How to Recruit at Conferences like SXSW

Employing conference recruiting strategies

Conferences are a great opportunity for industry professionals to network and educate themselves on emerging topics and technologies within their spaces, but they are also a great way for recruiters to engage and recruit top talent in one place.    SXSW, the interactive, music, and technology super conference and festival is no exception.  It’s a topic worth talking about since there are a number of companies both large and small that are employing conference recruiting strategies like PepsiCo, AT&TFleishman Hillard, and even staffing companies like Robert Half.

The Obvious

  • Conference Booth. Wow the attendees with your swag and iPad give-a-ways.  Let the attendees come to you.  This strategy worked for Robert Half.  Their booth was extremely busy at SXSW.  It didn’t hurt that they had the best swag bags of the conference that were equally environmentally conscious.
  • Conference Sponsor. As a sponsor, attendees are reminded about your brand using various mediums including website, signage, and advertising.  Serving as a sponsor serves as more of a passive recruiting method unless you have access to the attendee listing.

Engage Your Candidate Pool

  • Feet on the Street. This approach squarely places the recruiter in sessions and making contacts with attendees that are specific to the positions you are trying to fill.  At SXSW, recruiters who are looking for iPhone and iPad developers, should attend sessions, parties, and other events that are interesting and useful to that particular audience.
  • Event Host. Bring the candidates to you by hosting a developer meetup during an event.  You control not only the guest list and can effectively keep out the competition.  An approach likes this at SXSW is somewhat of a gamble.  Meetups, events, and parties are everywhere.  Make yours the biggest, the best, and offer the best swag.  Preparation and marketing is key to gain the attention of this ADD audience.  Hands down PepsiCo created a fun, interesting, and interactive environment.
  • Be Creative. One of my favorite tools used at SXSW was the use of QR Codes.  Seems that employers like AT&T are finding ways to engage candidates with technology by encouraging booth visitors to enter a chance to win a fabulous prize by scanning a QR Code and foregoing the swag.  Charging stations at any conference are another way to engage your audience creatively.  At at technology conference like SXSW, there are just not enough electrical outlets to go around.
  • Strategically Placed Swag. I admit that I used this particular marketing tool by placing copies of my book at the Hilton Lobby and the Samsung Blogger’s Lounge.  You never know when someone like @garyvee or Guy Kawasaki might happen upon your book.  SXSW is that kind of place.  One minute you’re talking to a developer and the next you are talking to angel investors or to a Wiley publisher.

After the Conference

  • Secondary Hash Tags. As someone who is a consultant and business professional, I will be leveraging every opportunity to take those initial connections to the next level.  Since there are 24,000 attendees at SXSW, the use of secondary hash tags are a strategy that I am deploying.  Because SXSW is so very large, a secondary hash tag is assigned for each individual session by the organizers of SXSW.  Using tools like Tweet Adder (affiliate link), I can download twitter lists and export them based on hash tag.  I can target my list to the sessions where candidates or potential clients are attending.
  • The Big Orange Book. Conference attendees at SXSW received a big orange book full of information including sponsors and attendee contact information.  You can use this information as a way to continue to reach a new audience and candidate channels.  The SXSW website also offers a targeted search option for attendees as well.
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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. […] SXSW Interactive as well as Austin for its social media prowess.  Social media is not only accepted but encouraged.  Popular hash tags for include #SXSW and #SXSWi (for interactive).  Interactive sessions will have their own separate secondary hash tags to make following the stream easier so use those as well.  It’s also a great way to connect with liked minded folks or to recruiters to source great candidates. […]

  2. […] is just a short list of the major tips to think about. For a more in-depth list read this post from blogging4jobs and be prepared to rock SXSW with the Talent Tornado team or whatever conference you are planning […]


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