Job Fair or Open House: How to Hire Top Talent for Your Small Business

Job Fair or Open House: How to Hire Top Talent for Your Small Business

Written by: Jeff McDonough, Director of Human Resources, Union Savings Bank

If you’re a small business looking to find the next generation of top talent, there are several available resources to help you target prospective employees in the recruitment process. In addition to online application vetting through popular job sites, businesses can utilize upcoming local and college job fairs, or host an open house.

It can be a challenge to attract the right type of candidates to your business’s recruitment and selection process. The cause for that can include candidates not knowing about your company to improper recruiting techniques to simply seeking out the wrong candidates.

Local job fairs allow small businesses the opportunity to gain access to large pools of potentially qualified candidates. Depending on the size of the career fair, it can last a few hours, a day or even take place over the course of a weekend.

As a common channel of recruiting employees, job fairs can present potential benefits to the businesses that attend them, including:

  • Meeting with potential candidates face-to-face. This saves you time by skipping the phone interview and going straight to a face-to-face meeting.    
  • Conducting multiple short, informal interviews with candidates you think may be the right fit. This gives you the opportunity to focus on those you feel are stronger candidates for your business and the recruitment process. Who knows, you may even make a hire at a job fair.
  • Introducing your business and your industry to candidates. Attendees of a job fair who have not considered a career in your industry have the opportunity to learn more about the industry as a whole and your business specifically.  

One drawback is that job fairs tend to be in a rushed setting which may not be effective for small business recruiting. With so many companies vying for a candidate’s attention, your business can be easily forgotten. It’s extremely important to make yourself stand out and be memorable by using visually engaging signage and handing out company branded gifts and brochures.

While there are benefits to a small business attending a career fair, there are some things it just cannot accomplish. This is when an open house event should be considered.

How small business recruiting benefits from an open house:

  • Host the event at your own establishment. An open house can be held at a call center, main office or another division of your business. This allows candidates to see where they would be working, experience the culture of the office environment, and even meet potential team members, managers or bosses.    
  • Fill several open positions at one time. Your business will be able to target multiple candidates in hopes of attracting individuals that are interested in your particular company and industry.
  • Assist in the application process. An open house can shorten the recruitment process. At an open house, there is more time for candidates to fill out job applications on the spot and even set up a first round of interviews.
  • Keep it local. Moreso than local job fairs, hosting an open house helps get your local community involved in your business, as well as informing them of your goals and principle values. This type of presence can also create leads based on referrals from within your own community.  

Union Savings Bank hosted an open house at its call center to hire candidates for several open positions. The open house allowed for a more targeted approach to recruiting employees with the goal of attracting individuals interested in banking and finance.

Whether your business is participating in a local job fair or hosting its own open house, there are commonalities of what to look for in small business recruiting for prospective employees based on your industry, the type of jobs you are currently looking to fill and the overall dynamics of your company.

Below is a checklist of qualities to look for in candidates for the recruitment process, regardless of the industry:

  • Professional Attire – Are they dressed to meet a potential boss or have a spur-of-the-moment job interview?
  • Presentation – How do they present themselves? Do they wait for you to speak to them or do they walk up to you and introduce themselves like you would want them to do with customers?    
  • Resume – Did they bring copies of their resume with them? Is their resume well thought out and are they prepared to talk about it? 
  • Maturity – Do they view the open position as a potential career by asking the appropriate questions?
  • Openness – Are they willing and open to learn more about the industry and its career opportunities?

While career fairs and open houses are meant to connect you to a higher volume of candidates, it does not always mean the candidates presented are right for your business. Candidates still have to “sell themselves” to you by discussing what skills they bring to the table.

Regardless of how your small business does recruiting to find top talent, be sure to research your candidates. Maybe you met them at a job fair or open house, maybe you even interviewed them there – but it is still important to conduct additional research. Take a look at their social media presence and contact the references they list on their resume. Assess your business’s employment needs and utilize the approach that you feel is the best way to recruit top talent for your business. You can also keep an eye on our Business Blog for additional tips.