Your company needs candidates, and job fairs are teeming with them. But how do you choose which career events to attend? And once you’re there, how do you get the most bang for your recruitment buck?

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Your company needs candidates, and job fairs are teeming with them. But how do you choose which career events to attend? And once you’re there, how do you get the most bang for your recruitment buck?

After all, registration fees can vary widely, from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Since the trend is toward targeted events, let’s break down each type of career fair, with insider return-on-investment tips.

Campus recruiting. Here’s where you’ll find interns and new graduates, as well as do a little public relations work on behalf of your company to generate interest and buzz. On-campus events usually offer several levels of registration fees, from a single table to a platinum sponsorship that includes perks such as first choice of table location, your company logo on the marketing materials (posters, emails, website, flyers) and a book of attendees’ résumés.

* Insider tip: As long as you are on the floor and your name is in the program, you probably don’t need the platinum sponsorship, unless you are exclusively hiring from that school or program.

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Industry fairs. When your company has an ongoing need for specific types of positions such as retail or customer service, industry fairs may be the way to go.

* Insider tip: If you are hiring a lot of candidates for one or two skill sets, consider one of the sponsorship packages that include a logo and placement in the attendee packet.

Career expos in conjunction with a conference or trade show. These are generally among the most expensive types of events. If your company is exhibiting already, having an HR rep/recruiter in the booth to answer questions may be sufficient, or including a URL in the ad to your careers page or “life at” section of your corporate website.

* Insider tip:
If one of the leaders from your company is a speaker at the event, investing some money in a recruiting fair is probably worthwhile, as you have just generated some immediate buzz and interest.

Diversity fairs, WorkSource and community events. These fairs generally require less of a financial outlay, and attendance is a great way to show a company’s commitment to equal opportunity.

No matter which type of fair you are attending, preparation is vital to maximizing your return. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years.

Know what’s included in the registration fee. Make sure to get a full cost breakdown of any “optional” services, such as an electrical outlet, tablecloth and signage.

Bring qualified reinforcements. Sending more than one attendee can help with managing the flow of traffic around your table or in your booth. Optimize your opportunities to connect with top candidates by having all booth/table staff use LinkedIn Mobile on their smartphones so they can connect with top talent on the spot. Make sure everyone has the pitch down to minimize long conversations: what your company does, what sort of profiles you seek, when are you looking to hire and what the next steps are. The more candidates you talk to, the better.

Be specific and clear in your ad. Most career fairs have exhibitor listings, whether it’s in the form of a free or a paid ad. Make sure that the information you supply for this is concise and gives relevant information about your organization and the types of positions you are recruiting for — job titles, at least, and job descriptions or summaries, if possible. It should target the types of candidate profiles you need. Include your logo and make sure it matches the collateral, banners or table draping you bring, so that it’s easy for potential hires to identify and find you.

Budget for swag. Developing collateral for attending a job fair can be expensive. Swag — or items that you give away — help brand your company. Attendees of trade shows and campus recruiting events have higher expectations of branded merchandise. Common items include pens, stickers, flash drives, T-shirts, candy and toys. Smaller is usually better for ease of transport, as well as price. A web search for “promotional merchandise catalog” will deliver plenty of results and price points.

Business cards/flyers with an email address or link to your careers page are imperative. Some options: Print general job titles on postcards that attendees can take, or bring a three-ring binder and sleeves displaying job descriptions for candidates to look at (but not take). Either way, include a QR code they can scan. Even better, bring a laptop so candidates can look at jobs and apply for them or forward the URL to themselves.

Be organized. Institute a system of immediately filing the onslaught of paper résumés as they come in. Pens, sticky notes and file folders are invaluable for managing this.

Consider buying the résumé book. It’s an expense, but there are advantages. You’ll have all the attendees’ résumés, versus those of only the people who stopped by your table. There’s no need to worry about lost paper copies. And other books also may be available — for example, an alumni book if you purchase a current student version.