In a highly competitive employment market, recruiters have to challenge the conventional assumptions in order to be able to reach the right potential hires.
--ROSHEE LAMICHHANE BHUSAL
Roy T Bennett, in his book The Light in the Heart, says, “Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine.” Stephen King rightly said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” Yes, “Every artist was first an amateur,” as said Ralph Waldo Emerson. But it is hard work that makes the difference.
In the context of a business management schools, the first proof of this hard work is the value it commands in the job-market of business talent, which can perhaps be understood by the eagerness of the corporate sector to engage with the talent from the school, as either interns or new hires. On the employer side, their hard work to ensure employer branding even before the hiring season starts shows off at such fairs.
The annual two-day Job and Internship Fair organized by the Placement Cell, Kathmandu University School of Management (KUSOM) titled KJIF-2018 on August 14 and 15 witnessed enthusiastic participation by over 50 popular employers who are noted industrial enterprises representing all sizes and lines of business in Nepal. Over 130 students participated in the fair for jobs and internships, which stands a testimony to the fact that career fairs are still alive and vibrant in the highly digitalized world.
In a highly competitive employment market, recruiters have to challenge the conventional assumptions in order to be able to reach out to the right potential hires. Today, students graduating from higher educational institutions, especially job seekers from top-notch business schools, have a large volume of recruiter’s outreach such as search engines, social media, and career sites to select their potential employers. Job seekers perceive, learn about, and form their own opinions and attitudes about an employer brand through different channels and in myriad ways. However, what motivates potential recruits to get attracted to a particular brand is one of the most intractable problems currently faced by employers.
The Context of Employer Branding
The paradigm shift in employment markets demands a strong employer branding and job content that is compelling in highlighting the employer’s primary distinguishing characteristics. To be able to make brand positioning more impactful and rewarding, employers need to ensure job content that is beyond the traditional requirements-based job description. Hence, attracting even reluctant graduating students to join a company is not facile and definitely calls for an innovative approach whereby companies are able to attract the attention of the potential hires and increase their intention to apply much before graduation. Job seekers these days are also concerned about finding the right fit between them and their employers. Hence, learning about the companies through formal and informal means becomes all the more important.
The participation of a company in job fairs gives a compelling reason for students and potential graduates to learn about the company culture by means of interacting with the representatives of the company. While companies are making initial impressions about students, students are also forming opinions about companies through the approach they take to deal with students in interviews and other informal interactions. After all, in today’s crowded talent landscape, talented individuals who are in greater demand than ever before can afford to be very selective and choosy in their decisions and actions.
Recruiters as Brand Ambassadors
It is understandable that every representative from companies participating in events such as job fairs is acting as a powerful ambassador advocating a particular employer brand and representing the best of the entire organization or a particular functional area. One should never underestimate the power of social content that potential recruits create about their employer brand for social media. Nevertheless, if employers can be creative, they can encourage its creation and exploit its potential to the extent possible. Nothing can succeed in capturing the unique and varied facets of an employer’s rich organizational culture better to the job seekers than through live events such as job fairs.
Similarly, reviews about the prospective employers from seniors and word of mouth endorsements also have an effect on the way prospects think about a particular organization. Today, learning about an organization of interest by the potential employees is very easy as they can easily read online reviews of any company worth the name. Since these practices are not very common in our part of the world, students and graduates normally get to know about organizations through informal channels such as word of mouth, and recruitment related events such as job fairs.
Benefits of Job Fairs
The potential benefits of attending job fairs are too many and substantial for the recruiters. And KUSOM’s job fair vouches for the same. To sum it up, let me, as the In-charge, Placement Cell, KUSOM, reflect upon the feedback taken from the experiences of the participating recruiters and enumerate some of the payoffs they enjoyed from KJIF-2018.
• First, gaining an opportunity to access, attract, interact with, and engage in a mutually meaningful and beneficial face-to-face dialogue in an academic environment.
• Second, dyadic interactions at the job fair tables between the hiring agencies and the prospects act as an excellent initial screening of promising talent leading to first or further round/s of interview and job offers eventually.
• Third, these public events act as ideal marketing collateral by providing opportunities to develop and increase brand awareness among all the stakeholders by bringing the company into the limelight through strong visual displays and other recruitment related content.
• Fourth, stumbling upon a high value, freshly graduated hire with a rich and diverse skill-set might be a surprise element.
• Last, there is one real but intangible advantage and one that hardly is cognizant of generally. It is the gain in the form of participants enjoying and benefiting from the opportunity to meet with and seize networking opportunities with other recruiting companies and professionals in the field of their choice and interest.
Making the Best of Job Fairs
Career fairs provide an excellent opportunity to highlight and keep the employer brand in high visibility zones.
Even today, recruiters, as a common practice, look forward to meeting and interacting with their potential job aspirants through these in-person networking events.
In the context of job fairs, it is desirable and beneficial that recruiters bear certain useful and insightful facts in mind. Some of them are:
• Potential candidates do not consider the time spent by them at the job fair worthwhile if they can lay their hands on original and useful information that is already available through a quick and easy Google search. Hence, sharing some key information and providing insights into the organization through company presentations before the actual job fair becomes all the more helpful.
• Despite the fact that most of human communications and transactions are being digitized, its dependence decreases compared with the face-to-face contact that job fairs offer in abundance.
• If confronted with stiff competition from rival organizations that look for the same skill sets, employers should manage to stand out by highlighting the best of the opportunities their organization is going to offer.
• Recruitment material or signage should deliberately be prepared or presented in a manner that attracts hires having varied specialisations and backgrounds so don’t miss a highly qualified candidate emerging as a great fit.
• Participants in a career fair would not prefer to be referred by employers to their websites for applying online. Interviewees or candidates coming to a job fair expect a special or “in” kind of a relationship and talk to their employers.
• In an effort to take benefit from the alumni, many host universities provide recruiting companies or their representatives who are their alumni with better visibility. After all, there is an element of excitement and commitment in recruiting ‘students’ vis-à-vis graduates of the same university. Students also would find themselves automatically in a comfort zone once they seek out and encounter representatives having something in common.
• At the end of the day, the number of job seekers that gets attracted determines the size of the talent pool of a recruiter. Hence, the kind of questions raised in the interviews and the level of professionalism demonstrated by companies have an impact on ensuring if potential recruits are going to get attracted.
Both Sides Need Planning and Preparation
The experience I have gathered makes it imperative to conclude that the recruiters need to focus more on early employer branding, and the new talent needs to do more research on hiring trends and the pros and cons of each visiting recruiting organization to be better prepared to make the experience rich and rewarding.
The author is Lecturer and Placement-in-charge at KUSOM, and a regular writer on business issues in the Nepali media.