Grad recruitment at careers fairs, worth it?

by 01 Mar 2012

Careers fairs are a traditional catch-all recruitment strategy, and organisers say hosting a booth is an ideal way to meet a large group of potential candidates and is beneficial for both large and small-scale organisations – but what is the return on investment for HR?

Most universities in Australia host a range of annual careers fairs catering to graduate employment, specific sectors (such as consultancy careers), and postgrad employment. The events are touted as a quick and easy way to bring together a wide range of employers under the one roof, and grads and employers alike can gather information about what’s happening in the recruitment space. Participation rates do vary, but as an example the University of Queensland said at their upcoming careers fair there will be 140 exhibitors and some 5,500 people will attend. The costs of hosting a booth also varies, but most universities charge from $900-$1800.

According to the University of Sydney, which will host an investment banking and consultancy careers fair next week, the fairs allow employers the opportunity to meet face-to-face with students interested in their organisation, raise the company profile and gain exposure as an employer brand. Further, the university says employers that attend the fair continue to gain exposure to students through online and hard-copy material long after the day itself through the careers resources centre. 

Having a presence at grad fairs is often as much about employer branding as it is about finding new hires. Denise Moore from Medibank Health Solutions said their organisation has a presence at careers expos, and the purpose is closely linked to their marketing and branding strategy. “[It’s] getting the organisation name out there, and also telling people what we do. Putting out our employment propositions through [alternative] vehicles is actually quite powerful, and people start to say “Oh, I didn’t realise.” And of course as an employer there are huge opportunities.”

Petrina Coventry, HR director at Santos commented that their organisation has a strong presence at careers fairs, both international and domestic, and for graduate recruitment puposes at university careers fairs throughout Australia. In terms of filling graduate roles, there is a significant return on investment: “We always get what we came for,” Coventry said.

Healthcare product manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is another organisation with a presence at many careers fairs, but their approach is linked to raising the employment brand and finding candidates for their industry based learning program. The training program sees the manufacturer take on approximately 30 students each year and then offer positions to high performers at the end of the period.

While the careers fair calendar continues to play a large role in the graduate recruitment landscape, so-called virtual careers fairs are also on the rise. A key difference is that many virtual fairs to not impose a registration fee.

For a list of upcoming graduate recruitment fairs around Australia, click here

-Stephanie Zillman


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