If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the need to be creative and think outside of the box. Really this applies to everything we do now: From turning family gatherings to family zoom calls; attending in-person concerts to streaming concerts live; watching sports with fans to watching sports with digital fans; eating at packed restaurants to eating outside and socially distanced from others; and more. Everything that we were used to doing has been modified in some way. The same thing has applied to businesses. Traditional strategies that have worked in the past have to be reinvented. Job fairs are a part of this mix.
Whether you are used to attending job fairs or holding your own, they now have to be virtually reinvented. So how can staffing companies transform the traditional job fair into a virtual one, but still get their bang for the buck? Here are 8 tips for making your virtual job fair a success.
1. Commit to It
Before you begin planning your virtual job fair, avoid the demeanor that it won’t be as good as an in-person event. A virtual job fair can be just as effective (perhaps even better) as long as you have the right resources and are fully committed to it. Don’t hold back on investing in resources just because it’s a virtual event. Commit to getting the resources needed to make the event a success.
2. Find the Right Platform
In order to select the right platform, first decide on the goals and format of your job fair. Do you plan to keep it simple and hold one session at a time or do you plan to have breakout rooms? Do you want to use a standard webinar platform or do you want to use a platform that allows for networking, booth time, the ability to hold more than one session at a time, etc.? All of these factors will depend on the virtual platform used for your fair.
If a webinar platform is used, such as GoToWebinar®, you can hold one session at a time and allow candidates to hop on for the sessions they are interested in attending. Each of the clients participating in the job fair can hold a session and talk about their company, positions they are looking to fill, and ideal candidates for these positions. At the end of each session, time can then be allocated for candidates to ask questions. This format is less intimate, but it allows clients to promote their company to candidates and allows candidates to learn about your clients. If the goal of the job fair is to be informative, then this format could work well.
If you are looking to hold a job fair that is more interactive and allows candidates to talk with clients, then you might want to look at doing a different format. Some webinar platforms, such as Zoom®, allow for breakout sessions. You could still have sessions with all attendees, but also incorporate breakout rooms. Each of your clients participating can have their own breakout room that allows for candidates to hop into the rooms they are interested in. This gives candidates the opportunity to ask questions and talk one on one with an employer. Depending on how many candidates choose a given breakout room, it may not be one on one conversations, but it would still allow for a more intimate conversation versus holding one large session for everyone.
If you want to go above and beyond, there are even fancier platforms that allow for the above and more! Recently, I used a platform that had virtual booths, one on one networking time, and sessions for all attendees. If you’re looking to invest a little more in your virtual fair, then this is a great option. Each client can have their own virtual booth, designed with their company’s branding. Candidates can then enter their booth and have one on one video conversations with clients. The platform I used even had a “register interest” button in each booth. So, if a candidate was interested in a job opportunity with the client, they can select a button and say they are interested in learning more. Clients can still give a presentation during a session time, but will have the bonus of also having a virtual booth for candidates to visit. There are several platforms that offer amenities similar to these if this is something you would be interested in doing.
Overall, there is no universal right or wrong platform to use for a job fair, but finding the right platform that will meet your goals is the most important.
3. Organize A Strong Program
Once the format is finalized, the program and agenda should be put together. What clients will you invite to participate? Will each client have the opportunity to give a presentation? Will there be a keynote presentation? Will there be workshop sessions for candidates throughout the event? Will there be a happy hour/networking session at the end? Organizing a strong and attractive program is essential. Afterall, you are trying to make it an event that people will want to attend! So how do you do that?
One factor to consider is if you are going to hold one job fair for all of the industries you staff in or if you will have a separate job fair for each industry. If your staffing firm works with different industries, it might make the most sense to hold separate job fairs for each industry. The more niche and specific the job fair is, the more enticing it will be for candidates and clients in that industry to attend.
Next, it’s time to decide what clients will be invited to participate. Unless you are a small staffing firm, chances are you won’t be able to invite all clients to participate. See which clients have a lot of job orders to fill, invite your key clients, invite clients you know will want to participate, and invite clients that candidates would be interested in talking to. You can also consider asking prospective clients to participate. If you have a couple of “hot” prospects you are looking to do business with, invite them to participate in the job fair! Maybe they will land up meeting a candidate they like and will want to do business together.
Besides lining up the right set of clients to participate, the agenda is also important. Will it mainly be client/candidate interactions or will other programs be incorporated throughout the fair? Starting the job fair with a motivational key note speaker and/or holding workshop sessions during the course of the event, could be ways to further entice candidates. The greater value provided to candidates, the more likelihood they will attend. Clients can even sponsor some of these additional sessions. It will give them extra exposure and they will appreciate the offer to sponsor it. It’s a win, win!
