Michigan Tech University (MTU), like many universities, is constantly trying to find ways to connect their highly in-demand STEM students with employers like Ford Motor Company. This typically has meant in-person career fairs, because employers have traditionally focused their campus recruiting on, well, being on campus. But time and money spent conducting and participating in on-campus recruitment can add up. And very rarely do schools come together to lessen the strain on the employers.
Cue virtual career fairs
This is why MTU decided to move things online, and they are leading the way when it comes to virtual career fairs. Instead of simply hosting virtual career fairs to connect their students with employers, they’re also teaming up with other universities, in order to open up their events to more students and employers; thus, creating a massive marketplace that benefits all parties. After just their first virtual career fair in March 2018, MTU, the students and the employers are already seeing great results.
If you build it (online) they will come
Our current generation of college students grew up in a purely digital world. That means that they spend the majority of their communication online. From Snapchat to Facebook Messenger to Houseparty (never heard of Houseparty? It’s an app that allows you to connect with a group of your friends or family in video conversations. Up to 16 people at once. “Let’s hangout” has a whole new meaning.).
There’s just way too much momentum in online messaging apps to expect students to communicate any other way. Like at an in-person career fair. That’s why virtual career fairs are so attractive to the students. They can connect to the virtual career fair and talk with their future employer from the comfort of their dorm room, lava lamps and all. Here’s what the students had to say:
“[I liked] getting to know companies from the comfort of my room.” -MTU STEM Career Fair Grad Student
And the familiarity of the chat allows them to focus less on the environment and more on selling themselves, in a more efficient way. In turn, employers get a better idea of the student’s skills and experience.
“I liked the fact that I could stay in line for multiple companies at the same time.” -MTU STEM Career Fair Grad Student
After the virtual career fair that MTU held in March, they sent a survey to participating students and 80% indicated they had some level of interest in attending another virtual career fair (I’d be happy if just 10% of folks that read this article want to read another one).
And even better than the likelihood of students to return for another virtual career fair is the fact that 22% of the students got a follow up interview from the event.
So it works for students, but what about for the employers?
For the employers
After the event, we followed up with about a half dozen of the employers– from Ford Motor, to General Dynamic Mission Systems, to WSP– and the overwhelming consensus was that virtual career fairs are just as convenient for the recruiters as they are for the students. Less travel, less setup and no headache:
“It was nice to set up our virtual booth ahead of time, to post disciplines we are hiring in. It’s often difficult to go on-site and get a full day’s commitment from our teams. But by being able to sign into the event for an hour, from your desk, we got a lot more representation from our hiring managers.” -MTU STEM Career Fair Employer
Plus, the virtual career fairs give employers easy access to all the data. Depending on what questions the employers are asking in registration, recruiters can see information about the students, like what classes they’ve taken, their chat history and resumes. This helps recruiters quickly move students to interviews that meet certain requirements, while pipelining others who may have potential down the road but need more time.
Virtual career fairs lead to results
And so far, the quality of students has been high. Employers tagged 58% of MTU’s STEM Virtual Career Fair attendees for actionable next steps: “pipeline,” “screen further,” or “interview.” This is consistent with what we’ve seen across all of Brazen’s virtual career fairs in 2018 to date: out of the thousands of attendees to virtual career fair events, an average of 62% of candidates are tagged for actionable next steps.
All employers we spoke to said they would return to do another virtual career fair with MTU and their partners.
I’d take that. And that’s why employers and universities are taking it online.
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