Dear Matt: I've noticed a trend of companies hold hiring events at a local bar/restaurant, inviting job seekers to meet with them and discuss current openings in a happy hour setting. What do you know about these events?

Matt says: Employers are always looking for new or unique ways to attract job seekers. That's why speed networking, sponsored happy hours and other nontraditional recruiting methods are being embraced by organizations, says Lisa Frame-Jacobson, president of Feature Talent Builders (, a Twin Cities-based human resources consulting and professional coaching firm.

"As the labor market tightens, employers are offering creative ways to get their company in front of job seekers," says Frame-Jacobson. "These opportunities help build relationships in an environment that is, for some, more comfortable than traditional interview settings."

For example, one large national retailer recently held what it called a "talent networking hiring event" at a downtown Minneapolis steakhouse, promoting openings in communications, finance, HR, inventory management, logistics, marketing, strategic sourcing and strategy.

Many job seekers dread networking events — especially ones where you meet face-to-face with those who make hiring decisions. But advance preparation — as with any traditional interview — is key to success.

"Some of these events will include opportunity to sit down and do an on-the-spot interview, while others may be more of a casual conversation with future follow-up," says Frame-Jacobson. "While being professional is expected, employers also want to see you in a more natural setting than across from their desk." Frame-Jacobson offers these tips:

1. Research the company's website and Google search for recent news. See if there are specific roles you would like to be considered for; bring this up at the event.

2. Dress professionally and arrive 10 minutes before the start of the event.

3. If you choose to have an alcoholic drink, limit it to no more than one.

4. Bring several copies of your résumé and business cards to share with recruiters and other job seekers. Network with everyone you can — not just company representatives.

5. Prepare your two-minute speed networking pitch. Practice it and perfect before the event. Example: "I'm currently seeking a new position that will leverage my proven track record for [insert your strengths]. My top three accomplishments that I feel would fit well within your company are [xxx]. What can you tell me about your experience working for the company, and who do you recommend I contact to explore career opportunities?

6. Collect business cards and take notes on follow-up actions.

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