Role Modelling

The milkround is in full steam at the moment, and firms with graduate recruitment programmes are all falling over themselves to have the most attractive stands, campus presentations, freebies and so on in what was known in the Noughties as the War for Talent.

It’s 4 years now since I was last on the circuit, and wandering around our main University Fair last Wednesday I was struck just how little things have moved on; these might be straightened times but there were still lots of firms attending, and enough free stationery on offer to keep even the most diligent student in pens & post-its for the rest of the year.  The only real difference was the preponderance of iPads being used to collect student email addresses, replacing the labour intensive clip boards (it was quite funny seeing people getting entangled in the security cords attached to the devices).

One of my colleagues went for a walk around the fair & remarked to me how many pretty young women were stood around waiting to be talked to, whilst other representatives were all chatting away.  This got me remembering about how the firms represent themselves at these fairs, and it really isn’t as easy as you’d think because they have to think about:

  • the correct number of people on the stand – too many appears overbearing (&  is expensive), too few and you’re missing out talking to people;
  • the mix – you need a recruiter there to coordinate things, but you also want real employees to give insight – these people are more likely to give out the wrong information though;
  • the appearance of the attendees – too uniform in gender, race etc, too good-looking (or too far in the opposite direction), not approachable etc. & they put people off (‘they aren’t like me’ screams the subconscious of the student);
  • what should the attendees wear? – I always favoured the matching employer branded T-shirts – but is that too matey?  Is a suit & tie too corporate?

The list goes on & on; and when you eventually get the balance just right someone drops out and you’re scrabbling around looking for anyone to fill the gap.

So next time you attend an employer event or careers fair spare a thought for what the recruiter is going through and think about what subliminal messages the organisation is sending out.

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