Career fairs have long served as a way to attract and pre-screen a large number of potential job candidates at one time and in one place. But two factors have lessened their efficiency.

First, the growing movement to seek out talent where it lives rather than being limited to local areas is making live job fairs obsolete. Technology and best practices for telecommuting have made the requirement to live and work in the same area less important for knowledge-based jobs than it once was, allowing organizations to seek out qualified candidates globally. The second factor is the increased time and expense with travel and renting a space to hold a career fair.

Organizations can overcome those limitations by using virtual career fair software.  In these online job fairs, organizations can create a branded environment with a lobby or welcome area complete with a video greeting from company executives. There can be an exhibit hall with booths or rooms where candidates can access information or chat with recruiters to learn more about an organization.

One of the lesser-known benefits of hosting a virtual career fair is the ability to attract hard-to-find “passive”candidates who are currently employed and appreciate the ease (no need to take time off from work) and privacy (concerns with being seen at a physical job fair) of attending a virtual career fair. Read more about virtual career fair benefits.

The cost of a virtual career fair depends on variables such as the number of events you want to host, the features needed, and scope of the event (i.e., local versus global), among others. While the costs range from $8,000 to $80,000 for a single event, a virtual career fair still generally costs a fraction of a physical event.

Choose a Virtual Career Fair Platform

There are two general types of virtual career fair software platforms on the market. One is a simple webpage with a chat window where attendees can chat with recruiters at a designated time. The other is a more robust solution that mimics a physical career fair with branded exhibit halls, booths, webinars, and a resource center.

Budget conscious organizations that want the basics can go with a chat-only solution. While organizations that want to build their brand, have a wow factor, and include more features (greeter, resource center, booths, educational webcasts) will go with a more robust platform.

Once a budget has been established along with the scope of particular needs, interviewing technology providers can begin. Some key factors to consider include:

  • Interview a few providers and narrow down to 2-3 that meet your needs.
  • Ask for a “live” demo of the platform:  Don’t just rely upon a brochure. It’s easy to assess a physical venue to host an event, such as a hotel, because you can “see” the condition of the property, how easy it is for attendees to get to, the number of staff on site for support, etc. You’ll need to do a lot more sleuthing to investigate virtual venue providers. A live demo will not only show the features and capabilities of the platform, but will also enable you to experience the “performance” of the platform. During the demo pay attention to the responsiveness of the platform (no delays), look and feel, and ease-of-use. Also, ask to see the back-end so that you can experience how easy or difficult it would be for you to set up and customize the virtual career fair.
  • Find out how much support is available for setting up the virtual job fair and during the live event:  There a many start-ups on the space with a nice website and brochure, but have less than 10 total employees.  Would you go with a hotel that had 6 total employees running the hotel?  Visit the providers website and make test calls to try and reach their customer service department.   Does it go to voice mail or do you get someone quickly?  Also, find out their customer service hours.  Imagine your boss or clients’ reaction if you choose a provider with skeleton staff behind the curtain as in the Wizard of Oz?
  • Data security:  You will be collecting and handling personal information from candidates, which means you will be accountable with complying with federal and state privacy laws. Make sure the platform has the necessary security parameters in place for handling and/or purging personal data.
  • 3rd party integration:  Determine if you want the platform to integrate with a third party software such as your own registration system, CRM or other software to easily pass data.
  • If your event global, make sure the platform has language translation capabilities.

How to Make it Work

The scope and size of an event are up to the organization hosting it. Various factors impact this decision, including expected attendance, number of booths and types of content — video, images, text. A company also can determine if a virtual career fair will meet its recruiting needs based on how many jobs it has to fill.

Thanks to technological advances, creating a virtual career fair is relatively easy. It can be done in-house if the organization has the resources to devote to it, in conjunction with an outside partner, or by working with technology vendor support staff.

Pre-built templates walk users through the virtual recruiting process step-by-step, from developing the initial welcome area to building individual booths and setting up chats. Depending on their budgets, companies can choose a graphical look from existing templates to quickly and easily set up their event or develop a custom look specific to their brand.

Customize Your Virtual Booth

The nice thing about the virtual booth is that it allows you to get creative with the kind of information you want to present to potential employees as well as the format you want to display it in. From branding to content and creative, you can customize your virtual booth the same as you would for a traditional booth. You can include the following items for your potential candidates:

  • List of current open positions
  • Downloadable company benefits
  • Company locations map
  • Current company PR/news and stock information
  • Corporate or departmental videos

There are several possibilities to virtually give the job candidates well-rounded information on what it would be like to work at your organization.

Don’t forget to staff your booth for any live days. Your virtual job fair will be considered a success if job candidates find a knowledgeable recruiter or hiring manager available to get their questions answered immediately during the fair hours. Because the recruiters standing by will inevitably get similar candidate questions, consider compiling a messaging sheet of standard responses for recruiters to pull from, to ensure similar responses and time efficiency.

Some platforms even have a feature that allow booth representatives/recruiters to run a qualifications-based search of who was in the virtual career fair at a given time based on the information attendees provided on the registration form, then contact them while they are online to draw them to the sponsor’s booth. All of this helps participating organizations shorten their hiring cycles and fill specific skill needs more quickly.

Build It, They May Come

As with any career fair, the challenge is getting candidates to attend. An organization can have the slickest, most interactive event on the planet, but that doesn’t guarantee potential candidates will register or attend.

To achieve success, it’s important to market the virtual career fair aggressively through email, direct mail, advertising, public relations, social media and other channels such as partner companies. Integrated marketing campaigns work best for career fair promotion. The more diverse the selection of marketing vehicles used, the better the chances of reaching more potential attendees. A full-time marketing person is not required for these efforts. However, it is best if someone involved with marketing takes charge.

Once potential candidates have registered, organizations need to set up a regular email, social media and other communications schedule to keep them informed and the event top-of-mind, with a final reminder going out the day before. Once the live portion is completed, organizations should send out regular reminder emails that the virtual event is still open. The reminders should include information about useful materials such as recorded webcasts, industry keynotes and workshops which are available on demand or for download in the booths, and also include the ability to leave questions, which must be answered promptly.

Review the Metrics

Virtual career fairs have a number of advantages over other marketing channels because attendees are in a controlled environment, where all of their actions, conversations, and information can be measured and evaluated (i.e. views, click-through rates, etc).  These metrics and reports provided by your hosting platform’s technology are key to improving future events. Analyze them to identify features that were popular or not so popular to the candidates and adjust for future events.

Follow Up

Congrats! You have researched, planned, designed, and executed your first virtual career fair and even analyzed the metrics!  Now what? Don’t forget to follow up with the candidates that your recruiters interacted with. Use any contact information the recruiters received to reach out to the potential candidates that haven’t applied yet or may have more questions. You can even track candidates who moved to the next step in the hiring process to track the overall success of the event.

While face-to-face meetings are still important, now they can often be pushed back further in the hiring process when interest levels on both sides are high. Until that time, virtual career fairs provide a high level of interactivity and impressive brand building that helps to keep an organization’s pipeline filled with quality candidates.

For case studies and more information go to http://www.virtualjobfairhosting.com.

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