4. Promote and Market the Event for Success
Once the clients are lined up and the agenda is put together, marketing the event to candidates is the next important step. Not only do you want to have a lot of candidates in attendance, but you want to have qualified ones that clients would be interested in hiring.
Before you begin marketing, think about the graphics that will be used to promote the event across your marketing channels. If your staffing firm does not have an in-house designer, consider outsourcing these graphics to a professional graphic designer. The right marketing graphics, can go a long way. If the graphics look boring or amateurish, it won’t attract the right audience, or perhaps not even attract anyone! If your marketing graphics look professional though and portray the message that it is a “must attend” job fair, you will be able to attract more candidates to your event.
After the graphics are designed, the marketing can begin! Use your ATS to build a list of candidates to invite and create an email campaign. Send a few emails to this distribution list leading up to the event. The more promotion they see for it, the greater chance they will sign up. Texting is also a great way to follow up with candidates after the initial email. It adds a personal touch that candidates wouldn’t receive in a regular marketing email. If your ATS has a texting integration, you can easily send mass text messages to your candidates and personalize the first name. You can also follow up with a plain text email. Plain text emails look like they came from someone versus a regular marketing email. Plain text emails are another good way to follow-up and send personalized messages in bulk.
Mix in social marketing with your email and text messaging promotion as well. To ensure followers see your organic posts, try boosting them. According to a Hootsuite study, only about 5.5% of Facebook® page posts are seen by their page followers. If you pay to boost your organic posts, you will be able to reach a much greater audience.
Also consider running ads on Facebook, LinkedIn, and job boards to reach new candidates you aren’t already working with. It would cost a little more to run paid ads, however, it’s a good option if you want to expand your audience to reach new candidates.
5. Collect Resumes Beforehand
Leading up to the event, gather the candidates resumes that will be in attendance and send it to the clients that are participating. This is a good way for clients to get to know the candidates that will be attending. They can also make note if there are any specific candidates, they are interested in speaking with.
6. Make It Fun
Job fairs don’t have to be all serious, make it fun! Everyone feels a little bit “bluer” these days, not being able to do things we are used to doing. That is why it’s important to embrace new ways of doing things and have fun with it. What if you had a raffle? All candidates that register and attend the event, are automatically entered into a raffle drawing to win a prize. Maybe clients also want to give away a raffle prize to candidates that visit their booth. Or what about a social media contest? If they post to social media and use the job fair hashtags, they will be entered into a raffle drawing to win a prize! A social media contest, helps your staffing firm receive extra exposure from your candidates. Everyone likes prizes. This could be a simple and easy way to get candidates to attend and have fun while doing it.
At the end of the job fair, if you really want to go out with a bang, end with something fun! I’ve seen virtual concerts, magic shows, trivia, Family Feud, and more. These are all fun ways to end the day on a high note.
7. Make It Free
Unless it’s impossible to financially make the job fair free, make it free for clients and candidates to attend. A price for attending a job fair will automatically turn people away. A free event though, won’t cause any harm in attending and will attract more clients and candidates to participate in it.
8. Follow-Up After the Event
Everyone will be excited after the event; however, success doesn’t end there! Connecting candidates and clients after the event for interviews is ultimately the next goal after the job fair.
Personally, follow up with clients afterwards. Ask them how it went. Ask them if they spoke with any candidates, they are interested in. Also, follow up with candidates. Send a survey and ask them to select the positions/company’s they are interested in learning more about. This information can then be relayed back to the client. It’s possible some candidates won’t get a chance to talk to clients one on one, but are interested in a position they have open. If breakout sessions aren’t planned during the job fair, sending a follow-up survey to candidates will be even more important, since clients won’t have that one on one interaction time.
Follow-ups after the event are essential in order to get the most out of the job fair. The job fair is meant to connect clients and candidates. The next step is taking those relationships that were formed during the event and turning them into job offers.
A New Wave of Staffing
Planning a virtual job fair is certainly different then an in-person one. There are many factors to think about and consider, however, virtual fairs can be just as effective as in-person ones, as long as you are fully committed and invested in it. The most important part is knowing what you want to get out of the virtual fair and formatting it to accommodate your goals. Virtual job fairs are a “new wave” of staffing and are here to stay. So, how will you reinvent the job fair?