Monetizing your university career fairs

Jun 19, 2020 - Cat DiStasio

Each year, universities across the country host thousands of career fairs, inviting employers from their area or from around the country to connect with their students. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many universities are wisely shifting those events to a safer setting, hosting virtual career fairs to fill the same need in-person events have typically provided in the past.

Virtual career fairs are arguably easier to pull off, since they don’t require travel, accommodations, and a physical venue. Universities have a unique opportunity to monetize their virtual career fairs to cover their expenses, or even turn a modest profit. While many universities have traditionally charged a nominal booth fee to participating employers, some do not collect a fee at all or charge too little for the valuable resources they are offering (connecting these employers with their highly sought after students and alumni).

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits universities offer to employers via virtual career fairs, and help university decision makers determine appropriate booth fees for employers.

University career fairs make things easy for employers

Virtual university career fairs save employers time, energy and money. This is just as true for virtual career fairs as in-person events but virtual events offer even more benefits. Employers can opt-in and connect directly with active job seekers without having to do any of the typical sourcing work that comes with recruiting. They don’t have to worry about advertising or invitations, or about whether they will connect with motivated job seekers. Virtual career fairs offer even more benefits, in that employers don’t have to travel to attend, saving them time and money right off the bat.

These benefits make virtual university career fairs a highly valuable resource for employers—one that universities should recognize and charge accordingly for. Employers need universities to host career fairs and they are willing to pay for the privilege of being connected with your students. If you have traditionally charged employers to participate in in-person career fairs, you should also be charging for virtual events. Due to the advances in virtual career fair technology in recent years, the experience for students and recent grads is as good, if not better, than an in-person career fair.

Your students are a valuable asset

Employers wouldn’t be able to make the same connections by hosting their own career fairs. They could plan an event, pay for advertising, promote on social media and through other channels, and invite job seekers from their talent database, but they wouldn’t be able to duplicate the results of a university’s well-planned virtual career fair, with a strong pipeline of motivated job seekers. Add an industry-specific focus and you’ve increased the value exponentially.

Employers are accustomed to paying for recruiting opportunities. They spend money on advertising, on access to top job boards, and on technology and content that helps attract talent. Your virtual career fair event is no different.

How to decide what to charge employers

By now, hopefully you’re convinced that it’s more than appropriate to charge employers to participate in your virtual career fair. The trick is deciding how much to charge. We’ve recently heard of some universities charging minuscule fees for attendance, so it’s important to consider the message your fee sends about how you value your event. If you charge too little, you may actually be undercutting the value of your virtual career fairs and telling employers that you don’t have confidence in the talent you’re offering to connect them with.

How you determine an appropriate participation fee depends on a number of factors. You may decide to offer multiple tiers of participation, based on different features employers can use, such as whether or not the booth will be a broadcast booth and other enhanced features, or even how the employer is listed in the promotions. If an employer wants top billing, rather than being listed alphabetically, you can offer that privilege for an additional fee. You should also make a distinction between generalized and targeted career fairs. If you’re hosting a virtual career fair for a very specific industry or skill set, such as STEM, you can likely charge a premium for access to that targeted group of job seekers.

When you get down to thinking about actual fees, first consider whether you want to recover the actual costs of hosting your virtual career fairs. Look at your licensing costs, as well as the time and manpower involved in planning, setting up, and conducting each event. We see universities charge anywhere from a couple hundred per booth for the most basic sponsorship levels to over $1,000 for more premium sponsorships, especially when employers have access to advanced features and a targeted talent pool.

Employers will pay to play

The bottom line to keep in mind is that a university career fair can be a jackpot for many employers, allowing them to tap into a fresh talent pool of eager job seekers. A hire made through a virtual university career fair could save a company thousands of dollars in sourcing, recruiting, and interviewing through other channels. Employers are used to paying for recruiting resources, and your virtual career fair falls into that category. Don’t sell yourself, or your students, short by missing out on the opportunity to monetize these valuable events.