Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and integrated meeting solutions.
He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia. Richard has written for sites such as DataFeedWatch and Business2Community.
The past year has presented employers and job seekers with a series of unique challenges. Not only has it changed the future of office space forever, but it’s also transformed the recruitment process.
At a time when most applicants have been forced to stay at home, virtual career fairs present themselves as the best option to keep the hiring process flowing.
However, carrying out a successful virtual career event may seem daunting. Luckily, there are some key methods you can follow in order to host an effective and well-organized virtual career fair.
1. Choose your platform (and budget)
When choosing a platform for a virtual career fair, it is all too easy to take a simple, basic approach. Nevertheless, in order to mimic the look and feel of a physical and traditional fair, it is important to find a platform which permits a diverse range of features.
For example, with branded exhibit halls, booths, webinars, and a resource centre, the virtual fair will appear more robust and exciting to prospective employees. This option, however, might require a larger budget.
Luckily, online employment fairs tend to cost a fraction of the budget needed for a physical convention, since the expenses required for infrastructure are not an issue. The budget for a virtual convention can vary depending on a number of things:
- The number of potential attendees.
- The length of time it will be running.
- The platform features utilised (webinars, booths, etc).
- The amount of advertising/marketing you intend to do.
- Hiring dedicated IT support.
- Which video-based solutions you use.
2. Include webinars
Webinars are a useful resource that can make an employment fair seem like an exciting opportunity for attendees. These master courses, taught and led by professionals from very different fields, give job hunters an extra reason to attend the fair. This way, job seekers will feel like they are investing their time wisely.
Offering live webinars allows hosts to interact with attendees, making the experience more personalized and interactive. As a webinar host, the company will be expected to have the best conference phone at their disposal. This should allow for high quality audio, reduced background noise, and the ability to screen share and annotate.
If it’s your first time hosting a virtual job fair, you might be a bit overwhelmed. It’s important to spend time researching and choosing the best webinar software. That way, you can guarantee things will run smoothly.
3. Easy-to-navigate virtual booths
As mentioned earlier, a complete platform offers a range of advantageous features that include virtual booths. Such booths can easily mimic the feel of a good old fashioned employment fair. This approach to online fairs makes everything easier to navigate for newcomers, who may have never been part of an online career event.
This is an important perspective to have in mind during the recruitment process, especially for those recruiters looking to focus on skill instead of technology. The digital era and its constant technological advancements have shaped the way employers search for their ideal candidate.
This trend has sadly alienated older candidates. By making sure that every attendee, regardless of age or tech-savviness, is comfortable, hosts can avoid age discrimination during the hiring process.
It is important to give employers some creative freedom. Giving employers the freedom to customise booths is a simple and quick way of making an employment fair seem more professional and unique, since every booth will offer something different.
If you lack web developing experience or do not know how to design a web page do not despair; most virtual event platforms already include pre-built templates. These will help you design the welcome page, as well as the individual booths and chat boxes.
That being said, it is important to keep some general “rules” regarding the design of the platform and its booths. Some things worth requiring include:
- Live chats and relevant staff being available for conversation.
- Lists of current open positions.
- Detailed information about company benefits.
- Custom branding.
It’s important to make the entire experience feel coherent and easy to navigate, whilst keeping each booth unique.
4. Keep everything organised
A virtual employment fair translates into a lot of online traffic and a potentially larger number of attendees in comparison to a traditional recruitment fair. Hosts that opt for this style of event will need a more complex website to keep the online fair organised.
Registration forms, confirmation emails, and calendar reminders will be essential. After job hunters have committed to attending the event, keep the date in their minds by supplying them with regularly scheduled email drips.
Luckily, career fair admins can use the benefits of HR software, providing tools that can keep everything well organised. By holding this event online, profiles (both those of attendees and of employers) are digitised, making information easily accessible and the entire process more efficient.
By managing an online event of this magnitude with the same structured diligence used to run a professional business, the entire affair should operate without any bumps in the road.
