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In an era where so much of the recruiting process happens online, in-person recruiting events can seem out of place or old fashioned. But make no mistake: when properly utilized and executed, live events can be an incredibly useful recruiting tool. There’s no real replacement for seeing a candidate face-to-face and interacting with them in real-time, without the pressure and tension of a formal interview, and that’s what recruiting events have to offer. They also give you the chance to show candidates who you are as a company, and why they should consider you specifically.

Planning a recruiting event may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are tried and true steps you can take to help you throw a successful, seamless event:

Set your goals and decide what type of event suits them best

There are many different types of recruitment events. The first step when planning your event is figuring out which type matches your brand and your goals most closely. Types of events include:

  • Meetups:  These are community gatherings/events designed to help people meet like-minded people with similar interests, as searchable on meetup.com. When it comes to tech, meetups are particularly helpful for building a self-selected community of people who may be interested in your company and what you do. A meetup is a relaxed, low-pressure space where people can discuss the things they’re most curious about and engaged in as developers. Hosting a meetup event is a great way to foster community, dialogue, and information-sharing, while casually introducing relevant people to your company’s brand. Unlike events that people are invited to, which they may ignore or miss in their inboxes, people search and sign up for meetup groups themselves, which makes it more likely that people who sign up will attend.
  • Open Houses: Open Houses are held in-office. They can have a similar type of energy as a meetup, in that they are relaxed and focused on connection. However, being hosted in the actual office gives you a unique chance to showcase your projects and products as well as your company culture. These events are a great opportunity to give a small presentation by a developer on what the team is currently working on, especially if it’s a particularly exciting project or product. 
  • Panels/Conferences:  Hosting a panel, talk or conference, either at your office or at a separate venue, is a great way to identify yourself/single yourself out as an industry leader. Carefully choosing a topic and guest speakers also allows you to convey your company’s core values and interests to candidates, and will be more likely to attract candidates that are in line with your mission. 
  • Group Activities/Contests: One rising trend in recruitment events is to center the event around a group activity or a contest. A very popular type of recruitment event in this vein is the “hackathon”, where developers get together to either create something or solve a problem within a set amount of time. Basing an event around an activity, especially when it is directly related to tech, both gives the event a focal point and gives candidates more opportunity to actually show their skills rather than simply talking about them.

Plan Ahead, In Detail. 

As soon as you decide on a type of recruiting event, you should start planning on a set timeline, so that you don’t fall behind or wind up having to do anything last minute. Make sure to err on the side of giving yourself more time than less time to plan. 

Depending on the size and scope of the event, the clock normally starts on a single event around 4-6 months in advance. At that point, you should know what type of event you want to host, and where you want to host it. If you are planning on hosting the event at an external venue, consider your budget, your target candidates, and the vibe you want to put out. Generally, if this is your first time planning a recruitment event, it is suggested that you book an outside venue, as they tend to cover many of the logistics of the event itself.

It is best to book a venue as early along in the process as possible. If you have decided to host a speaker or multiple speakers, contact them as soon as you know to confirm availability. This is also true for photographers/videographers: it’s important to have someone on-site to document or even livestream the event, and you want to make sure you have someone secured earlier rather than later.

Pro-tip: carefully consider the time and date of your event. Do your research and be as sure as possible that there are no conflicting related events, holidays, or even large sports games or television shows. You may actually want to consider planning your own event a week or so after an important tech-related event (such as a major conference), and have a part of your event dedicated to catching up on what was discussed there, both for people who couldn’t make it and people who want to dive deeper into the topics addressed at the event,  In addition to considering adjacent and/or potentially conflicting events, should also think about the day of the week you choose, and the timing: a weekday afternoon meetup with pizza, for instance, will be much different than an all-night weekend hackathon--and not just in terms of how much Mountain Dew you need to have on standby.

Create an Engagement Strategy 

At this point, you should also begin working on your engagement strategy. This is also best started as early on in the process, so that you can get feedback and hone the strategy to be most effective.

As a recruiter, talent engagement is a key part of your day-to-day job, and is also essential to planning a successful recruiting event. When candidates come at the event, how will you engage with them? Research your target type of candidate, and develop a detailed game plan. This may involve discussion strategies for hiring managers and other employees and executives, presentations, networking tools, themes, specialized decor, product demos, games, activities , freebies, and giveaways, among other things. Try to cater your engagement strategy as closely as possible to what you learn about your ideal candidate population.

  • Remember to Promote: Once you have the key details above secured, you should start a marketing and outreach campaign to promote your event. Around two months before your event, start promoting it on social media platforms. Pin the event to the top of your social media pages and engage with relevant accounts. If you have a newsletter, start mentioning it there too. If your company has a social media/marketing specialist or department, they should be working closely with you on this campaign.
  • Invite the Guests: Around a month and a half before the event, you’re going to want to start sending out invitations. And send reminders shorter to the date. 

