Are Your Recruiting Events Worth It?

Tracking leads with intent is the only way to know, talent pros say

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer April 16, 2018
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​NEW YORK CITY—Recruiting events can pay off in building your talent pipeline, making new hires and spreading your employer brand, but without effective tracking and reporting, the resource-intensive practice can also be a drain.

A panel of New York City-based recruiters and recruiting-operations leads talked about the events they hold, what they track and what they report on at the recent Greenhouse OPEN 2018 conference for recruiting professionals.

Recruiters at Peloton, a company that makes Internet-connected stationary fitness bikes, hold onsite meet-up groups to discuss certain skill sets like Python or Android at their Chelsea office and participate in college and university campus recruiting events.

"Our in-house events are initiated by current employees who want to bring the local software engineering community together to show off our brand and company but also to bring new ideas to the team," said Kevin Minchella, a senior technical recruiter at Peloton.

The company uses the events to "show what it's like to work at Peloton," added Will Blaze, also a senior technical recruiter.

Courtney Kraus, a people operations analyst at Squarespace, a website-building software and content management firm, said the company engages in recruiting events to meet lots of prospects and advance its brand. Squarespace focuses on campus recruiting in the fall and attends industry events year-round.

"Diversity initiatives also direct our events schedule," she said. "We host events at our office in the West Village, like Built by Girls, which is focused on embedding young women in technology roles."

Peloton is new to campus events and intends to use them for showcasing the company as an innovative technology brand to compete with more well-known employers like Amazon and Uber. "We want to educate students who may not know us and what we do," Blaze said.

Getting your message across to potential candidates live and in-person is invaluable, Kraus said. "You can dress up your careers page as much as you want, but you can't force people to go to it," she said. "If you can get people in front of you, then you can tell them exactly what your message is."

Not every event will be a smashing success. "Sometimes it doesn't work out," said Nick Reyland, people tech operations lead at Squarespace. "You're always excited to host a group at your office, and you figure they will get something out of it just like you will. Sometimes you find that's just not the case. Sometimes they are not doing what you thought they were doing, or it's just not very interesting."

You've got to decide whether you will cater to groups looking for a space, or create events and invite targeted prospects from sourcing channels like LinkedIn, Blaze said. "It comes down to a mix, experimenting to see what works."

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The Importance of Tracking Events

Even when events seemed like a success—attendance was high, energy was positive—that doesn't mean it had an overall positive impact on hiring, said Nada Chaker, content lead at Beamery, a recruitment marketing technology company based in London.

She added that some of the things that can stymie the return on investment are not collecting enough information to properly follow up with prospects, not moving quickly enough to engage with leads, or choosing events and invitees that end up being misaligned with your hiring goals.

"Tracking events prevents these situations from happening, but most importantly, it helps to calculate the return on investment," she said. "The strategic benefit of understanding the ROI of events is having a better grasp on what drives it up or down."

For example, you'll know if it's easier to boost attendance by promoting the registration page more widely, or by nurturing existing registrants with more information on the event, she explained.

What to track depends on what you're looking for. It's worth deciding early in the process what data you want to collect and how that data will live in your system, Chaker said. "This will ensure you don't miss an important window to collect data from candidates, like the event registration or the satisfaction survey, for example."

Blaze said that his team tracks as much information from candidates as possible to build a passive candidate database. "It's necessary for us to collect information from anyone who has a touch point with our company so we can make that actionable down the line," he said. "The first thing we do after an event is import information from the sign-up sheet and the form that shows who actually attended. Once [leads have been imported], we notate things like who they talked to and if they showed interest in the company."

Using online forms that load into a candidate relationship management platform will make it easier to exploit the data later. "You don't want to be typing rows and rows of handwritten names and e-mail addresses [into your applicant tracking system] after the event, or keeping track of random business cards on your desk," Chaker said.

Squarespace organizes the events data in two ways: by source of candidate and by candidate tags, Kraus said. "Source of candidate shows how many candidates you're getting from each event, how many you're converting and how those candidates are doing throughout the process." Tagging—which denotes specialized skills or qualifications to more easily find leads later in your database—provides more context around candidates, she said.

"We ask them questions that help us determine if they're interested in full time or intern opportunities, for example, and tag them accordingly."

For a tagging system to work properly, the recruiting team needs to agree on what the tags mean beforehand and how they should be applied. Standardization is critical to success.

Minchella said that Peloton goes beyond comparing the success of each event and benchmarks events against other recruiting channels, such as inbound applicants and third-party agencies.

"We're trying to find the best value," he said. "In-person events had a very high return for the least number of applicants reviewed, but it's not a silver bullet for every type of role. We also got a lot of return from third-party job boards."

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