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Five Ways You’re Killing Your Employer Brand At Job Fairs

Last week, I attended the Tech Career Expo which was held in conjunction with SxSW 2012. I persevered the driving rain, crowds of festival-goers, as well as sparse and horrendously overpriced parking options to check out what was billed as “not your normal career fair.” In the end, I was sadly disappointed to find that it actually was just. like. every. job. fair. ever. As much as I enjoy a good brew, the fact beer was served did not create a revolutionary new experience.

Before I start, let me say I fully empathize with the trials and tribulations of being a trade show exhibitor. I’m all too familiar with being on my feet for hours rattling off the same 30 second “Who We Are” pitch to countless booth visitors. I know how hard it is to maintain the same upbeat nature of the first day on days two and three (and sometimes four). But any organization should know the same rules which we marketers use for creating business with prospective customers very much apply to attracting possible job applicants. It should come as no surprise that the differences between marketing brand and employer brand are wafer-thin.

So if you’re attending or in charge of sending representatives to the next job fair to promote your employer brand, I hope you’ll find these observations from a marketing trade show veteran useful.

1. You’re damn happy and appreciative to be there.
Whatever you’re actually feeling about being there, the prospect doesn’t care. All they care about is your complete and undivided attention. If you and your booth staff are bitching about having to be on your feet all day and looking like you’d rather be anywhere but at that very spot, imagine how a potential job seeker must feel. And yes, I did have someone do this to me. I can guarantee it did nothing to endear me to him, his company, or his company’s product.

2. You know your company and what it does by heart.
Unless your company is named Dell, Apple, or Google, it’s extremely likely potential applicants will want to know more about your business. It might even be their first question. So have the 30 second pitch down cold. Know the basics: your industry, your target customers, what your product or service does, and your competition. And if this sounds like common sense, let me say that reps from at least three booths at the Expo would have gotten a failing grade here.

3. You can speak eloquently about your open positions and employment needs.
Please don’t just go through the motions…you might as well not have a booth at all. When I asked the question, “What types of positions are you trying to fill?”, I had more than one booth rep shove a piece of paper toward me and respond, “They’re all here.” Sorry, but that’s not the question I asked. I’m certainly capable of taking collateral and reading it. What I want to hear is some insight into your company and what skills/backgrounds/expertise you need to move your business forward. Sorry? Your booth reps don’t have that kind of information? Then educate them or leave them at home.

4. You can help the prospect understand how great it is to work at your company.
Yes, I know how much you like working at the company. While your perspective is important to hear, I also know you’re getting paid to say how much you like working at the company. Instead, do this: help me understand why I might love to work there. Paint the picture, not from your perspective, but from my own. Take a couple of minutes to ask me what I do, what my strengths are, where I want to go in my career…then help me see exactly why I would want to take my talents to your organization.

5. Finally, you’re a brand representative so act accordingly.
I may never, ever work for your organization. I may not possess the type of skills you need now or in the future. I may not quite fit with your culture. But that still doesn’t mean I’m a throwaway contact. Each potential job application you come into contact with at a job fair may end up being the individual who chooses your company to do business with in their next gig. Or refers an important key client in the direction of your company. Taking the short-view of any candidate’s viability obscures the hard truth that we live in a hyperconnected world.

Photo credit: KUT

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Nuance is Dead

Yesterday, during danah boyd’s keynote presentation for SXSWi, she made a comment to which I had to stop myself from jumping up amidst a packed room and shouting, “Amen! Testify, sister!” Her comment consisted of three words printed on a slide deck:

Nuance amidst extremes

It was in reference to quotes and soundbites from folks who have argued that “Privacy is Dead.” In the continuum of extremes, nothing is more polarizing than declaring something dead or evil.

I fear we’re becoming much too accustomed to being at those edges, our interests numbed by a media obsessed with getting people to yell at one another instead of actually listening and having cogent arguments. We’re living in a culture where nuance is getting set aside like a quaint antique writing desk, a reminder of another time.

Why? Because being salacious and provocative gets attention, gets click-thrus, gets retweeted and Dugg and shared virally. It means we really don’t have to take the time to think about instances where our reasoning falls apart. It means we get to stick with our safe, comfortable ways of thinking and doing.

Does this scare the hell out of anyone else?

But I don’t think we’re entirely lost, yet. It’s one reason why I continue to love blogs. Writers can propose a viewpoint and then allow for others to join the dialogue in a very public space. Online communities can function in a similar way. Thriving communities know how to help its members to share feelings and rationales, absorb the points made by others, and consider new perspectives. The point is to help people generate new viewpoints rather than get mired in their own stale ways of looking at the world.

Rather than accepting a lot of other “me too” comments, let’s encourage more diverse points of view. As bloggers, we need to challenge the thinking of our readers, reply to their comments, encourage them to keep thinking more deeply about issues.

I’m continuously hopeful of our ability to grasp “nuance amidst extremes.” But we have to keep listening to each other, keep talking, and most important of all, keep respecting the viewpoints of others we come into contact with.

PS. Yes, the irony of this post’s title isn’t lost on me 🙂

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