The Future of Job Fairs

Mar 08, 2021 - Cat DiStasio

Without a doubt, job fairs will continue to be an effective way for employers to attract and connect with candidates. In the months and years to come, employers of choice will expand job fairs and adopt new approaches, combining virtual job fairs and in-person hiring events into a broader cohesive talent acquisition strategy that helps yield better results than ever before. This hybrid recruiting approach is rapidly emerging as the new normal. As with any growing trend, this means there are a few new things every employer should know about job fairs.

This means that, in the post-pandemic era, virtual career fairs will stick around, alongside in-person events. Top employers will become more strategic about in-person job fairs, to make better use of the time and resources. While virtual job fairs help employers cast a wide net to speed up the initial stages of the recruiting funnel while cutting costs, in-person job fairs will still be valuable for meeting prequalified candidates and moving them quickly through the final interview stages. With this blended approach, hybrid recruiting allows employers to save money on travel, accommodations, venue rental and more, while still hosting in-person events when it makes the most sense.

What is a job fair?

The way people work is changing rapidly, and so is the way organizations recruit and hire. The term job fair now encompasses a lot more than it once did. Once, a job fair meant rows of recruiter booths in a crowded auditorium with long lines of job seekers clutching their resumes. Now, the definition has become much more diverse, and there are lots of different types of job fairs.

Many employers are hosting more informational job fairs, where job seekers learn about organizational culture and glean insights about what it’s actually like on the job. These typically center around audio and video broadcasts, including presentations by executives, employee testimonials, and responses to frequently asked questions about the organization’s mission and values.

Other job fairs are focused more on supporting job seekers’ searches, with education related to resume writing, interview strategies, and other skill building resources. Some employers use their in-house recruiting team as coaching experts, while others bring in third-party resources or a mix, all with the intent on helping job seekers find the job of their dreams. These educational job fairs may not be expressly focused on finding talent to fill positions but they help build trust in your organization, strengthen your employer brand, and create connections between candidates and recruiters that can prove valuable down the road.

As virtual job fairs become more prevalent, we’re also seeing an increase in job fairs focused on niche skill sets or other categories of hard-to-find talent. These events have a laser focus and are most successful when paired with programmatic advertising designed to attract candidates that match a certain profile. Niche job fairs are proving extremely effective for employers who need to fill specific roles, such as cybersecurity and other technology sector positions that can suffer from talent shortages.

Are job fairs worth it for employers?

There’s no doubt that job fairs, both virtual and in-person, require a lot of work. Fortunately, the return on investment is positive, and often increases over time as your team hones its strategies in response to event feedback. As we mentioned above, virtual job fairs require less of a time commitment and also bring a substantial reduction in cost. Reduced hiring costs is just one of the many benefits of virtual job fairs. Using these online events whenever possible also helps improve speed to hire and can provide a better candidate experience.

What should employers bring to a job fair?

Of course, the answer to this question depends a lot on the type of job fair you’re hosting and whether it’s in-person or completely virtual. There are some essentials that are common between virtual and in-person job fairs, and we’ll focus on those to help you envision your hybrid recruiting strategy.

When you’re preparing for a job fair, it’s crucial to include the right people from your organization. While some job fairs may require only your recruiting team, others may benefit from the participation of others, such as hiring managers and a diverse range of leaders across demographic, location, and discipline. You may even want to include a presentation, live or prerecorded, some a top executive or two. Virtual job fairs make it easy to include many different presenters, regardless of where they physically work and without the inconvenience and expense of travel. This approach helps you get more out of your job fairs than you can afford to otherwise, even if you have a small recruiting staff. (To determine how many recruiters you’ll need for your virtual job fair, refer to this article.)

While you’re lining up your job fair agenda, you’ll also want to work on preparing content in advance. For starters, everyone who will pre-screen or interview candidates will need access to quick answers to FAQs (preferably in a format that is easy to copy and paste from, for faster responses in text-based chats). It’s also key that all interviewers follow a script of standardized interview questions. This helps deliver a consistent candidate experience, reduces implicit bias, and can help you identify qualified candidates more quickly. The questions should be determined by the candidate profile and the positions you’re recruiting for, and the interview questions for a campus recruiting job fair might different substantially from those asked of other types of candidates.

What’s next for job fairs?

Job fairs will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs and preferences of job seekers at every career level, in every discipline. It will become increasingly important for employers to have the ability to respond to new trends quickly, by adjusting job fair strategies to remain competitive for top talent. Hybrid recruiting offers that agility, with the ease and convenience of virtual job fairs that can be set up in a few hours or less, and promoted via social media, email, and programmatic ads for relatively little spend. Because virtual job fairs have the added bonus of efficiently collecting feedback from participants, employers have even more reliable data than ever before to fuel their decisions and better prepare for future job fairs.

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