Swayed by Swag? Employers Come a-Courtin'

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when you considered yourself lucky if you could score a free cup of lemonade at a job fair. These days employers are competing for candidates' attention, handing out unique and original freebies and swag on campuses and at conferences that range from pens to personalized iPods.

For the first time since 2007, employers report a double-digit increase in their spring hiring projections, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). That's great news for the Class of 2011. Employers are finding that they're no longer mobbed by candidates and, in fact, are going the extra mile to stay fresh and cool in the minds of those with the most potential.

According to a survey taken by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), 55 percent of companies hiring are using pens and 41 percent use logoed items like T-shirts, calendars and high-tech accessories in conjunction with hiring. But they're finding that it's the high-tech accessories that are really attracting the younger crowd.

"As hiring increases, so does the need for creative use of promotional products to attract the best possible candidates," said Timothy M. Andrews, president and chief executive officer of ASI. "Whether companies hand out a cleverly branded T-shirt or a personalized iPod to potential recruits, the 'We want you' message is clearly conveyed."

Employers are also "thinking geek," employing technology like QR Codes on event giveaways for tracking and analytics. Those are pretty cool perks for the high-tech crowd fresh out of college. Also, unusual and useful branded items like an iPhone cover are essential to drive word-of-mouth conversation and branding exposure, said Jessica Miller-Merrell, CEO of Xceptional HR.

"Companies need to bring their A-game to job fairs, conferences and other events where they recruit and engage candidates," said Miller-Merrell. "Items need to be original, interesting and applicable to the audience. Interactive swag is one of the most effective tools, as well as interesting and unusual pins, and items that appeal to the audience."

And to think, just last year, job seekers were grateful for a branded bottle of water.

Next:10 Companies Hiring Right Now

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