On college campuses this fall, things look very different than years past. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many campuses are adopting a hybrid model of in-person and remote instruction. As a result, universities are also reducing or eliminating in-person events altogether, a decision that will inevitably reshape career exploration and recruitment for the indefinite future.
Prior to COVID-19, many university recruiting strategies relied on physically visiting a select group of core schools to recruit entry-level candidates for their roles. While this was previously a great way to meet large quantities of candidates face-to-face, in-person events are not likely to happen for a while. To counter this issue, more and more employers are turning to virtual recruitment events. Virtual recruitment events occur online in real time in order to connect employers and job seekers regardless of location, using technology such as chat rooms, teleconferencing, and email to share information about jobs.
Perhaps the most well-known type of virtual recruitment event is a virtual career fair, but there are many other types of events that provide opportunities for prospective candidates. Here are the basics of how each type of recruitment event works, what students think about them, and how to make yours stand out.
Virtual Career Fairs
Typically, virtual career fairs are held by universities, trade organizations, employment agencies, local governments, and more in order to connect prospective interns and entry-level employees with recruiters. Individual companies can also host virtual job fairs, especially when recruiting for a large number of positions.
Virtual career fairs can assist in your recruiting by removing geographic barriers, but also by focusing on a more specific industry or type of job (such as “tech startups in New York” or “public service jobs”). In fact, recent research from RippleMatch found that students are most likely to use career fairs for targeted career discovery if a career fair is tied to a specific major or field of work.
To make the most of a virtual career fair, ensure that candidates have the opportunity to upload resumes, chat one-on-one with recruiters, and learn more about the company. You might also consider offering interviews on the spot through one-on-one videoconferencing.
So what about the logistics of hosting a virtual career fair? If you are a large company trying to recruit many candidates at once and want to host a fair of your own, Brazen is one of the best platforms out there. Brazen offers features such as online chat capabilities for recruiters as well as a setup for a virtual career fair. Smaller companies might consider companies such as CareerEco or vFairs. If your company wants to join a virtual career fair that’s tied to a location, trade organization, or university, reach out to the organizer to learn more about the process of joining their fair.
Virtual Info Sessions
Suppose you aren’t quite in the recruitment stage where you’re ready to accept resumes or conduct interviews. Another good option to promote awareness of your company among your target audience is through a virtual info session. By holding a virtual info session, you can increase engagement and specifically target who you want when application time comes.
Virtual info sessions are a way to introduce prospective candidates to many different aspects of your business. RippleMatch research has found that college students enjoy attending info sessions to conduct low-stakes research about a company, rather than worry about networking or making a strong first impression on a recruiter. As part of your info session, you might consider hosting panel discussions or a Q&A with current employees from across the organization in different fields such as sales, marketing, HR, and research & development.
Similar to virtual career fairs, attendees for virtual info sessions should also have the ability for messaging and live chats with recruiters – this could be a functionality that is enabled at the end, or throughout the info session if it’s a Q&A format. If the chat function is there for the entire event, make sure someone from your team is monitoring it to answer questions in real time. Info sessions are designed to be highly engaging and an opportunity for face-to-face, two-way communication between recruiters and prospective candidates.
Webinars are similar to virtual info sessions, but webinars are more likely to feature recruiters or company employees sharing information in a lecture or presentation format for most of the time. For diversity recruiting, you could hold a webinar about your company’s initiatives for supporting Hispanic/Latinx employees, or provide information about how you uplift women as they progress through their careers. Webinars should always offer viewers the chance to ask questions through a chat function, though answering questions will likely not be as much of a focus as they would be in info sessions.
The benefit of webinars is that they can be hosted in real time, but they can also be recorded and listed on your company’s careers web page. For webinars and virtual info sessions, companies might consider videoconferencing programs such as Zoom or GoToMeeting.
Professional Development Virtual Events
A RippleMatch survey conducted at the end of the last school year found that even during COVID-19, professional development is the top priority for college students in choosing an employer. If your company previously hosted in-person professional development events like coffee chats, mock interviews, and one-on-one resume reviews, consider adapting these to a virtual environment, too.
In addition to one-on-one or small group events, you may also decide to host a webinar about a professional development topic. For example, USAjobs holds multiple webinars a year about topics related to finding and applying for federal jobs. You could even run webinars that are specific to COVID-19 or virtual recruitment, such as “How to Fill a Gap in Your Resume If Your Internship Was Canceled,” “How to Ace a Virtual Technical Interview,” or “How to Start Your Career Remotely.”
Promoting Your Virtual Event and Building the Attendee List
As with any recruitment event, a virtual career fair, info session, or webinar will only be successful if you promote it. The good news is that students are already expecting recruitment events to be virtual this year, and many of them are already interested in attending. According to recent RippleMatch data, 57% of students say they are very likely to attend virtual events this fall.
The biggest difference between virtual events promotion and in-person events is the scale – but you can still build your audience through similar tactics you would use to ensure attendance at an in-person event. Connect with campus career centers and list your events on their student-facing job platform or newsletter; partner with relevant student organizations and ask them to send it out to their members; source high-potential candidates on LinkedIn and invite them to attend your virtual event. You can also post a registration link on your website, social media channels, and email marketing for prospective candidates who have opted in to receive information about jobs at your company.
When it comes to your messaging, personalization will be more important than ever. RippleMatch research shows that among students who are unsure or won’t be attending virtual events, the main reason is a concern that they won’t be able to make personalized connections with recruiters. A simple way to show that you care about individuals in the hiring process is to send personalized invitations and follow-ups, and also to integrate some small-scale events alongside larger career fairs and info sessions.
Remember, Virtual Events Are an Opportunity to Broaden and Diversify Your Talent Pipeline
While COVID-19 has dramatically upended the traditional campus recruiting process, virtual events offer their own opportunities that could be beneficial for companies in the long run. With virtual events, you have the chance to connect with students from hundreds of schools rather than a dozen. Not only will you increase brand awareness among today’s college students, but by removing physical barriers, you can greatly expand your reach of talented entry-level candidates.
Virtual recruitment events are particularly helpful for forming a pipeline of candidates who are socioeconomically, geographically, and racially/ethnically diverse. In fact, RippleMatch data shows that underrepresented minorities and students from lower-prestige schools are more likely to attend virtual events than non-URM candidates and students from high-prestige schools. Overall, with virtual events, you won’t be missing out on talented prospective candidates outside of your target schools – and you may discover even more strategies to incorporate into your recruitment going forward.
Find out how RippleMatch can help you move beyond generic events software and spreadsheets through our Events Management Platform. All aspects of our platform are optimized specifically for college recruiting teams. Through one platform, you can drive event attendance by inviting candidates across the RippleMatch talent network of 1200+ college campuses, analyze ROI, and invest in a personalized candidate experience through automated event reminders, check-ins, and follow ups. Learn more here.