to 60 minutes with each candidate. This "job fair" interview is the equivalent of a final hiring interview. Hiring managers will be making offer / do not offer decisions at the end of it.
They need to be careful to keep their verbal commitments to one that indicates that "candidates are likely to receive a job offer". This allows hiring managers some freedom to sort through theses candidates back at the office, if the job fair produces more "to be offered" candidates than needed.
Melissa is high on the possibility
After lunch, Melissa meets with Mahmand and briefs him on what she has found out. Between them, they decide that they like Nanita's innovative approach. They decide that will take it at the job fair. They want a 21st Century recruiter who has experience with it to work with Melissa to get things ready since the job fair is only three weeks away.
Nanita and Melissa make it happen. Melissa, with Mahmand's support, enlists other HR and senior administrative staffers to handle the roles of greeter, in-take person, and hiring manager room receptionist. They set up all of the tracking processes and logs needed to capture counts at each point in the process. They work out the logistics of getting to the job fair, and setting up the various rooms required.
Melissa and Mahmand will be the first interviewers. Two of the IT software development managers team will take on the role of hiring manager.
Melissa and Nanita hold a first briefing meeting with everyone who will be involved. Using the process flow poster they have prepared, Melissa describes the steps in the process. She clarifies the role of each person at each point.
One of the greeters suggests that all of the Winston staff will wear dark slacks, Myriad logo jean shirts and first name plates, so that they stand out from the candidates. This makes sense. They talk about the general kinds of statements that the greeters and the "in-take table" people will say to "sell" Winston. The decide that the hiring manager room receptionist should have a supply of standard Winston benefits and information packages to give to candidates who "will be likely to get an offer".
Melissa and Mahmand then meet with the IT managers to collect the technical requirements and the performance metrics information they need. Mahmand's administrative support person has made the arrangements to prepare the "positions" and have them printed and mounted on poster board
More than 800 people come into the Winston in-take room at the job fair. 500 resumes are collected at the various points in the candidate flow. Given the volume, Melissa sets up a third in-take post, and gets one of the other Winston recruiters who had taken part in the preparations to staff it. The hiring managers interview 15 short list candidates They decide make offers to 9 people of these people. Seven offers are accepted.
Melissa and Mahmand plan to attend two more job fairs in the coming months to find the remainder of the staff needed. They will use the same process at both.