Struggling to hire talented people with the skills your company needs? Try putting on your own job fair.

This scheme is the brainchild of Jenny Ta, founder and CEO of Sqeeqee (pronounced "squeaky") a portal that brings all its users shopping and social activities into one place. The idea is that one portal connects you to your Amazon and eBay accounts as well as your Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections. Sqeeqee "buddies" can buy or sell from within the portal, create invitation-only events and even earn "Sqeeqee Bucks." It's an ambitious idea, and Ta, who has the funding to hire up to a dozen more people this year, needed to find forward-looking, outgoing people to bring into the company, particularly as hers is an all-virtual team. So she decided to do something very un-virtual to find them. She created her own all-Sqeeqee job fair. "It was a new outside-the-box thing that I wanted to do," she says.

Ta booked a hotel near Disneyland (so that job fair candidates could hang out there at the end of the day and wait for traffic to die down). She placed local ads announcing the job fair's schedule. She arranged for coffee and snacks for participants and sent some of her team leaders to sit at five or six tables each dedicated to a different area of the company. Candidates interested in technology jobs, marketing jobs, or other areas were invited to visit the appropriate table to drop off their resumes and learn more about Sqeeqee.

Ta herself arranged to be nearby, but held off showing up at the event herself until she got an idea of the turnout. "When you do things for the very first time, you have to go in with a Plan A and a Plan B," she explains. The job fair started at noon, and by 1:30 there were more than 100 job candidates on hand, all eager to meet her, so she headed over.

Job candidates compete onstage

What Ta did next was even more offbeat--she created a mini-game show right there at the job fair. From the stage, she asked marketing candidates to guess a number that she had in mind, and invited those with the five closest guesses to join her onstage. There, in front of the crowd, with the pressure on, she challenged them with questions such as, how would the candidate increase Sqeeqee's visibility? And, if she were to go on vacation for three months leaving the candidate in charge, how would things change by the time she returned?

In the first case, she was looking for answers that revealed how much the candidate knew about Sqeegee. If the suggestions were things the company was already doing, she knew to skip that candidate. On the other hand, one gentleman distinguished himself by not only knowing what Sqeeqee was doing for publicity, but also that the company had recently launched a game called Squiggy Piggy and what the game was like.

With the second question, she was looking for confidence and new ideas, and while most candidates promised that she would return to find her company much as she'd left it, one candidate intrigued her by predicting that Sqeeqee's user base would triple and its revenues rise 15 percent during her absence. "That answer was sufficient that I wanted to meet with him afterward to find out more in depth how he would do that."

But she also hoped to learn which candidates would be most comfortable, and most outgoing, when she put them on the spot in front of a crowd. "I'm looking for candidates who have a go-getter kind of mentality, self-motivated, self-driven, and able to make decisions that benefit the company and staff as a whole," she says.

A conversation with the whole room

Those who failed to guess the right numbers weren't left out. After the game show completed, she asked the remaining marketing candidates in the crowd if they had anything else to add. They raised their hands and explained what they would do differently from the people who had been onstage. "There was a total interaction for the whole room," she says.

A few weeks after the job fair, Ta has selected 10 candidates to interview in greater depth--and if she doesn't wind up filling all her available positions, she may run another job fair. "It is costly," she concedes. "The venue alone is a couple of thousand with catering. But I would definitely do it again. It's something new, it's entertaining, and it forced everyone to be open in front of others. When you're working for a social media company, you should be interactive and open."

Published on: Mar 20, 2015
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.