Why Career Fairs are Still Relevant in Our Digital World

Written By: Jason Coffey

Fun at a recent engineering career fair

Having some fun at a recent engineering career fair.

I recently attended a career fair with our HR Manager to look for quality production candidates to join our custom automation group in Greenfield, Ind. Currently, we have openings for assemblers, a fabricator, a welder, and an electrician.

As an employer, we typically list most of our job openings online that push to virtual job boards, but I have found attending career fairs can be very valuable for a one main reason—face-to-face contact. I can ask questions that do not show up on a normal resume and very quickly asses a candidate; however, more importantly I can ask questions that might not show up on a form-based job application.

To be honest, today’s average people looking for a new career do not always know how to sell themselves to a potential employer, especially on paper. As a hiring manager, I see hundreds of applications a year and most I pass over as nothing stands out. Any more I would argue that a resume is important for a production employee as I look for some key attributes when hiring that are hard to show on a form application. These attributes include:

  • Mechanical/Electrical aptitude
  • The ability to learn
  • The desire to learn
  • Work ethic

For example, an applicant for our mechanical assembly team might have no formal custom machine building experience. However, he or she might be a “gear head”. It might show up on a resume as a hobby such as working on cars, or I might have to ask some questions upon meeting the candidate. Looking at an applicant’s resume, an accomplishment might show up as, “Frame off restoration of a Ford Model T”. Reading this on a resume I would hope the applicant:

  • Is mechanically inclined, depending on how much of the car he/she restored
  • Has the desire to learn how to restore the car
  • Has the ability to learn how to restore the car
  • Has a good work ethic depending on when and how long it took to restore the car

With an application or resume, there is often not a way to know if this candidate possesses the four attributes I mentioned above given the standard templates career seekers are given. It would take a phone call or interview to find out for sure. At a career fair, I can immediately ask these questions:

  1. How much of the car did you personally restore?
  2. How far into the motor or transmission did you go?
    1. Did you take the heads off, crank and cam shaft out?
    2. When you put it back together did it work?
  3. How long did it take to restore?

With these quick questions, I can typically confirm or question the four attributes. A formal interview and reference checks will confirm this later, but at least this applicant can look forward to an initial interview. Another benefit to meeting a candidate first is that I’ll have more confidence that we are bringing in a quality candidate for an interview and won’t be wasting time for either party.

Online applications and job postings are definitely an efficient way to announce openings and bring in a large number of candidates, but sometimes it is nice to have that initial face-to-face meeting. You get a better feel for the candidate’s capabilities and potential for success with your team.

Does your company attend career fairs? If so, have they helped you find quality candidates?

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