Weighing the pros and cons of virtual job fairs

Sep 16, 2020 - Cat DiStasio

Amid the pandemic, virtual job fairs have almost entirely replaced in-person career events. Virtual recruiting events are a logical step for keeping candidates and recruiters safe from the virus, while cutting costs and improving efficiency. Now that COVID case numbers are starting to wane in some areas, many talent acquisition leaders wonder if recruiting events will be able to ‘get back to normal’ sooner than later, and teams that haven’t yet pivoted to virtual events may question whether it’s even worthwhile at this point in the game.

According to Brazen data, we are seeing five times more virtual job fairs per week, compared with events held prior to the pandemic. Based on this sharp increase, employers who are not offering virtual recruiting events may be missing out on opportunities to connect with top talent.

Those who are still skeptical about virtual job fairs probably have a mental pro/con list about making the leap. To help you make the best possible decisions about recruiting for your organization, we created this actual pro/con list to explain the benefits clearly and acknowledge the (few) shortcomings employers experience with virtual job fairs. Hopefully, reviewing this list will give you the information you need to make a confident decision about adopting virtual recruiting to strengthen your recruiting advantages.

Pro: More efficient than in-person job fairs and phone screening

This one is as straightforward as it gets. The format of virtual job fairs allows recruiters to engage with more candidates in the same or shorter amount of time. By attracting higher quality candidates, virtual job fairs help recruiters speed up the screening process and move top candidates to the next step more quickly than in-person events and traditional phone screening methods.

Pro: Higher attendance than in-person recruiting events

Virtual job fairs have higher participation rates than in-person recruiting events—often around 70% compared with a 50% average for in-person events. Virtual recruiting events also tend to attract higher quality candidates. Because virtual job fairs allow employers to target advertising and invitation lists to specific candidate profiles, recruiters see not only an increase in sheer numbers of participants but also an increase in proportion of qualified candidates, making the selection process even more fruitful.

Pro: Strengthens your employer brand

The simple act of hosting virtual job fairs can strengthen your employer brand by showing candidates, and the public at large, that your organization is forward-thinking, considerate of public health, and innovative with technology tools. Promoting virtual job fairs through social media and paid advertising also improves brand name recognition. And, if your virtual job fairs are well organized and executed, participants will have nothing but great things to say about interacting with your organization, which also helps you build social capital for your employer brand.

Pro: Improves candidate experience and engagement throughout recruiting process

Virtual job fairs allow candidates to connect with recruiters and hiring managers one-on-one, via text-based chat, audio-only, or video interviews. This individualized attention helps candidates feel special and gives them opportunities to ask the questions they need answered in order to prioritize your organization in their job search. Along with an easy-to-use platform, this creates a positive candidate experience that builds trust and leaves candidates looking forward to the next steps. When a virtual job fair is part of the top of your recruiting funnel, candidates will be more engaged throughout the process, and more candidates will stay engaged longer than those sourced through other channels.

Pro: Cost effective

The exact cost of a virtual job fair varies based on a number of different factors but when compared with in-person recruiting events, online options are far more cost effective. In-person events often require travel, venue rental, refreshments, and a host of logistical considerations that all come with an additional price tag. Because virtual job fairs don’t require travel or a venue, they cost a fraction of the price right off the bat. Online job fairs also require fewer staff members than an in-person event so you don’t have to shut down your office operations just to host a recruiting event.

Pro: Effective way to reach upcoming generation of digital natives

Search, and you’ll find dozens of articles about strategies for attracting the youngest generation of job seekers. Having grown up immersed in technology, particularly when it comes to communication, these digital natives are comfortable using virtual tools to connect with potential employers. Virtual events are an effective way to demonstrate that your organization is also comfortable with these modern tools and trends.

Con: Virtual interviews just aren’t the same as meeting in person

It’s true that virtual job fairs mean there are no handshakes and no eye contact, something often considered crucial to building relationships that result in great hires. Fortunately, video interviews offer the next best thing and still allow recruiters to engage with candidates on a human level and build trust.

If you’re hiring for a non-remote position, you may be accustomed to offering a work site tour as part of your recruiting process, especially if your workplace has a cool factor that tends to attract top candidates. Most of the time, this happens much further down the funnel, so it’s not a critical element of a job fair. However, you can consider creating a video tour to showcase your office space and featuring it during your virtual fair. For candidates who advance to the next stages, you can create safety protocols to allow for an in-person visit once you’re close to making an offer.

Con: Candidates who aren’t as tech savvy may feel uncomfortable

Some candidates may feel uneasy about using a new-to-them technology tool to interact with a potential employer. Fortunately, an easy-to-use platform with a short learning curve reduces the potential for problems. If you’re particularly concerned about the level of tech savviness among your desired candidate pool, consider hosting a pre-job fair informational event on the same platform, where you can give candidates a preview of the platform, demonstrate how to navigate booths, and share any additional tips to help them adjust. You can even host a live Q&A session to address individual questions about the platform or the format of the event. Hosting an info session like this a day or more before your virtual job fair can help skeptical job seekers feel more confident about the process and increase the likelihood that they’ll participate.

Virtual job fairs are the new normal

Surely, at some point, employers will be able to safely host in-person job fairs again. And for many industries, those recruiting events will continue being a key source of quality candidates for certain types of positions. However, most employers who have adopted online recruiting events amid the pandemic say they will continue hosting them even once it’s safe to meet in person again. The long list of pros we covered are just some of the benefits talent acquisition leaders have valued and enjoyed since pivoting to virtual job fairs, whether they started before or during the pandemic. With the downsides being so few and so minor, it’s no surprise that they will continue to be a recruiting standard for years to come.

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