What to expect from a recruitment open day

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Hands up who’s applied for a job only to find that the first stage is attending a recruitment open day? A fair few of us probably. Hands up who’s then gone and panicked, asking such questions as: ‘What is an open day?’ ‘Is it an interview?’ ‘How should I prepare?’

Our sister brand, Optamor recently helped Project Centre promote an open evening for highways engineers, transport planners and urban designers, so working roughly off the format for that day, here’s what you can expect:

It’s probably not an interview

Firstly, don’t confuse recruitment open days with assessment centres; these are quite different beasts. An assessment day typically requires you to prepare in advance for / participate in an activity against which you’ll be rated. Unless your invitation specifies otherwise, rest assured, the open day is usually activity and interview-free, so you won't have to worry about answering those awkward interview questions. That’s not to say you won’t have the chance to stand out, but we’ll get to that.

Most companies hold recruitment open days as a way to connect with potential candidates, opening their doors purposefully to share their culture and allow you to get a feel for the place. They usually take place when a company has multiple jobs to fill; this being the initial stage of the recruitment process. It’s after this event that you might be invited to formally apply for a job. 

You’ll learn all about the company

As you’d expect, most recruitment open days begin with an introduction to the company in the form of presentations given by notable employees (management, department leaders, HR, etc). You’ll learn about the company’s humble beginnings, how it developed and how got to where it is today. You'll probably learn about recent work and current projects from the actual doers, giving you an idea of what you might get involved with. It’s likely you’ll hear about the company’s exciting plans for the future and get a sense of where you might fit into the picture – how the vacancies contribute to the business’s plans for further growth.

They may talk about the various roles which are on offer; undoubtedly, they’ll touch upon the working environment and company culture. This is where you can start to understand whether the company’s values align with your own, and if your skills, beliefs and characteristics would be a good fit for them.

You'll get a grand tour

Nothing gives you more insight into a company than a tour of its buildings, though this isn’t to be expected of every recruitment open day – not all take place on company premises. To have a tour, especially around what’s usually a top secret environment, could therefore be construed as a real treat and is only provided by those who feel their facilities really do have something to offer.

Sometimes it’s the buildings that give the most information about a company, speaking volumes about how staff are regarded and the company’s attitudes to work-life balance. Is there a fabulous cafeteria? Open and airy spaces for people to relax? Are the basic facilities of a decent standard? The tour can equip you with more insight than three hours of presentations.

Interaction with staff: real life insights

On the agenda at Project Centre's open day was the opportunity not only to interact and talk to employees about the business, but also about what they're working on and why they enjoy working there. To obtain a fully-rounded picture of the company, this type of real life insight is invaluable. It gives you the chance to discover what life is really like - and whether it might suit you.

This is also where you can differentiate yourself from the pack, should you wish, by asking some intelligent and pertinent questions which demonstrate you are not only interested but are worth pursuing.

Good questions to ask employees might include:

“What is it about your job that makes you stay here?”
“How would you describe the company’s culture?”
“How much autonomy do you have around decision-making?”
“Do you have the tools necessary to do your job efficiently?”

Often at the end of a recruitment day, there will be a chance for some further networking, either in the form of a question and answer session or some less formal mingling over drinks. Try to resist binning this off in favour of an earlier train, think of it as an ‘information exchange’ – the chance to interact with employees and hiring managers, to obtain additional information which hasn’t been provided and also to position yourself as a candidate worth taking notice of.  

There might be group activities

I know. Insert groan here. It's possible you may be asked to participate in group activities, observed by a manager who will assess how you interact with each other and your verbal contribution. This can pile the pressure on a bit and there's always, without fail, a loud-mouth in the group. However, it's usually not about who shouts the loudest or pushes themselves forward. In fact, these people are probably unwittingly self-sabotaging their chances. Predominantly, these activities are designed to determine team fit, so be personable, help others, take part and be yourself. This is a common feature of recruitment events where the hiring takes place on the day, so be prepared. 

6 ways to get the most out of a recruitment day

  1. Research the company: Make sure you really do want to go to the event – it’s possible that places are limited and indifference could cost someone else their chance. Plus there’s nothing more disheartening for the organisers than people who creep out during the coffee break.
  2. Be prepared: Scour the invitation for information so you know precisely where you’re going, how to get there and how long it will take – you don’t want to be that one who’s remembered for turning up late.
  3. Zhuzh up your LinkedIn profile: If they haven’t already, recruiters and subsequent new acquaintances will connect with you online, and you want them to be impressed, don’t you? While you’re there, ramp up the privacy on Facebook too (p.s. here are some top tips on how to get noticed on LinkedIn).
  4. Question everything: As mentioned above, jot down some good, relevant questions to ask employees and hiring managers. Be that person who is remembered for their genuine interest – just don’t go overboard.
  5. If in doubt, ask! The schedule for the day should be sent to you in advance, so you’ll be able to plan your journey, timings, etc. If you have questions about any part of it, ask your recruitment consultant or HR contact.
  6. Enjoy it! A recruitment open day shouldn’t be stressful or put much pressure on you. Go in with an open mind, soak up lots of information and who knows? Perhaps you’ll be showing potential candidates round yourself in a few years’ time?

What's next?

This obviously varies from company to company, but the organisers should explain what happens next - whether it’s signing up there and then or giving you a deadline by which to apply. More often than not, it will revolve around giving you time to digest everything you’ve seen, heard and learned, to determine whether you want to apply for a job. The rest is in your hands!

To discover more about open days or to find out about our latest vacancies, get in touch. Alternatively, if you’d like to discover how we can help you hold your own recruitment evening or event, contact our Marketing Team.