Hindsight Is 2020: Virtual Career Fair Lessons From A Challenging Year

Dec 22, 2020 - Cat DiStasio

Virtual Career Fairs: 2020 Hindsight

2020 is almost over and there’s one thing we can all agree on: this year challenged us all. When the pandemic hit the United States, talent acquisition leaders scrambled to pivot their recruiting strategies to stay on track with their hiring goals. For many, that meant rapidly adopting virtual recruiting, learning to manage remote recruiting teams, shifting from in-person to virtual career fairs and events, and responding to shifting hiring goals throughout the year. While some industries, such as healthcare, continued many recruiting activities in person, others went completely virtual, and now it’s become more common than ever to hire talent to work remotely without ever meeting them in person.

When states entered the initial lockdown in March, we thought these pivots might be a temporary shift until everything could return to ‘normal.’ Fast forward nine months, we’ve realized many of the adaptations talent acquisition leaders have made will actually be the new normal, even after the pandemic ends. As the pandemic has drawn out longer and longer, we’ve seen a normalization of remote work for many industries, forcing many organizations further along in the digital and virtual evolution than they may have previously planned for this year. As we look forward, still with so much uncertainty about how and when we can put the pandemic behind us, virtual recruiting has proven its value and many TA leaders are investing more in these technologies to future-proof their recruiting strategies against whatever the coming years will bring.

   > Related: 2021 Recruiting Predictions from Talent Acquisition Experts

    Virtual recruiting helped employers respond to every challenge this year presented by allowing them to remain flexible and in control. It also delivered added benefits many TA leaders didn’t anticipate, such as expanding their talent pool beyond their local geographic area and helping colleges and universities connect students to geographically diverse companies.

      Throughout this challenging year, we’ve looked for the silver linings and the lessons that would help us look ahead and plan for the future. To help us close out this chapter and pave the way for a new era in recruiting, we asked talent acquisition leaders in our community about the lessons they learned in 2020 and how those insights will drive future trends.

      Virtual job fairs are here to stay

      Employers that were hosting virtual career fairs prior to 2020 already understood how virtual recruiting improves the candidate experience, reduces recruiting costs, and helps organizations connect with top talent across the country. As more organizations adopted virtual recruiting strategies amid the pandemic, the benefits of virtual job fairs have become even more salient. TA leaders across industries have told us virtual recruiting will continue to be a key component of their recruiting toolkit for years to come.

      “The integration of virtual recruiting into the talent acquisition process is here to stay! Virtual career fairs, chats, text recruiting, and video interviewing have all added additional tools for talent acquisition to enhance candidate experience and hiring success. While these tools were around prior to the pandemic, their value and benefit were highlighted as many organizations and candidates shifted strictly to virtual recruiting. The ease of use, ability to communicate in a comfortable format, mobile friendliness, and overall effectiveness will carry forward in the long term.” Brian White, Executive Director of Human Resources & Operations, Auburn-Washburn Unified School District 437

      “Adoption of virtual tools is the biggest silver lining of the 2020 pandemic. I think we will continue to see usage in the 50-75% range once the health crisis is behind us.” Jen Tracy, VP of Recruiting Solutions, Charter Communications

      "One unexpected silver lining of virtual recruiting of us has been how it has enhanced our speed to market processing. Virtual hiring has cut our time in half! It’s definitely here to stay and helping us see better outcomes, in less time, at a lower cost." Cathy Henesy, Executive Director of Talent Acquisition, AdventHealth

      Reducing hiring costs

      The cost of recruiting has been a pain point for TA leaders for years. Now, the shift to virtual recruiting has helped many organizations realize they can control more of their hiring costs, especially where travel is concerned. Without the expense of career fair venues, equipment, swag, and food, recruiting teams can reinvest in other technologies to enhance the virtual recruiting experience, or even hire additional staff to engage with candidates remotely.

      “Cost control around travel expenses is a silver lining of the virtual recruiting shift. For some companies or types of recruiting, there was quite a bit of reliance on travel for interviews (even first round) and not relying more on video interviewing, going to university campuses for every event and career fair imaginable, etc. There is an opportunity and a need to be more judicious with our spend and definitely look forward to travel again, but only when it is really necessary (final round interviews, big events with a lot of necessary in person engagement, etc).” Jennifer Newbill, Director of University Recruiting, Dell Technologies

      Busting geographic barriers

      Virtual recruiting makes it easier than ever to cast a wide net, geographically speaking, to find the right talent. As employers are getting more comfortable with remote work, these two trends help organizations build teams with the right skills regardless of location. We’re seeing more organizations build teams consisting of remote workers as well as employees working in a common office space, and this new hybrid work model will likely become even more prevalent in the coming years. We’ll see a similar evolution in talent acquisition, as hybrid recruiting practices that combine virtual and in-person strategies will emerge as the new standard.

      “Companies are widening access to meaningful work. For most, what was once only geographical recruiting has expanded into country-wide recruiting efforts because of remote work policies. Candidates are now gaining access to companies they were formerly closed off from. And companies are now tapping into talent pools that were overlooked for far too long. Everyone is winning.” Nate Guggia, Co-founder, Before You Apply

      “Virtual recruiting in 2020 taught us about busting geographic barriers for talent. That gives more options to talent and to companies and reaches wider pools to build diverse teams. Yes, I think it will stick... but I'm also not discounting talent wanting to work in offices, too, when they can. The key will be that a workplace provides the flexibility and option to its people.” Lauryn Sargent, Stories Incorporated

      “Internally, we have seen increased flexibility in being able to build teams globally. We have harnessed the power of ‘team’ to answer our client needs. From my point of view, it has been very humbling to see the entire organization rally behind putting our client first in solving their needs. We now have engineering teams composed of employees out of the US, Costa Rica, India and Romania. We have also opened our appetiture in regards to hiring remote talent in the U.S. Before the pandemic, there was a tendency for hiring managers to want to hire locally to our headquarters location in Fairfax, VA. This mindset has changed drastically throughout the year, which has increased our candidate pools tremendously making our job of hiring easier.” Cody Winters, Senior Director, Talent Supply Chain, 3Pillar Global

      Lessons learned, wisdom gained

      For each recruiting challenge that arose in 2020, talent acquisition leaders learned a valuable lesson that will help shape the future. This pandemic will forever change the way many people work, which by necessity has changed the way organizations need to attract, connect with, and hire top talent. Virtual recruiting has emerged as a crucial component of a successful talent acquisition plan, and its flexibility and scalability have secured its place in the modern recruiters’ playbook for the foreseeable future.

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