HR Technology

Virtual Career Fairs: Should I Still Be Hosting Them?

Jul 25, 2022 - Cat DiStasio

Virtual career fairs quickly rose in popularity early in 2020 as the pandemic limited the ability to connect with candidates in person at hiring events and interviews. More than two years later, talent acquisition teams may be wondering about the future of virtual hiring events as they plan for upcoming hiring needs.

Our research with Talent Board shows that 84% of TA teams are using hybrid recruiting events this year, a combination of in-person and virtual hiring events. That’s because it’s perhaps more important than ever to create a hiring process that provides an excellent candidate experience, and virtual recruiting is a critical part of creating a candidate-oriented hiring experience. Let’s answer some questions about how virtual career fairs fit into your longer-term TA strategy.

Are Virtual Career Fairs Worth It?

First, let’s talk about whether online job fairs are worth it — still. This is a crucial question to ask and, luckily, the answer is rock solid. Research tells us that candidates prefer the opportunity to talk with recruiters early in the recruiting process before they’ve invested a lot of time into filling out an application. Virtual career fairs can be used to directly solve this problem by having hundreds of these conversations with candidates, even before they apply– and at the same give candidates what they want, which is a way to talk with your team early in the hiring process.

Virtual hiring events are also flexible and can be used at any stage of the hiring process, meaning you can give more flexibility to your qualified candidates, you can scale the impact of your programs across regions, and you can tailor them to your needs.

With the right virtual career fair platform, your online events can help you tap into new talent pools (by reaching outside your immediate geographic region), speed up time to hire (by moving candidates more quickly through the recruiting process), and cut costs associated with in-person career fairs (more on this below).

Highlighting the benefits of virtual job fairs to your C-suite can also help you get the support you need, both for budget approval and for smoother adoption. Many of these benefits also help recruiters, by freeing them from tedious manual processes and streamlining the recruiting funnel to give them time back that they can spend on building relationships with candidates.

Today, virtual career fairs can also be a part of a hybrid recruiting strategy, meaning that you can use a combination of in-person and virtual tactics across the hiring journey—and you can also host hybrid hiring events. This means you can take advantage of the gains of virtual hiring events—from the scalability to the flexibility to the accessibility—directly to your in-person hiring event strategy.

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How Do Virtual Career Fairs Work?

Understanding how virtual career fairs work is an important step in understanding the value they continue to offer. The short answer is that they can work almost any way you want or need them to. Some TA teams like to replicate the format of in-person events on their virtual career fair platform, while others use virtual recruiting events more strategically throughout the recruitment process—with informational events to build up their talent community or as large-scale screening events before advancing prequalified candidates to virtual interviews or in-person events. Those are just two examples of the endless possibilities that virtual career fairs offer.

And today, virtual career fairs don’t have to be limited to the virtual space. Hybrid career fairs mean you can add the virtual aspect to traditional onsite career fairs and get the best of both worlds all on the same day or week.

How to Hold a Virtual Career Fair

The steps for hosting a virtual career fair are relatively straightforward: plan, prepare, execute, and follow up. Hosting a successful virtual career fair begins with outlining your recruiting goals, selecting the right technology vendor, and setting up the event on the virtual career platform, including picking the date/times, setting up booths, and training your supporting staff.

One of the biggest advantages of online career fairs and virtual events over physical career fairs is that it’s easy to set up an event, and then duplicate that event and virtual booths to use as a template for future events. This saves a ton of effort when you host virtual career fairs on a regular basis or need to set up events for different divisions or departments of your organization.

How Do I Organize a Virtual Career Fair?

Early in the process, you’ll need to choose what type of virtual career fair you want to host and what its relationship will be to your in-person recruiting strategy and tactics. You may choose a blended hybrid strategy that uses virtual events and in-person events (i.e. traditional career fairs) at different parts of the recruiting funnel. You may opt to host virtual career fairs and in-person career fairs at the same time (a synchronous strategy). Perhaps a multi-day approach works better for your team, with virtual career fairs on one day and in-person events on a different day. Or you can use virtual events early in the funnel and in-person events further down. No matter what path you choose, virtual career fairs give you the flexibility to pivot strategies and shift gears at almost any point, so you’re not locked into any one approach for the long haul and you can make adjustments based on the results of your events.

Once you’ve identified your starting point, you can move on to the next phases of organizing a virtual career fair: planning the logistics, coordination, sourcing and promotion, communication, materials and resources, and a post-event strategy for follow-up communications and analysis.

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Should I Still be Doing Virtual Career Fairs if People are Coming into the Office?

In short: absolutely yes. Clients like Neiman Marcus and AdventHealth use virtual recruiting for entirely in-person roles with great success, as a part of an integrated hybrid recruiting strategy. The benefits of virtual recruiting events are not limited to remote work. You can gain so many efficiencies from scaling your early pipeline programs through virtual, and then investing resources to bring potential job candidates onsite for tours and final interviews at the end of the hiring phase for your top talent.

Virtual career fairs not only help you support in-person roles—they can help you find the best potential candidates for those job openings. A virtual recruiting platform can help you broaden your reach and improve candidate experience, and the technology is easy to use, giving candidates flexibility and control over where and how they engage with your organization.

How Much Does a Virtual Career Fair Cost?

Various factors influence the ultimate cost of a virtual career fair or other types of virtual recruiting events. The final cost depends mostly on the type of event and size of events you’re hosting. Single employer events, multi-employer events, and hiring events hosted in partnership with associations, universities, and other groups all have slightly different components that could affect the price. What’s important to understand is how virtual career fairs save your organization money as well as the cost savings they can bring. By cutting out the travel and accommodations, expensive venue fees, food, and entertainment of an in-person job fair, you can invest more of your talent acquisition budget in what really matters: the right technology to deliver a winning candidate experience.

The Future of Hiring is Hybrid

Even though many people have returned to onsite work, the benefits of virtual career fairs haven’t diminished. In fact, many organizations find that virtual recruiting continues to become more valuable amid skill shortages and high voluntary quit rates. As the Great Resignation morphed into the Great Realignment, talent acquisition demands creative, flexible, scalable solutions and virtual career fairs—especially as part of a hybrid recruiting strategy—fit the bill like nothing else, both now and in the foreseeable future.

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