How to hire the best developer talent at your next career fair

For the past nine years, software engineers have been at the top of the ‘hardest to fill jobs’ in the US. Over 120,000 tech jobs open in the US each...

For the past nine years, software engineers have been at the top of the ‘hardest to fill jobs’ in the US. Over 120,000 tech jobs open in the US each year, with only close to 60,000 computer science graduates. It’s no different in European countries, where tech talent shortage is hitting the market. The trend is making some recruiters nervous, as finding talent gets tougher across the tech landscape.

However, there is a bright side to this story. The Global Developer Hiring Landscape 2018 survey points that only 16% of developers are actively looking for a job, but an overwhelming 75% of developers are interested in hearing about new job opportunities!

Along with the high demand for tech talent and the market in flux with shrinking availability, hunting for top resources at tech career fairs are a great way to gain access to a large pool of developer talent. Some of the companies in the US which have invested in being present at tech career fairs include Cisco, Lyft, SpaceX, Uber, among others, and have focused mainly on hiring  tech talent.

UCLA tech career fair

Participating in tech career fairs

In a recent national survey  by Universum, students ranked attending a career fair among the top three ways of having conversations in person with employers. Earlier, organizations would participate in a tech career fair to share information about the company, and collect potential employee data. Today, company information (and a lot more) are easily available for candidates online.

So, what motivates the candidates to be present at these job fairs?

Now, candidates mostly attend these events for having authentic conversations and building personal relationships. They want to get something ‘more’ out of the event than just information. This changing face of candidates is compelling recruiters to take a fresh approach to participation in recruitment fairs.

Planning for a developer job fair

There ought to be several hours spent to plan, even before you step into the job fair. With job fairs resembling ‘Speed Dating’, finding your match requires ample preparation.

There are hundreds of job fairs in the US alone. National Career Fair has been hosting career fairs in the US for the past 19 years and already has its calendar updated for the year 2019 for hosting these events across the country. Best Hire too has published its calendar and will host various career fairs across the US. There are several US Universities that host career fairs focusing on engineering students including Columbia University, Georgia Tech. Boston University, MIT, Yale, among others.

For a successful career fair, identify the right fair to be in—shortlist the options carefully. Study the past reports, check with industry peers or even your own employees who may have visited these fairs in the past, evaluate the organizations and the geographical reach of the fair, etc. Once identified, get down to preparing for your presence. Here are a few tips:

Tip #1: Understand your ideal candidate

An  understanding of the tech positions to fill is quintessential. Defining the required skills and experience of the candidate for the tech role will help in writing  the perfect job description.

You also need to understand the ideal candidates. Defining your candidate persona will go a long way in helping approach the right candidates. With Millennials and Gen Z occupying much of the tech market, it is helpful to understand them—what attracts them, what drives their choices, what kind of company do they prefer, how do they communicate, etc. Some points to keep in mind include:

  • Almost 90% of developers have taught themselves a new language outside of their formal education
  • Frequent job change is a norm
  • Developers prefer flexible timing and are far more digital natives than we often believe.

Here is an example of a good job description by Lyft

#Tip2: Promote your participation 

Be relentless in promoting your participation in the career fair. Use your social handles such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Use banner advertising across your online marketing horizon to build the excitement and attract the attention of candidates. You could also  use the build up as an opportunity to create online competitions or campaigns that evoke candidate engagements.

Work out a comprehensive strategy much before the actual fair day to gain maximum from the career fair. . Create landing pages and include hooks that will get candidates to share information about themselves before the event so that the conversation on the D-day is seamless.

A tech job fair promotion on Instagram

#Tip3: Prepare for developer questions

Job seekers come from all backgrounds. Some may be clueless about your company, your products, or what you do, while some may have done their research well and know a fair amount about you. You need to prepare for these questions—from the very basic to the sharper set—Why your company? What’s next for me? What training and growth opportunities do you offer? How is your ‘Reward Strategy’?

Make sure that your company representatives are well prepped to cover the key benefits of working at your company. Use innovative communication strategies like a virtual tour of your office.

#Tip4: Have the right company reps at the fair

Candidates make impressions about your company on the basis of who they interact with at the fair. More importantly, Millennials and Gen Z want to interact with other Millennials and Gen Zers working in your company. On the other hand, staffing the career fair is difficult—managers don’t have the time and volunteers are often people who are not the best fit to be the  face of your brand. So, choose the representatives carefully. Promote the opportunity to represent at the fair internally and motivate and guide the chosen reps such that they can truly represent the brand.

Recruiters at the Hyland booth

#Tip5: Stand out

With several companies competing for top talent at the fair, how you stand apart makes a big difference on the minds of candidates. Study the audience and build an attraction strategy.

Integrate digital in your engagement.

  • Most likely, you would be encountering digital natives in the career fair. Hence, ensure you have enough digi-play in your booth (interactive walls, videos, e-forms, BOTs for basic FAQs, etc.)
  • Candidates today expect a smooth and seamless application process, whether they apply online or in-person. Think of ways you can attract them. Story-telling, gamification, tools around hobbies, or their interests are ways to get their attention.
  • Once you have their attention, engage them creatively. Asking boring background verification questions and personal details are passé . Instead, use the time to get them relaxed and talking. A table game, powered by digital intelligence, can often give you an opportunity to understand the candidate better.
  • Find interesting ways to capture information you need, instead of collecting reels of resumes. Use technology to collect resumes at the fair instead of relying on paper CVs.
  • Jam-up your fort: The candidate experience at your stall will be a big differentiator, hence focus on sprucing up the experience. Throw in a quick workshop, a VR enabled story-telling of your company’s values, or an immersive career journey of a typical employee in your company—a WOW experience will help attract the best talent to your fort.

#Tip6: Close the event, not the relationship

To best leverage the event’s investment, build on the candidate contacts created. Send out personal Thank You notes, and invite them to follow your social channels. This will give them a peep into your company’s culture, progress and brand experience. In the case of shortlisted candidates, you could use a screening tool like HackerEarth’s Technical Assessment software for assessing developer skills.

Technology companies are also embracing the trend of ‘remote working’. This is a great way to provide flexibility for top developers.

To overcome geographical barriers, virtual career fairs have become popular these days. Taking the digital route opens a whole new world of talent pool from across the globe, and not restricted to a geography. Companies such as 3M, Microsoft, Cisco, Amazon, and IBM have all joined virtual fairs to access the global pool of high-quality tech talent.

Career fairs are a great way to attract top tech talent. However, a strategy needs to be in place before an organization decides to participate in a career fair. In fact, tech fairs are meant both for students who are looking for their first break as well as talent who are well entrenched in the industry but looking for relevant options to move ahead in their career. Leveraging technology both in creating an everlasting experience before and during the fair and nurturing them after the conclusion of the fair is the key to success for getting the maximum return from a career fair.


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