5. Invest in advertising
Organising an event of this magnitude is no easy task, but actually getting potential attendees to take an interest in what may seem to be ´yet another career fair´ is an entirely different mission. Convincing job hunters to sign up is a pivotal aspect and will make or break an employment fair. Advertising is key to turning indecisive heads in your direction.
Employers looking to take part in the career fair can help with some of the heavy lifting with regards to marketing. After all, you’re part of the same team. A great place to begin advertising is on job search platforms, so as to target the people who may be most interested in the prospect of such an online networking event.
6. Choose the best video chat app
There are some basic tools needed to successfully carry out an online event. Using group video chat apps is a necessity. However, when dealing with a large number of people, it is important to take extra factors into account.
Download-free apps, for example, are a quick way of making sure that the event is easily accessible. This makes things easier for attendees, since they can simply follow a link without needing to install extra software.
Cloud-based hosting companies with integrated apps are the best options available, as the cloud is often a safer way to store data. In addition, integrated apps, which incorporate existing apps, help with scheduling by working alongside organisational tools, such as calendars and emails.
Choosing the best call software can be an intimidating task, but by prioritising certain key features hosts will easily be able to narrow down the endless list of potential apps and find the perfect software.
7. Provide an alternative to video conferencing
The event needs to be as easily accessible as possible for attendees. One of many essential tips for video-conferencing is having a contingency plan in case that candidates are unable to join a video call.
Ensuring any solutions you choose can be joined with audio-only increases the accessibility of your event. As a host, making sure that there are a variety of alternatives for everybody is not only fair but necessary. Some attendees may not have the private space necessary for a video call, while other job seekers may lack the technology, or have a poor internet connection. Audio conference dial in calls are a great choice in this case.
This way, hosts can get everybody on board, no matter what device they decide to use. This will optimise the quality of the webinars and the conferences, making the online employment fair a success.
8. Cybersecurity has never been more important
The digitalisation of the workspace has made cyber-security a top priority for most companies. The same principle can be applied to digital career fairs. These events can be the target of hackers looking to steal data and files from both attendees and hosts.
Any technology you use - from the Voice over IP telephony solution to booking software - needs to be risk-assessed and have strong security options.
That is why investing in a secure video conferencing infrastructure should be one of the first steps towards launching an online event of this magnitude. Applying safety protocols with regards to screen and file sharing, as well as restricted access to the fair (via sign in and passwords) are easy ways of making the experience safer for every party involved.
9. Keep in touch with attendees
Job hunters attending a virtual employment fair might not find their ideal employer instantly. Sometimes, candidates may want to explore the array of different options available to them. This means that employers might have to wait until they hear back from attendees.
If that’s the case, it is important to make the first move and get in touch relatively soon. Most job seekers will tell you that forgetting to follow up with the recruitment process is one of the biggest (and most common) mistakes to avoid when hiring.
A virtual career fair is a unique experience and does not have to only last a few hours. Most attendees will take their time when choosing which job opportunities they want to pursue. It is important to keep in touch with those applicants that may have shown interest in the opportunities advertised during the event.
With the contact information provided to recruiters before or during the fair, hosts can send follow-up emails and reminders in order to ensure that those interested do not end up falling through the gaps. Social media platforms also offer a more informal outlet for the recruiters who are looking to connect with potential future employees.
The world has changed
By now, you should have a somewhat clear sense of how best to host a successful virtual career fair. If you’re still unsure as to whether it's worth the investment, consider this: online employment fairs are only going to get more and more common. Eventually virtual conferences such as these will become the norm.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the hiring process, virtual fairs were growing in popularity before that. Industries are fundamentally changing and the digital era we are currently living in has only just started.
Virtual employment fairs are not only an innovative solution to a modern problem, but they are also the future of recruitment and job-seeking. Access is no longer limited by location, meaning you can find the best talent, no matter where they’re based. It is therefore vital for companies to start investing their time and effort in this new form of recruitment.