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The fairest job fair

When McDonald’s held a massive nationwide job fair earlier this year, it hired 50,000 new employees—in a single day. While you may not have the fast-food giant’s scale, smaller restaurant operators can also take advantage of hiring fairs to find qualified candidates quickly. If done right, this recruiting method can save you time and money over traditional hiring tactics.

Get people talking
Advertise your fair in the local paper and on online job sites, and use social media to spread the word. Pass out flyers, put up signs and post an eye-catching banner on your building. “Once the word is out that we’re hiring, it spreads like wildfire,” says Sarah Maggi Morin, who owns a Buffalo Wild Wings franchise in Windsor, Connecticut. Morin has organized two job fairs, each resulting in about 100 hires.


Choose a location wisely
Host your job fair in a large public location such as a mall, where your event will gain attention from passersby and is more likely to draw a large crowd.

Time it wisely
Two weeks before opening a new unit is the sweet spot. This gives applicants
who are currently working enough time for a respectful departure, and doesn’t put folks who need a job in a paycheck purgatory. “If you hire too far in advance, you lose a lot of quality applicants because they need a job,” Morin says.

Make people want to work for you
Your company’s culture will be on display at your hiring fair. Go the extra step to make it a fun, engaging experience. “When there are long lines, we provide refreshments,” Morin says. Thoughtful gestures let people know you care and show applicants the kind of employer you are.

Organize applications on the spot
You won’t save time or money if you end the fair with a stack of 500 applications and a blurred memory of faces and conversations. Create “yes,” “maybe” and “no” piles as they come in. Morin also takes a snapshot of each candidate to attach to the application. “The point of taking the picture is not to judge what they look like,” Morin says. “It helps me attach a face with the name to remember the conversation and personality.”

Consider collaborating
If you don’t have the resources to hold your own hiring fair, join forces with several area restaurants that are all looking for new staff. Your partners can shoulder some of the cost burden and promotional duties, and you’ll all gain access to a larger pool of candidates than you would have on your own.

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