Human Resources Today

For more than a decade, I worked in university recruitment -- at a Washington, D.C. area staffing firm and for one of the largest auto insurance companies in the United States. Each fall and spring semester, I’d pack up our career fair booth, ship boxes of brochures and swag (stuff we all get), and travel to colleges and universities across the country. And, I wasn’t alone in this. As an insurance company, our university recruitment team visited more than 100 schools each year, met with thousands of students, and attended hundreds of career-related events.

On campus, we handed out pens, pencils, highlighters, and cups. One year, we had digital music download codes, paper fans, and drink coasters. And, without fail, every summer during our campus strategy planning session, our team had the “giveaway” conversation:
 

  • What should we order?

  • What giveaways are new and cool?

  • What do students want?

  • What will help us stand out?

  • What do we have budget for?

  • Do we even need career fair giveaways?

It was an important conversation to have because whatever we handed out included our company’s brand and left an impression with students. Sometimes it left a good impression. Other times, we’d find our swag on the counter in the bathroom after an event. (Sad, but true.)

Recently at exaqueo, we had a conversation with one of our global clients about giveaways. So, we asked our team to share their best campus swag ideas. And, we asked Elizabeth, our former Marketing Associate and recent graduate of the University of Richmond, to gather intel from her peers at school.

Here’s what we asked: What are the BEST corporate giveaways you've received during recruiting events? Why did they stand out? What do you like about them?

Here’s what we heard:

  • Popsockets for phones

  • High-quality school supplies, e.g. mini staplers or sticky notes

  • Hand lotion or hand sanitizer that is travel size

  • High-quality chapstick (surprised us too!)

The common theme? Students are looking for career fair swag that is useful to them. Not junky, cheap, random promotional items. (<-- Click to tweet this!) They need to be relevant to where students are in their lives (they are on campus and on their phones), and can easily be tossed into a backpack or purse.

When it comes to giveaways, you want to consider your audience and match the giveaway to the situation. For example, at your career fair booth, it is wise to have smaller items in greater quantities. The real purpose of the career fair is to start a conversation, not for students to shop the tables. If you are sponsoring a dinner with a student organization, hosting a small-group student tour of your office, or meeting with the career center team, you may want to give a nicer (possibly more expensive) branded item. We like BPA-free water bottles or moleskine notebooks for these occasions.

Still not sure what swag is relevant or best represents your employer brand? Consider doing your own research by asking your organization’s recent early career and intern hires. Don’t be afraid to tap into your personal networks, too. Ask family members or neighbors who are in college and high school seniors for their opinions. Research like this will help ground your campus strategy planning and ensure your giveaways are impactful.    

If you liked this post, check out: this one: 5 Things University Recruitment Teams Need to Do Now


Shannon Smedstad (@shannonsmedstad) is an Engagement Director and Principal Employer Brand Strategist for exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm building employer brands and the talent strategies that drive them through research, consulting, and creative execution. Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research, and recruiting strategy offerings.

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