Advice for Employers Attending a Veterans Job Fair

Career fairs are a cost-effective way for employers to recruit at scale and get the best value for their hiring dollars. In fact, many recruiters swear by the benefits of attending veteran career fairs. As a director of human resources for a large state government agency put it, “Out of more than 30 live interviews from the event, the hiring rate was about 50% from one career fair that lasted four hours – a pretty good cost-per-hire.”

Many career fairs feature private areas where on-the-spot interviews can be held. This ability to meet, assess, and speak in-depth with candidates makes career fairs a cost-effective screening tool, saving time, coordination efforts, and resources.

But just showing up doesn’t always ensure success. Here are a few tips to help your organization get the most out of its participation in a military job fair.

###Know the talent pool
The candidates attending our career fairs include men and women who have served, or are currently serving, in all branches of our armed forces, as well as military spouses and other military family members. Some will have previous civilian work experience and some will not. All will, however, be actively and aggressively pursuing a career in the civilian world and will be eager to get the hiring process started, so we advise you to be aggressive when scheduling interviews to ensure that you have your pick of the top candidates.

###Know your organization and its openings/offerings
Recruiters attending the job fair should be as knowledgeable as possible about your organization and the opportunities it has available for veterans and military families. If at all possible, we recommend that you clearly describe these opportunities on a tabletop display or panel. This is especially true if you have opportunities that a candidate might not normally associate with your organization (e.g., you are an educational organization who is not just looking to enroll students but also to hire for jobs within the organization -- or you are a retail company who is looking not just for sales people, but also for warehouse operators.

###Explain any online resume submission requirements
If your organization does not accept printed resumes during the event, make sure to clearly explain why to the candidates. Veteran job seekers -- with little or no civilian work experience -- often do not know why companies require resumes to be submitted online and may think that your organization is not interested in them.

Worse yet, they may feel that they could have saved time and effort by simply staying home and applying for your position online. Providing a clear explanation of your organization’s online application process/requirements will avoid these misperceptions and ensure that the candidates you are interested in remain interested in your organization.

###Be approachable
Finally, and perhaps most important, recruiters attending the career fair should be welcoming and approachable. Many veteran candidates, especially those with little or no civilian work experience, may be nervous or hesitant about approaching a table and may not know how to get a conversation going with a recruiter. To help them, we advise recruiters to clearly identify themselves as recruiters by wearing a badge or other identifier.

Additionally, we encourage recruiters to stand up rather than sit at the table and to actively engage candidates in conversation. Recruiters should ask candidates about their service and areas of expertise and also feel free to ask for more information about their military experience. Veterans expect non-veterans to struggle a little with military terminology and are happy to provide more information about their experience, especially if it will help them obtain the career they are seeking with your organization.

Following these tips should help you to be better prepared and make the most out of your participation in a veteran job fair.