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Virtual Career Fairs 101: An Economic Developers’ Guide to Making Online Talent Matches

Virtual career fairs have an obvious advantage during a global pandemic: job seekers and employers can make meaningful connections without ever shaking hands or speaking face-to-face.

While online events are filling this immediate need, some predict that virtual meetings are here to stay beyond Covid-19. As more people test the waters and experience virtual career fairs firsthand, the savings in both logistics and cost are hard to deny. Job seekers can now join a job fair from anywhere in the world; data and tracking analytics are available to measure your event’s success; and all in-person costs such as event halls, table rentals and printed name tags are no longer necessary.

Virtual career fairs are not new to the recruiting toolbox—many companies and universities have been hosting them for years. So why are economic development organizations and chambers stepping up to the plate to host them? Collaboration = scale. Place marketers have the power to bring together multiple employers, multiple universities, multiple talent pools, plus invest all the marketing and promotion dollars that an individual organization just can’t swing on their own.

Despite the convenience for all parties involved (job seekers, recruiters and the organizers), there is still a considerable amount of time and effort required to successfully pull off a seamless virtual career fair.

Here are five tips on what to do (and not do) when hosting a virtual career fair:

1. Ask local employers what kind of talent they need

If you’re an economic development organization or chamber of commerce that is interested in hosting a virtual career fair for the region’s employers, ask them what type of fair would be most beneficial. This will give your virtual career fair the best shot at addressing and easing your region’s talent deficit. Maybe they need healthcare workers or technologists, or perhaps they need some help retaining college graduates in the area. If there is an overarching theme, that should inform the theme of your virtual career fair. If answers are all over the map, perhaps a more general virtual career fair featuring a wide variety of industries would be the best fit. The main takeaway is to keep your virtual career fair as mutually beneficial as possible for all participants involved.

2. Keep the job seeker in mind. Always.

From the start of your planning and promotion to the post-event survey, keeping the job seekers’ needs at top of mind is critical. When creating your materials, your goal should be to make your target audience’s brains burn as few calories as possible. In other words, don’t make them work to understand what it is you’re offering them. Boldly and clearly display which industries will be represented at the fair, required skills, companies participating, a link to the registration page, and of course, when the fair will take place.

During the fair itself, ensure that you have a strong recruiter-to-job-seeker ratio to keep your job seekers from waiting in long lines or not getting the chance to chat at all. A good rule of thumb is to have one company representative for every 20 attendees. After the event ends, follow up by thanking the job seekers for coming and request their feedback via a short survey.

3. Pick the right platform for your needs

If you have looked into hosting a virtual career fair (or really, virtual events of any kind), you know that there are a lot of platforms out there ranging in price, features, customer service and capabilities.

Before becoming completely overwhelmed by information overload, picture your ideal virtual event. Would you like animated people standing in the lobby or more of a board layout listing the companies participating? Do you envision your attendees chatting via instant message, video or email? What type of data and analytics would you like access to after the event? Having at least a general idea of what you want out of your platform will save you from testing platforms that aren’t going to be a good fit in the first place. If you’re not sure, ask HR executives what they prefer (after all, this fair is to help them find talent not you).

Still not sure where to start? DCI has audited, demoed, and worked with platforms in this space. If you would like to further discuss virtual platforms, always feel free to reach out, and we will happily offer any guidance we can.

DCI has worked with Brazen—the world’s leading virtual event platform—whose clients include  top employers like KPMG, CVS, Lincoln Financial Group, plus many universities. They have run virtual career fairs with thousands of attendees and have top-notch technical and customer support. Want to see it in action? Email [email protected] to set-up a demo!

4. Don’t skimp on promotion

Whether you solicit the help of an agency like DCI or wish to take on everything in-house, thorough and creative promotion are going to make the biggest difference in the quality of your event. How and where you promote your virtual job fair will directly affect who shows up. For example, let’s say you’re hosting a medical virtual career fair featuring all sorts of healthcare workers. The companies participating are hiring in this field, and you have told them that high-quality talent will be in attendance.

If you didn’t promote to that audience properly—whether it be via targeted digital advertising, strategic media placements, partnering with relevant organizations or associations, etc.—how will the top-notch healthcare workers know to show up in the first place? Meanwhile, companies are disappointed that they didn’t find great candidates, the non-medical job seekers are unsatisfied that none of the job opportunities were a good fit, and you’re left with a virtual career fair that didn’t yield the best ROI.

The quality of your promotional materials matter. If you don’t have the budget for digital ads or sponsored content, there are still plenty of ways to brand and promote your event. Ensure that your social graphics are well done; going the extra mile by creating shareable social videos or a landing page on your website will make a big difference in proving to talent that this will be a reputable event worth their time.

5. Don’t forget the feedback loop

Arguably the most valuable statistic after the fair is how many interviews and hires were a direct result of your event. Despite some platforms’ strong tracking capabilities during the event itself, that tracking ends along with the fair. This is why it is crucial to develop and maintain strong partnerships with the companies participating. Whether it is on good faith or a more formal agreement, you’re going to need to be able to follow up with the companies and hear those results directly.

As you begin to communicate with prospective employers while planning your virtual job fair, bring this requirement up from the start to emphasize that a feedback loop will be a requirement for them to participate in your event.

DCI has experience planning, managing and executing virtual career fairs. If you would like to see a case study of a successful virtual career fair for recent college graduates that DCI worked on, please feel free to view here, or browse other virtual experiences DCI offers. 

Written By

Heather Gantz

Heather Gantz is an Assistant Account Executive specializing in talent marketing at DCI. With a background in journalism, Heather is passionate about quality and compelling storytelling. Since joining DCI in 2020, she has enjoyed working with clients including Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, Greater New Orleans, Inc., and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.

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