Here at Rise, we recently hosted our first virtual career fair, where we invited job seekers to join us for an online event to explore available opportunities, get to know some of our managers and learn about our ‘bring life to work’ company culture.
We had planned on hosting an in-person (remember when that was a thing?) job fair in March but with the transition to work from home because of COVID-19, we decided to do it all online at the end of September (Wednesday, September 30th, to be exact).
Our virtual career fair was a generally positive experience, but like anything else new, there were plenty of learning opportunities. Moving anything from an in-person event to a virtual environment comes with its challenges, but overall we felt that it went well and was worth the time it took to plan and execute.
Hosting a virtual career fair may seem like a daunting task, but if we can do it, so can you! Having potential candidates be able to explore opportunities outside of job boards and ask questions in real time will potentially give your company an advantage in hiring.
The first decision you have to make is when and how you’re going to host your virtual career fair and there are lots of options.
You may choose to use a virtual career fair platform such as Brazen or Hopin, or a video conferencing application such as Zoom or Meet. You can also explore other recruiting tools that have built-in career fair platforms. The next step is to organize with your departments which positions they would want advertised and which managers (hopefully at least one) would like to participate.
There are also a few other factors to consider, including:
- The number of potential attendees
- What your budget is for the event (if any)
- What resources you will have to create for the event (e.g. a landing page, ads)
- What type of message you want to send about your employer branding (this will determine what sorts of topics you discuss)
- What kind of candidate experience are you looking for? (This may determine where you will post about and advertise the virtual career fair)
- What roles you’re trying to fill and what sort of talent you’re looking to attract (but don’t forget to look out for implicit bias in hiring)
We used Zoom for our hiring fair, and while it mostly went well, there were some technical issues in the first half. Marina Smith, our Talent & Culture Manager, who helped host and organize the event said that her advice is to “be nice to your IT guy”, because they are the ones who’ll be able to save the event incase of technical issues.
You’ll also have to decide on the format of your recruiting event. Will you do it Q&A style, have a specific structure, set up virtual booths or give a tour? Betterteam writes how it should all be about getting qualified candidates' attention, so “videos, info packets, virtual tours, live streams of guest speakers, and chatrooms are some features you may want to invest in”.
Once you’ve decided on the format and all other logistical aspects, it’s time to get people interested in attending. Use your marketing or communications team to help promote and share the event. Ask all of your employees to share your social posts about your hiring fair. We created a landing page for applicants to register for the fair and view available postings.
Although the hope is that such virtual events can go off without a hitch, prepare yourself for things to go wrong.
Here’s what Marina had to say about our virtual career fair: “It was our first one. We learned a lot, mostly about how webinars themselves work. We’ll have to make a few logistical tweaks next time and may need to change up the format a little so that managers can participate in the Q&A session. We really learned that people love connecting with us directly and that we could just be ourselves and keep it real.”
Marina also advises that you do a mock virtual career fair first as a dry-run to test any issues you may have and just get in some practice to help shake out any nerves you, or others who are participating, may have.
The final step is making sure that you follow up with participants and get interested candidates started with their applications—and hopefully their rewarding careers with your company.
Keep an eye out for standout participants during the virtual career fair as well. A standout may be someone who’s asking good questions, seems to know a lot about your company already, or mentions experience that they have that is relevant to a particular role you’re trying to fill.
Hosting a virtual career fair is a great way to remotely connect with potential candidates and highlight all the reasons why your company is a great place to work.