Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The door's open, come on in!

I'm blogging today from the site of the Recruiting Open House that my employer is hosting today. We have a great conference center on our campus here in Northern Virginia, and have been hosting these events three times a year for the past three years. Because we've made these events truly 'Open', attendance has ranged from 130-230 attendees per event, and as a result have made anywhere from 12 to 24 hires per event. The hires we have yielded from these events have represented about 10% of our overall tech staff hiring efforts. Those are numbers that we are very pleased with considering the complexity of the jobs we need to fill.

I'm a big fan of these events for several reasons:

  1. They connect hiring manager and candidates face-to-face. A resume doesn't always assist in making the connection, often the person accompanying the resume makes all the difference.
  2. The participating organizations get to show off their work programs and speak with a number of potential candidates all at one time.
  3. Candidates get to see our great campus as well as some of the work we are involved with.
  4. Candidates know that they get to speak with someone, thus making this potentially a more appealing option than just submitting a resume online.
  5. These are high-profile, highly advertised events, both internally and externally, thus continuously keeping our profile and our brand in front of employees and job seekers alike.

I've been asked before, "why have a truly open event rather than an invitational-style open house?" I believe that by keeping this event "Open", we have attracted candidates who may not of otherwise decided to attend. We often hear of candidates stop by because they saw the signs on the street, or a friend-of-a-friend told them about it. There is also very little initial risk to the candidate as far as being rejected up front. With an invitational-style Open House, you are either invited or rejected, with often more who are rejected than invited. We want our hiring managers to make a holistic judgment at these events, and as a result, we have actually hired candidates from these events whose resumes didn't make the cut when they simply applied on-line. Do we 'reject' candidates initially? Sure, if someone sends a resume in advance who is clearly not qualified for the types of positions we will be interviewing for, we'll let them know in advance so that they don't waste their valuable time by attending.

What makes a successful Open House?

Planning - When we started these events three years ago, we would start our planning 6-8 weeks in advance. Today, these events practically run themselves, so we allow about 4-6 weeks of lead-time to 1) properly prepare internal & external advertising, 2) accommodate organizational requests, 3) make arrangements with facilities, security, corp comms, and catering, and 4) begin advance sourcing efforts.

Commitment - We have been told by attendees that our events are very well organized and that our staff and managers are accommodating and knowledgeable. These events are not designed for Recruiting to 'puff out it's chest'. These events are held to make hires, period. We communicate heavily with our HR/Recruiting staff and their hiring managers in advance of these events and make sure they are ready to actively participate.

Advance Sourcing - Even though these events are 'open', we do invite candidates as well, including those from our ATS, and those that we source otherwise. We can often get candidates engaged faster by inviting them to one of these events than if they were to wait to be invited in to interview for specific positions.

Internal Promotion - We heavily promote these events internally, and as a result, about half of our hires from these events are employee referrals.

Venue - If you have the facilities at your location to do an Open House onsite, by all means do it. It certainly is cheaper for one thing, but as mentioned earlier, it provides an opportunity to show candidates where they are actually going to work.

The downside? Very little. 'Managed chaos' is a good description of the event. These events to take a fair amount of resources (time, people and money) to produce, but all-in-all its worth it. Job fairs don't work well for us, Invitationals 'screen-out' more than they 'screen-in', but our Open House events have consistently provided us with the right quantity and quality of candidates.

It's an hour until the doors open up, time to gear up for another big day!


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