Career fairs have been essential to high volume recruiting. However, the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to large in-person events. For Tammy Chanley, that proposed a challenge.
Tammy is a high volume Recruiter for Charter Communications, the official name of the internet, cable, and phone service provider, Spectrum. Charter is a behemoth of a company, with 95,885 employees. Ever since launching their cellular network Spectrum Mobile in 2018, they’ve been on an upward trajectory for job growth, specifically with frontline customer service reps. Therefore, she needed to fill the never ending waterfall of open roles.
Her solution? Hosting virtual career fairs.
We talked on the phone with Tammy about her experience hosting virtual career fairs to boost her team’s high volume recruiting efforts. Check out the full interview here and a writeup down below.
Sign up for our newsletter to be the smartest in the room when it comes to HR tech.
“Think of it like a regular job fair,” Tammy begins.
A traditional job fair is an event where a large volume of scheduled applicants and candidates can connect with recruiters and employers. The event can feature simple meet-and-greets all the way to quick on-site interviews. A virtual job fair’s function is exactly the same. Instead of meeting face-to-face, candidates and employers connect over their phones and computers about open positions.
This provides great benefits for both sides. “You actually can reach out to a lot more people and use less labor,” Tammy explains about the recruiter side of things. “At our typical on-site events, we would have 70 to 80 people come in once a week. Let’s say we do two [virtual] events a week… we can get twice those numbers.” Candidates have the same networking opportunity they would on-site, without having to leave the comfort of home.
Tammy and Charter started their virtual career fair software journey by testing the waters with Brazen. “You always have to be thinking forward,” Tammy declares. “What does this look like? How are [we] gonna reach out to more candidates? Is it going to make a really great candidate experience?”
They ran a pilot program with limited access, and realized they loved it. Charter has used Brazen’s virtual career fair solution to hire for a wide variety of job openings ever since.
Before anything else, look at the time frame. Figure out what days and hours work best for your company. “We found that Tuesdays are our sweet spot,” Tammy says. Charter gets the most attendees when the event is scheduled from 1 to 5 PM.
Tammy warns that just because that time slot works for Charter doesn’t mean it’ll work for your company. Test it around a little bit to find where you’re most successful.
Then, she recommends you start planning at least two weeks out, especially when you take event marketing into account.“You have to put in the requests. Then you need to get the links. Then you need to market it on your social media.” Charter has an employee referral program as well, which adds extra steps to the process. Tammy encourages anyone marketing online job fairs to push it through every channel possible.
Timing is also important to the success of a virtual career fair. “Closer to the holidays, people are tied up, even during pandemic,” she promises. So make sure you plan at the appropriate time.
If everything goes right, you’ll see a lot of success. Charter started using Brazen in April 2020 and has since made 237 full-time job offers from those events.
Tammy urges you to reach out with a reminder about the event a few days beforehand. Whether through social media, job boards, or an email blast, make sure it's on candidates’ radars.
Charter also sends out some tips and tricks as well to make sure job seekers do all the little things to be successful. Some of those tips? “Click on the green chat button so you’re available. If one browser doesn’t work, try another browser... Log on early, about 30 minutes before the event. Double check everything. Make sure it’s the correct time.”
On Charter’s side, there are a few things to prepare as well. They have their ATS ready to go to check if certain candidates have already applied. Tammy outlines the process: “Typically we chat with them for about 10 minutes. Once we figure out that both sides would like to move forward, if they haven’t applied yet, we can just send them the link.”
By using real-time chat rooms, these interactions between recruiters and qualified candidates move incredibly fast. But seeing as Charter typically has 70 RSVPs per event, Tammy says that things can get backed up. “We try to put that out there on social media so they can reach out to us and we can figure out how to move forward after the event. Or, we tell them if you missed us this week, we have another event coming up next week.”
Sometimes, a chunk of candidates don’t show up and sometimes the volume of job seekers is too hard to keep up with. But Charter has had up to 111 chats at one event before, proving that it’s doable to keep the volume high.
Tammy shares some advice for recruiters hosting one of these virtual fairs for the first time. “You’re gonna feel like a fish out of water.” Sometimes, recruiters do up to four chats at once. But start with one at a time, and once you get comfortable, move up to more and more. “We’ve created a response sheet that we can copy-paste that makes it move that much quicker as well.”
Charter has seen great success with these methods, hiring close to 1 in 4 candidates. That hiring is usually in a short time frame. “You have to have a quick turnaround time. A candidate wants to have a good experience.”
Tammy makes sure to follow up with candidates the same day. “Nobody likes to wait for weeks on end. We’ve had an event on a Tuesday. We’ve been able to get the phone screen completed and an interview with the hiring manager, and within two days have a job offer.”
Tammy finds the biggest benefits in reaching more people. By doing multiple virtual events a week rather than one traditional career fair in person, they screen much more candidates for a lot less work.
“Whenever you’re having an on-site event, it’s all hands on deck,” Tammy says. Everyone on the talent acquisition team has to be there, even supervisors. With virtual career fairs, only the recruiting team has to log on. They handle all candidates and go through processes so the rest of the TA team can do their own thing rather than be distracted from their work.
“I think you have to try it and see what works for you,” Tammy admits. While it has been really successful for her Charter branch and some others, that doesn’t mean every company who uses a virtual career fair will see value.
She’s been exploring the other features Brazen offers, which may have more functionality for different use cases. Perhaps other companies will find value in places that Charter might not.
Tammy urges companies to understand that at first, they won’t see the numbers they’d like. “The first event we had, I think we had like 17 people,” she laughs. She recommends giving things a little time before you decide that virtual career fairs are your end-all-be-all.
Tammy also recommends forming a candidate-first mindset. “If you don't have time to move quickly… word is going to get out [to candidates that] ‘hey, you’re gonna attend that event but you never hear anything back.’ You don’t want to get that reputation out in your community.” When you consider that Glassdoor found that 58% of job seekers prioritize clear communication from employers, Tammy’s advice rings even truer.
The first time Charter held a virtual career fair, they only marketed two days before the event. That didn’t give them enough time to get the word out. Over time, they gradually built consistency of process and therefore got more efficient. Once they became more efficient, they were able to start doing two events a week. Once they started doing two events a week, more and more candidates got used to the schedule, and Charter’s attendance numbers began to rise.
Now, just over half a year into this strategy, Charter is firing on all cylinders, driving tons of value to their organization.
“I love it,” Tammy says, but warns that “you have to be prepared that things go wrong.” Sometimes the tech goes down in an event. But with Brazen, it’s hardly happened. And when it does, it’s fixed almost immediately.
According to a survey by Handshake, 80% of recruiting will remain virtual for the foreseeable future. Therefore, virtual career fairs aren’t going anywhere. By saving organizations the costs of setting up an event and saving candidates valuable time and money spent traveling to those events, the benefits far outweigh the negatives of occasional technical issues.
To learn more, check out our detailed landscape of the best virtual career fair platforms, complete with information on pricing, ROI, benefits, use cases, and more.
Tammy has been a high volume recruiter for 15 years. Though not originally from the Kansas City area, she moved there 9 years ago to grow in her career. Her best advice for new recruiters? It’s all about networking.
This post originally appeared on SelectSoftware's blog where we write about the latest in HRTech.