Virtual Career Fairs 101

In the past, one method of recruiting talent was via career fairs, but now that the coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new age of social distancing, how can you host a job fair while keeping your recruiters and candidates safe?

Source: Lucian Milasan / Shutterstock

Enter: the virtual career fair. Chris Salzman, Director of Health Care at CareerBuilder, joins us to discuss this virtual recruiting method and how you can create a virtual career fair for your organization.

What Is a Virtual Career Fair?

We’ve all heard of a career/job fair. It’s an event that offers candidates and employers the opportunity to meet and learn more about each other before going down the hiring journey. And much like the in-person, live event, virtual career fairs offer the same opportunities.

“Virtual career fairs are similar to traditional job fairs, but take place online rather than in-person,” says Salzman. “We saw these gaining momentum before the pandemic; looking ahead, we believe virtual career fairs will continue to be an important element of companies’ strategies given the time and cost savings afforded to HR teams.”

“In a nutshell, these can take the place of on-site job fairs or on-campus recruiting and enable organizations to attract strong candidates—both active and passive—to the top of the talent funnel,” he adds. “Virtual career fairs also help convert candidates to applicants up to three times faster, qualify candidates through screener and knock-out questions, and keep candidates engaged before, during, and after the event.”

How Can a Company Organize One?

If this sounds like something your company or organization is interested in implementing, Salzman offers some guidance before kicking off the event. “Companies looking to host career fairs should find a strong technology partner that can help them to bring the event to life,” he says. “Organizations should expect that a technology partner can not only create a strong foundation for an event, but also bring in candidates to build the talent pool.”

In addition, Salzman offers some suggestions on what you’ll need in order to make your virtual career fairs a success:

  • Branded microsite. A branded microsite is an important first step and must allow for simple applicationprocesses and automated scheduling, Salzman says. “Microsites give employers an opportunity to provide more background about their company and are imperative for event-signups,” he adds. “Making the experience streamlined and intuitive for candidates is also critical. If candidates can find all of the information they need in one place—on the microsite—they will be better prepared for the event, ultimately leading to more fruitful conversations and a higher conversion rate.”
  • Publicity. Publicizing the event will be key, says Salzman, but you want to make sure you’re promoting the event in all the appropriate places.Well-targeted advertising campaigns are critical in bringing in a large and diverse pool of qualified and relevant candidates,” he adds. “A company that exclusively relies on its social media channels will miss out on potentially strong job candidates that are not currently following that company on social media. Partnering with a job board gives employers access to that talent pool as well, which for CareerBuilder includes 140 million jobseekers.”
  • Communication with candidates. “Event promotion must be ongoing; targeted e-mails can foster stronger engagement with jobseekers who have the skills required for the position,” says Salzman. “Companies are already seeing an influx of irrelevant applications for jobs as jobseekers take a ‘spray and pray’ approach to the application process. Targeting is key and can be especially important for healthcare roles, for example, where employees need specific degrees or certifications.”
  • Technology to gather data. Whichever platform you partner with to host your event, you want to make sure there is an on-demand and custom reporting component. Salzman says these should be included within the platform.Without data to show how many candidates are signed up for virtual career fairs, it can be difficult for hiring teams to properly allocate staff,” he adds. “While HR teams can have several open chats at once, each team member should feel like they can dedicate proper time and attention to each conversation.”
  • Key staff support. Just like an in-person event, you’ll want to make sure you have key staff on hand to support the event. “Dedicated project management support before, during, and after the event is critical,” says Salzman.And we’re not just talking about hiring managers and recruiters; because these events will be virtual, you’ll want to include your IT staff just in case there are any bugs that need to be worked out. Tech glitches can occur, so having a support team accessible is key,” he adds. “Also, by connecting with a team member who’s been overseeing your event from the start, companies can gain insight into what worked well and areas for improvement for the future.”  

Once you have these components in place, it’s time to launch your virtual career fair, but what should you expect post-event?

What Should a Company Expect from a Virtual Career Fair?

“With virtual career fairs, companies are able to connect with many different candidates within a structured framework,” says Salzman. “This makes it easy for hiring teams to remember each person they spoke with, without having to keep track of business cards or paper résumés.”

“Given conversations occur via text chat, the experience may feel a bit different than what a hiring team may be accustomed to, but this gives HR managers the opportunity to understand how a jobseeker would communicate via e-mail or Slack and, their level of professionalism,” he adds.

“Hiring managers can expect longer and well-thought-out responses to their questions because candidates have time to review a typed-out response before sending it,” Salzman says. “Also, an advantage is that all conversations are saved to the platform, enabling HR teams to go back through each chat and refresh their memory of each candidate as they consider taking the next step.”

For this reason alone, the ability to gather and access data at a later date will make or break your virtual career fair, and the proof is in the pudding.

CareerBuilder’s own version of a virtual career fair—Virtual Open House—“can differ based on a company’s technology partner and the type of role they are looking to fill, but we’ve seen companies achieve ROI of up to 300%,” says Salzman. “When Regency Health worked with CareerBuilder for a virtual hiring event, they came away with 158 qualified candidates at a cost of just $98 per qualified lead.”

It doesn’t look like the coronavirus pandemic will be ending anytime soon, which is why it is even more important for employers to showcase how they’re keeping workers and jobseekers safe. By hosting a virtual career fair, you’re proving to candidates that you take their health and safety seriously. You’re also showing younger candidates that your organization can adapt to challenges by utilizing the technology these workers are accustomed to using.