THE BLOG
04/04/2013 04:49 pm ET Updated Jun 04, 2013

6 Career Fair Tips to Find the Best Interns

You need great people for your internships. After all, a recent study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found 60 percent of all paid interns eventually end up as full-time hires. This means the interns you select to staff your program have the potential to guide your company's future.

So it's no surprise many organizations choose to pack up their company banner, throw together some pamphlets, and show up at the nearest career fair. Just because your company attends a few career fairs, however, doesn't mean you're guaranteed the best intern talent. Like every aspect of the hiring process, there are ways to excel at the career fair and get candidates excited about your company and open internship positions.

Here are six tips for how to navigate career fairs to find the best intern candidates and turn them into your future superstar workers:

Be passionate: it's contagious
This tip might seem obvious, but it's so important it needs to be mentioned: be enthusiastic! If your career fair presence could be summed up by a punctuation mark, make sure it's an exclamation point instead of a period.

You know your company is a great place to work. You know your internship program is a great learning experience for students. Don't be shy about sharing your passion with interested candidates. Your enthusiasm will be contagious and hopefully infect great interns with an interest in your company.

Get out from behind the desk
You can't show passion for your company, its culture, and your great internship program if you appear to be hanging back. The reason to attend a career fair, after all, is to connect on a personal level with the best candidates.

Personal connection is why you share videos on your internship hub or connect with candidates on social media. It's hard to build those personal bonds likely to attract the best people if you've put a desk between you and the talent your company needs.

Bring along your alumni
If the career fair your company is attending is at a college, university, or other educational institution, there's no better way to form a quick connection than to bring along an alumni. Find out if someone on your staff has previously attended the school and bring them along as a brand ambassador.

These alumni employees will be able to act as a bridge between the school and your office. They can relate to students on a more personal level, and this connection can help give your company an upper hand in the war for intern talent.

No swag? Think up creative solutions to get students interested
Whether you have a newborn internship program, represent a small business, or are looking for interns for your startup company, not every organization has an unlimited budget. At career fairs, your competition will be bringing along plenty of swag. If you can't afford to raffle off an iPad or give away free t-shirts, don't despair. After all, even the best t-shirt won't make students more likely to apply for your open positions. Most students will never turn down anything free, whether it's a company pen or a complimentary candy.

If your marketing budget is looking thin, there are always creative ways to show off your company culture and get candidates interested in your jobs. You don't have to be a Fortune 500 company to establish an attractive employer brand. Bring along materials that show off your company culture. Think of interactive games and puzzles you can use to involve students and encourage them to stop for a moment or two at your booth.

Direct candidates back to your internship hub or corporate site
The InternMatch Annual Report surveyed more than 100,000 students, and the results about career fairs might surprise you. Only 3.8 percent selected career fairs as the most helpful tool in finding their most recent internship.

Don't pack up your booth just yet, though! This isn't to say you shouldn't attend career fairs, just that you should use them as one strategic part of your overall intern hiring plan. After you've enticed candidates and gotten them pumped about your company, make sure they know how to take the next step to apply for open positions.

Print cards, pamphlets, and fliers with all the information about where they can go to apply for jobs. Make sure your campus hub is attractive, on message with your employer brand, and easy to navigate. You want students to go back to their dorms and be able to apply with ease, not give up because they can't find you.

Follow up and build lasting relationships
So the career fair is over, your feet are tired, and you feel good about meeting some great prospects. Now is no time to kick back and relax! Career fairs are great ways to develop new hiring leads and expand your company's talent pipeline.

Continue the conversation with the candidates you engaged in person using social media tools, send them your company newsletter, and encourage them to jump in your company talent community and add to discussions. Not every candidate you spoke with at the career fair will end up an intern, but if you keep your connections fresh this talent could end up a lifelong fan or entry-level superstar.

Career fairs can be great places to connect with the talent of the future. By following some of these tips, you'll be able to uncover the very best intern candidates.

What are some tips you have for connecting with potential interns and entry level talent at career fairs? Share in the comments!