We first started hosting Virtual Career Fairs in September 2016 - and, to be honest, when that first event went online, it was a bit of a nail-biter for us.
Would the job seeking students attend?
Would recruiter and students start chatting?
Would the conversations be relevant?
In short: Would this new concept work for our particular network?
A little over a year later, we are in our 2nd season of Virtual Career Fairs - we have had attending companies from all over Europe, small startups (e.g. Planday, Vivino, Feedwork, Travelbird...) as well as large multinational corporations (e.g. Credit Suisse, Novo Nordisk, Nike, Philipp Morris...)
While we are still developing the concept (as well as its spin-off Graduateland LIVE), we already know a bit more about what works - and what doesn’t. So, we can now give some pointers for organisations who’d like to attend an online recruitment event or are playing with the thought of hosting one themselves.
Keep the event timeframe short
We have gradually scaled by the timeframe in which our Virtual Career Fairs take place, from 5 hours at the first fair to 2.5 - 3 hours now. Initially, we had taken a timeframe that was somewhat close to that of a traditional career fair, until we realised: Traditional career fairs are longer because it simply takes longer to exchange information.
At our virtual events, we see that students, as well as recruiters, engage in multiple chats simultaneously, effectively putting all of their activity into the 1st hour after going online. Also, the stalls can (and should!) be equipped with FAQs and target group filters which cut out some steps of the conversation.
Lesson learned: Don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of time just to make it worth everyone’s while - most students are quite happy with keeping it short as long as they get the information they need.
Bring jobs - and people who can say how to get them
Goodies are still a vital part of traditional career fairs. If you don’t have any vacancies at the moment and you are just shopping around for candidates, you’ll still go on campus with some merchandise or candy to hand out so students will remember you.
With the Internet of Things (IoT) on the rise, maybe that goodie-system will find it’s way into the Virtual Career Fairs - but until it does, the vacancies you display at the fairs are front and centre.
Whenever we survey students after a virtual career fair about their reasons for attending the event, the overwhelming majority says “the opportunity to speak with recruiters” and “jobs”.
While the attendees know that they will probably not pocket a job offer right at the fair, they want to get at least 1 step closer - which means they want to talk to someone who is involved in the hiring process. Some companies use this as an opportunity for pre-interview scanning, effectively reducing the time to hire, for junior positions.
Lesson learned: Students decide whether to come to a Virtual Career Fair based on the job opportunities, but...
Aim for the right match, not the biggest reach
So, is the whole “jobs instead of goodies” an advantage or a disadvantage for your employer branding? Let’s say, like so many things on the internet, it levels the playing field a little bit.
The stalls with the most traffic at Virtual Career Fairs are often internationally known companies that bring a lot of vacancies for students and graduates to apply. No big surprises there.
However, we regularly see how a particularly relevant job opportunity from a lesser known firm gains traction among users at the fairs, even though they would have never thought to apply there in the first place. And with that relevance comes extra reach: Companies usually see a spike in applications to their job posts in the days after the fair and sometimes even jump right the top of our quarterly “Most popular jobs” ranking.
Chatting is not the same as emailing back and forth
The big thing on our To-Do-list for future fairs is to make the dialogues between recruiters and students feel even more like conversations. One of the most important features we have added in that regard is the "Online Candidate List" - so that, as a recruiter, you don't have to wait for students to come to you to chat. Instead, you can actively approach them, based on the criteria you have set.
Introducing yourself professionally requires a lot of information on both sides, so the typed messages tend to be a bit longer. The biggest grievance for students still is if they don’t get an answer at all or with a long time lag.
The companies who are most efficient at answering, usually sit down with their recruiting team before the fair and go over the different jobs, discuss typical questions and desired profiles, and make a list of answer to standard questions.
Learning: For us, the next step is (and some may say, finally) introducing a video chat feature - so stay tuned!
So, these are our learnings after 1 year of introducing, tweaking and fine-tuning the whole concept of Virtual Careers Fairs for student & graduate recruitment. If you would like to experience it in action, your next chance will be the Graduate Trainee VCF in January 2018.
Beyond we are always happy for feedback, thoughts and also questions about the whole concept - just drop us a line!