For you, a recruiting event is about finding the best people to join your team. You evaluate attendees by their handshakes, their résumés, and their personalities. Your team, however, aren’t the only ones doing the evaluating; attendees are evaluating you, too. One way to get—and hold—their interest is to serve great food.
It’s been almost two decades since Google changed the way start-ups viewed perks, and since then free food has become an expected benefit whether welcoming a new employee or trying to attract one. Today, food is likely part of your onboarding checklist, your recruiting strategy, and your suite of benefits. Not just because it keeps you competitive with other employers, but also because food gives you a meaningful way to communicate your company culture and show you care about employees.
Using food as a perk, or lure, isn’t as simple as it once was, however. As Harvard Business Review reports, since so many employers offer free food as a perk, it takes more than a candy wall and free soda to secure top talent. Now, employees and recruits expect sushi, vegan tapas, onsite food trucks, and more. And that may leave you scrambling to give them what they expect, while still controlling costs.
Controlling Costs at Recruiting Events
Recruiting events are costly, yet worth the expense, when they help you find and welcome a new employee with tremendous potential. You can limit your spending during recruiting events by balancing the cost of the food with its utility and inviting the right recruits.
- Think about the cost of the food and its function: Yes, food served at a recruiting event is meant to feed people—but it can also help ease conversations, energize, and uplift. The wrong food, such as a buffet (with its long lines and inability to circulate while waiting for food), can be an expensive anchor, weighing down conversation and interrupting the flow. Choosing tray-passed appetizers, however, can be one way to provide high-end yet affordable food that encourages mingling.
- Target attendees carefully: To get the greatest value for the food provided, fill your recruiting events with the most valuable talent. Carefully consider your approach to advertising the event and focus on the quality of attendees over the quantity. For example, you can talk to local schools and training programs with courses that turn out great potential candidates and get them to promote your event. You can also consider advertising in trade magazines.
Onboarding with Food
The cost to welcome a new employee through onboarding is $4,000 per hire, according to Glassdoor. With a price tag that high, it’s important to have a strategy for every item on your onboarding checklist, allowing you to get double duty out of your food spending dollars.
- Using food as a mnemonic: If your onboarding checklist includes a tour of a large building or campus, offer a different snack food in each department. The food chosen can give new employees a glimpse of the department’s culture and can also help them remember how to get to various departments. Accounting—oh yeah, that’s where they had that moist and spicy pulled-pork slider!
- Showing you care, with food: Have your new employees mentioned something about having a gluten sensitivity? Being vegan? Loving Indian food? Use that information when choosing the food you serve in any catered meals during their first few weeks, so they truly understand how much you value them. Or, if you aren’t having any catered meals, use that information when designing a welcome basket with snacks for new employees.
- Telling your company’s story through food. According to Foundr, some companies welcome a new employee with a care package featuring the founders’ favorite foods and snacks. Create a new-hire welcome basket that includes foods or restaurant gift certificates for places that are part of your company’s story (new employees will surely enjoy).
- Building relationships at lunch. It’s good practice to buy new employees lunch on their first day, but you aren’t doing so just to be kind. You are doing it to help integrate them into the team. Have your onboarding checklist include instructions for pertinent departments to attend the welcoming lunch so new employees can use that time to meet teams and learn about functions of your company.
Food can communicate a lot to recruits and new hires. By deliberately choosing your food so that it impresses and supports your recruiting and onboarding strategy, you get twice as much out of every bite.