College Career Fair Best Practices in 2021

Feb 08, 2021 - Tiffany Monhollon

Early in 2020, shelter-in-place orders from the COVID-19 pandemic forced recruitment events to transition online, often with little time for recruiters and campus career professionals to plan for a new virtual format. Even though many organizations adopted virtual recruitment, including virtual career fairs, out of necessity, most are looking to maintain these strategies well beyond COVID-19. In fact, a recent Brazen survey found that 96% of talent acquisition professionals are planning to use virtual recruitment even when things return to normal.

However, that doesn’t mean in-person events will go away entirely. Organizations are starting to adopt a hybrid recruiting approach, integrating virtual and in-person events to round out the full candidate experience. How can universities and career services professionals use hybrid recruitment? Start with the tips outlined in this handy guide.

Schedule your career fair to align with peak recruitment seasons

In-person or virtual, it makes sense to align your career fairs with when companies are hiring their interns and entry-level candidates. Recruiters in industries such as finance and accounting often start recruiting for their summer internship programs and entry-level cohorts as early as September or October. However, late winter and early spring are other peak seasons for recruiting graduating seniors and interns. Try hosting multiple career fairs throughout the year in order to match recruitment cycles for different companies and industries. Remember to reach out to prospective companies early to get on their radar!

Understand the ins and outs of your venue or event platform

In addition to fostering a positive experience for students, career services professionals must ensure that employers also enjoy their time at the career fair. A well-organized experience can go a long way toward creating a great impression for all attendees.

If you’ve hosted career fairs in person, you’ve likely used a venue on campus, such as a conference center or a sports stadium. In this case, it’s important to understand the small details that matter to employers, such as where they can access outlets, where to park, and where the bathrooms are. You should also create an event map for company and student attendees and post staff around the venue to answer questions on the day of the event.

For virtual career fairs, employers will have slightly different organizational needs. For example, employers will need to learn how to set up their booths within the event platform, share recruitment materials, and troubleshoot any unexpected technical issues. Ask your vendor to perform a demo so your staff understands how the platform works and to share training resources with employers who will participate in the fair.

Market your event to students through multiple channels — and track your sign-ups!

After you’ve determined the date and location for your career fair, start spreading the word! Digital strategies should comprise the bulk of your marketing. Start with your career services newsletter, website, and social media pages. If classes are being held on campus, you can also post flyers in the academic buildings and dormitories to promote the event. All marketing materials should drive to a landing page where students can sign up for the career fair. As part of the sign-up form, ask students where they heard about the event so you can see which channels were most effective.

Create other events and resources to help students prepare for the career fair

For many students, a career fair is their first introduction to campus recruitment. Help them put their best foot forward by offering preparatory workshops and online resources. Host resume reviews and practice interviews with a career counselor. This will not only help students shine, but may also enhance your university’s reputation as a reliable place to recruit entry-level talent. As with career fairs, resume workshops and one-on-one interview prep can be conducted in-person or entirely online.

In addition, you should always share the list of company participants in advance. This will give students the opportunity to perform their own research on prospective employers prior to the event. Other resources to consider sharing with students are a downloadable list of interview questions to prepare for, recommended questions to ask recruiters, and a checklist for preparing for the career fair (proper dress codes, tips to test a computer’s microphone and speakers for a virtual event, etc.).

Enable employers to personalize their booths

As much as students want to stand out to employers, employers want to stand out to students, too! At an in-person event, this might mean giving every company enough space to post signage, decorate their table, and share giveaways. You’ll also want to check in with individual company participants to ensure their tech needs are met for the career fair.

When it comes to virtual career fairs, it’s more important than ever to give employers the opportunity to showcase their unique brand. For example, Brazen enables company participants to customize their booth with a logo, brand colors, employee testimonials, and links to their company website, job postings, and social media pages. Giving students the ability to download recruitment materials and bookmark some relevant links will help them compare employers after the fair and follow up with those that made an impression.

Are you ready for your next virtual career fair? Get even more in-depth information in our guide - How to Host a Virtual Career Fair, or check out the recording of our webinar event with the University of Hawaii to see how they used Brazen to connect students and job seekers online.

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