At this point, you need to decide several things. For one, you need to decide whether the event will be free or whether there will be a cover. Charging a cover fee may be included in your budget. It should be noted that this may limit the attendance of some candidates, even a small cover fee paid in advance (of, say, $5.00) can increase the likelihood that people who sign up for the event actually show up. This also gives you the opportunity to create a promo code, which you can use to encourage promising candidates to attend by offering them free entry.

You will also have to decide whether you want your event to be invite-only, or open to the public. In either case, you should tap into your existing talent pipeline and contact roster and develop a dedicated mailing list. The people on this list should be people you have contacted in the past, with added priority for people who have attended past events or expressed interest in being contacted in the future. If your event is directed toward a certain demographic (for instance, women in tech), focus on candidates within that demographic. Emails to people on this list should be sent once and then followed up with a week later.

This is a crucial time period to continue promoting and attracting attendees, especially if your event is open to the general public. Consider a paid social media promotion, especially if your RSVP numbers are low. Share the event with networking groups, newsletters, and other industry and community forums. 

Don’t Forget The Logistics 

Around a month from your event, you should be putting together the logistics. These steps include:

  • Getting a Head Count. This is important information for your venue, your catering, and in terms of what to expect. Remember that the number of people who RSVP is almost always lower, sometimes significantly so, than the number of people who actually show up. If you have data on similar past events, use that to try and calculate the RSVP drop of rates.
  • Ordering Food and Drinks: If you’re working with a venue, they usually offer food and drink packages, which you can select based on your individual needs. If you’re having an open house or using an independent caterer/bartender, contact them and work through menus and any space/utility access requirements, such as access to refrigeration. 
  • Coordinating Volunteers and Staffing: Start creating a team from within your company to staff the event--meaning, people responsible for making sure everyone knows where they’re going and has all the information they need. You may also want to hire outside staff for things like checking coats and cleaning up. 
  • Coordinating With Developers: It is integral to the success of your event that you consult with and include your developers. Before the event, you should discuss the approach you’re taking in terms of presenting current projects, and get clearance on exactly what can be discussed and how. You should also try and make sure developers can attend the event itself. Your developers are the ambassadors of your products, projects, and company culture, and it’s especially important for potential candidates to meet and get to know the people they may potentially work with in the future (and vice versa.)
  • Set up and equipment: Make sure you have all necessary set up arrangements in place. For instance, if you are planning on erecting a stage, or on renting chairs and tables, make sure you have the rental in place and the assemblers on call. Also make sure you have all necessary equipment, such as screens, projectors, lights, speakers, music playlists, and microphones, set up and ready to go.
  • Create a plan for registration: It’s very helpful to have a check in and registration station at the door. For invite-only events, this is a chance to check tickets, and is also a chance for people to check their coats. More importantly, a check-in station can be used as a means to register candidates who showed up, and to get their information for the future. Make sure to create a sign-in sheet with room for as much information as possible (name, email, phone, current employer, and areas of interest, for instance). 

Around 3 days before the event, send one last email to the guests with all necessary information, such as the address and hours, directions, the dress code, and a brief but alluring description about what to expect. On the day of the event, simply make sure that all scheduled equipment, food, drink, and supplies arrive and are set up according to plan.

Post-Event: Always Follow Up 

Pulling off the event itself is only part of what makes a recruiting event successful. The rest comes afterward. Follow-up is absolutely essential in confirming the connections and contacts that recruiting events are intended to create. 

Send a follow-up email thanking candidates for attending and giving them any pertinent information for how to learn more, schedule an informational interview, or apply for a position. You can also send a “sorry you couldn’t make it” email to those who RSVP’d but did not attend, just to leave the line of communication open. Ask members of your team to personally follow up with any promising candidates. If candidates expressed an interest in a certain area or project, put them in touch with the relevant department.

In terms of event promotion and the development of future events, you can edit the landing page for your event and create a “post-event page” recapping the event. These pages can include things like sizzle reels, video/photo recaps, presentation slides, and stats, surveys about the event experience, as well as a way to get in touch. This can be shared on social media, and can also be used in the promotion of future events. 

Recruitment events can certainly be labor-intensive, but when done right, they’re well worth the effort. The level of direct engagement is hard to beat, and a truly memorable recruitment event may be the deciding point between pursuing an interview and looking elsewhere for your next top talent hire. These basic steps (adjusting, of course, to fit your individual needs) should put you well on your way to creating a recruitment event to write home about.

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