How to Organize a Virtual Career Fair in the Hybrid Era
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin
This adage is true of many things in life and in business, and organizing virtual career fairs is high on the list. Virtual recruiting events with the best candidate experience and the best hiring outcomes are those that talent acquisition teams carefully plan and prepare for. With a little advance preparation, hosting a job fair can be a seamless, stress-free experience for all involved.
Here’s virtually everything you need to consider to organize a career fair in the hybrid era.
Deciding when to host any type of recruiting event can be a challenge but virtual events offer more flexibility in your hiring process than any other option. It’s easy to host virtual job fairs that last all day, multiple days, or at different times of the day, without a lot of extra effort, cost, and human power.
Regardless of whether you’re planning a virtual recruiting event, an in-person job fair, or both, the key is balancing your resources with the needs of your target audience. If you have limited time and plenty of in-person and remote staff, you could host an event that is one part in-person and one part virtual. Your target qualified candidates will determine how many days the event needs to last.
As we’ve discussed in other articles, there are a lot of different ways to approach hybrid recruiting events. Here are a few common models:
- Blended Hybrid Recruiting (hosting virtual and in-person events at different parts of the recruiting funnel)
- Synchronous Hybrid Events (hosting virtual and in-person events at the same time)
- Same-Day Hybrid Event (hosting a virtual event that leads to an in-person event in one day or vice versa)
- Multi-Day Hybrid Event (hosting a virtual event on one day and an in-person event on another)
- Screening Hybrid Event (attracting talent with a virtual event and only inviting top candidates to your in-person events)
If you’re also hosting in-person recruiting events, you can organize virtual career fairs in coordination with those in a variety of different ways: virtual before in-person (days or even weeks before, as screening events), virtual in the AM and in-person in the PM, or even host virtual and in-person events in the same time window, if you have the staff and technology to manage both processes at once. There is no universal “right” or “best” approach to host a successful job fair; there is only the right or best approach for your TA team, challenges, and goals.
Planning any type of recruiting event requires managing logistics, and the more careful consideration you invest in logistics in advance, the smoother your events will be.
For onsite recruiting events:
Planning starts early for in-person events. You’ll need to choose and secure a location, coordinate tables, and think about all the other details—promotional materials, refreshments, swag, and more. You may need to start working on these arrangements months in advance, so be sure to build this into your planning timeline for any in-person recruiting events you want to host.
For virtual career fairs:
Your first step is ensuring you have a virtual event platform in place that’s built specifically for recruiting events. A video conference platform like Zoom or Teams won’t offer features like one-to-one interview capabilities, group interviews, resume review, candidate rating, and more—and you need those features to host a successful virtual career fair.
For hybrid recruiting events:
With the added logistics of managing the onsite component of a hybrid event, it’s critical to have software that is built specifically for the virtual hiring aspect of a hybrid career fair. In an ideal situation, you’ll partner with a vendor that provides support and expert consultation to help you build the perfect recipe for your specific considerations.
Other considerations for hybrid:
In the weeks and months leading up to your hybrid job fairs, answer the following questions to inform your strategy.
- Will registrants to your career fair be able to attend both the in-person and the online portion?
- Will you allow hiring teams to attend only the virtual or in-person component, and not the other?
- What presence will onsite booths have in your virtual hiring event?
Until this point, we’ve talked mostly about the when, what, and how of your virtual career fairs. Now it’s time to pivot to the who. Coordinating your recruiting team is crucial to running successful recruiting events, starting with identifying who will represent your organization to job seekers during these events. Your team will likely be made up of recruiters, other HR team members to perform screenings, hiring managers, or in the event of a multi-employer career fair, reps from other organizations.
Once you name names, you’ll want to work to prepare your team accordingly. First, check availability. Ensure that everyone is available for your proposed event date/time, as well as for training before the event. Second, conduct training with your team on using the virtual event platform, screening/interviewing rules/techniques, and next steps.
Additionally, make sure you have assigned enough personnel to each booth type (for virtual and in-person events) at the designated times and that everyone is clear who is doing what role.
Sourcing and Promoting
The date is set. The team is assembled. Or maybe those things are still in progress—and that’s fine. But a big part of organizing a virtual career fair is sourcing candidates and promoting your events. Your talent sourcing strategy likely means you have tons of eager candidates in your talent database but you can absolutely do some additional sourcing of target candidates in the run-up to your recruiting events. Once you set a date for your virtual career fair, you’ll need to get the word out to potential attendees. This relies on a multipronged communication strategy, in which you promote your recruiting events to your existing talent community (via email or text messaging) while simultaneously spreading the word via other channels, such as social media, paid ads, and partner organizations.
An effective communication strategy rarely materializes out of thin air. (We’ve actually never heard of it happening that way, to be honest.) You’ll need to create a communication plan and prepare for questions from job seekers and members of your recruiting team.
First, consider your communication channels—and set them up in advance. Expect to help fair attendees and potential employees learn the details they need about using the event and how to get support on any technology you're using if needed.
The best virtual career fair platforms will be reliable and easy to use, but questions are always bound to come up. Set up a phone number or Zoom room to monitor during the event so attendees can go there if they're having trouble with the event platform (and include this info in the registration confirmation). Set up a separate Zoom room to support hiring managers during the event.
When choosing a virtual recruiting event platform, look for a virtual job fair vendor with access to real-time support for the technology powering your hybrid event. You’ll also want to ensure you have a direct line of communication with your tech vendor in case you need support during the event.
Another best practice is to offer an FAQ ahead of time so that participants can easily access answers to common questions such as:
- What will happen during the recruiting event?
- Can I attend online and in person?
- What are the address and parking information for the in-person event?
Materials and Resources
Planning the materials you’ll need for your in-person and virtual events is another key step to a successful event. If you haven’t hosted an on-site hiring event in a while, make sure all your printed materials (flyers, brochures, etc.) are up to date with the latest information. Chances are, some of your benefits, work policies, or employer branding messaging have changed since the pre-pandemic days.
For virtual career fairs, you may need a content-only booth so attendees can access digital versions of your recruiting materials. These types of booths don’t require staffing but you need to organize the appropriate content ahead of time so your event attendees can take advantage of these resources. The content in this booth can help tell stories about your organizational culture, mission and values, and employer brand.
Well before your virtual career fair, you’ll want to leverage online tools to communicate with attendees, set up all of your virtual booths, and consider including information about your virtual booth at your in-person event. Lots of our customers create additional resources like videos and digital brochures that attendees of an onsite event can access online before or even during your hiring event. This gives them something to do while they wait to talk with a member of your recruiting team, so it provides a more engaging candidate experience with prospective employers.
Prepare for Next Steps
All of this planning and preparation for your virtual career fair is important—and it’s almost as important to create a plan for what happens after the event. Make a follow-up communication plan for the days and weeks following your job fair events, including when and how you’ll let candidates know whether they will advance in the recruiting process or offer constructive feedback if they didn’t make the cut. This is also a great opportunity to get feedback on the timing and logistics of the event, and the best virtual recruiting event platforms make it easy to automatically send feedback questionnaires to event attendees to collect these types of valuable impressions.
Organizing Successful Virtual Career Fairs
Recruiting events—virtual, in-person, and all the various ways you can combine them—are an important cornerstone of your overall talent acquisition strategy. Advance planning and preparation can make all the difference between an awkward, stressful recruiting event and a fun, engaging experience for job seekers, future employees, and TA teams alike. Following the best practices we outlined in this article will help you get the most out of all your recruiting events and, just as important, it means you’ll be better equipped to deliver a stellar candidate experience throughout your recruiting cycle.
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