What is a Virtual Job Fair and How Does it Work?
It takes a lot of creativity to be able to keep your recruiting funnel active. Your recruitment marketing strategy should be the cornerstone of all of the programs and distribution channels for job postings. When we approach recruiting from a marketing perspective, one of the most important questions we can ask before testing a new strategy is “is it scalable?” If not, why test it? It sounds like a startup thing (because it is), but in any area of business operating with a tight budget and timeline, always having a “test, test, scale” mindset can amplify your efforts. This is especially true for companies that have dispersed recruiting and HR teams.
If you’re looking for something new to add to your recruiting arsenal, harness the power of the digital space, reach a lot of qualified candidates at once, and do so with a minimal budget, consider holding a virtual job fair.
A virtual career fair, or online job fair, is an online "event" that takes place at a certain time on a specific channel. During the session, which works similarly to how webinars are structured, recruiters and job seekers meet in a virtual space via chat rooms, teleconferencing, webcasts, and/or email to exchange information about job postings.
When you think about it, most job seekers have only encountered the traditional job fairs, likely at a time when their college or university worked with hiring companies to help place seniors and recent graduates in their first full-time, entry-level jobs. Companies that hire seasonally and at a high-volume also host on-site career fairs. But what if you’re trying to hire for a highly-skilled, roles, in narrowly defined industries such as information technology or healthcare? In those cases, you’re going to be looking for candidates with specific skill sets or certifications, both in and outside of your geographic area. Because of the high demand for certain skills, many of these candidates are currently employed and can’t take time off to come hang out at your office for a meet and greet. This is where the virtual job fair comes in.
How Do Virtual Job Fairs Work?
The format of an online career fair can be as diverse as the candidates you wish to reach. Many recruiting technology companies offer hosting platforms for webinars and chats, and these can be used for an event-specific hosted job fair. You can also set it up via any webinar platform that allows you to present to a group of registered attendees. Using the presentation model, you can then have recruiters “manning your booth” (chat) online, answer candidate questions for a general audience, but also move the conversations into another channel for a one-on-one virtual interview.
Let’s say you start with a Facebook Live career fair event. Once you promote it, set up registration and access, you can broadcast only to those who signed up to watch it on your page. You can take questions in real-time, and provide a messenger link for candidates to talk one-on-one with recruiters, share their LinkedIn profiles, and even have a chat format screening interview.
These virtual career fair events can be held after traditional office hours, allowing candidates who are currently employed to attend live. You can also record the presentation and offer it via a link on your social channels or on your career site.
There are so many advantages to a virtual job fair. If you’re recruiting for technology positions, this can be a game changer. An employer that is willing to recruit via an online career fair is probably more digitally sophisticated and open to flexible jobs or has open positions where technology skills are prized. This means you’ll make a great first impression on your candidates, as well as bring them into your talent funnel from awareness to consideration to applicant all in a short period of time.
Targeting Your Candidate Audience Online
So how do you promote your event? This is another advantage of the virtual career fair. You can use online ads and other tools to reach candidates with your event information. You’ll need to spend some budget on advertising, via Facebook or digital ads, but the more highly targeted your ad spend is, the more likely you are to reach the top talent your company is looking for. If you already have a robust and engaged audience on Facebook, that might be a great place to promote and host your event. If not, consider using another venue like a webinar platform and host it on your career site with gated registration.
Your registration can be set up to prequalify only the talent you are targeting - those with specific experience or certification - and then invite them to your event. This means that, unlike an in-person hiring event, you won’t have to deal with turning away people at the door because you can pre-qualify registrants who need to provide resume and qualification information before the event. It also gives you the ability to specifically seek out under-represented groups such as veterans or women in tech through these virtual events.
One company who has done a great job of this is Charles Schwab. Their mix of digital advertising for digital career fairs and in person events has caught my attention. I’ve included several screenshots of their Facebook ad campaigns that are designed to reach sales professionals. The first is a Facebook Story advertisement. The second is a sponsored post within a targeted job seekers Facebook feed.
When you’re setting your budget for your targeted ad spend for your event, consider what you’re saving because your HR team will not incur travel and operating expenses involved in attending traditional brick-and-mortar career fairs (along with table cost, banners, print brochures, and so on). With SHRM citing an average cost-per-hire of $4,129 to source, recruit and staff every new hire, virtual career fairs are an extremely scalable way for you to reach new candidates.
Some housekeeping items to consider:
- Test your platform before you set up registration. You’ll want to stage a “mock” career fair with the technology you’re using before you can promote your event. Nothing is worse than finding out at the worst possible moment that your attendees can’t see/hear/communicate when you’re holding your event.
- Provide information via email or message upon registration that gives attendees alternate ways to communicate with your team in case they have technological issues. It’s helpful to offer a method of communication to attendees that might have to skip the event at the last minute.
- Start small, then scale. Once you’ve tested your virtual career fair with a small set of candidates, say 10-20 attendees based on a 30-50 registrations, have a “post mortem” with your HR team and find out what worked, what didn’t, and what you can do better the next time with a larger audience.
- Additionally, consider promoting “online office hours” during your event so that attendees will know they can reach out to you outside of the career fair. This is great for your employer brand, and you’ll just need some automated response functionality (like a chat bot on Facebook messenger).
Because only a small percentage of companies are regularly holding virtual career fairs, you’re going to stand out from your competitors by executing this event. Your company stakeholders will also be impressed by the effort and the ROI you are able to demonstrate.