Increasing in popularity, virtual careers fairs are changing the way employers and students meet and interact. Having conducted seven GradConnection virtual career fairs in 2016, we have noted the success, lessons and limitations that employers should to be aware of.
Virtual career fairs are becoming increasingly popular with employers, especially when it comes to finding the very best talent for their organisation. Eliminating hurdles such as travel/location, schedule and budget constraints make it possible to gain a wider reach of students who would not ordinarily have been able to meet.
GradConnection’s virtual career fairs provide a platform for employers to connect with a large student audience at multiple tertiary institutions locally and internationally in one session. Employers can engage in real time with their target audience, position their graduate recruitment programmes and employee value proposition (EVP) while creating online communities.
Having successfully conducted seven virtual career fairs in 2016, GradConnection South Africa noted a number of employer successes:
- Employers gained access to a large student audience – with an average of 1 900 views per session and some employers receiving as many as 3 000 views within a two-hour session.
- Employers were able to position their international graduate programmes – reaching out to international students studying in South Africa (SA) who are looking to return to their home country once they have completed their studies. As well as SA students currently studying abroad but are keen to return home.
- Increased employer brand and EVP awareness - employers were able to communicate the details of their brand, EVP and receive questions and feedback in real time.
- Employers were able to position the unique programmes they offer - especially around development opportunities, important projects, international rotations as well as their successes with previous years’ graduates.
- Travel/location, schedule and budget constraints were no longer an issue – the virtual career fairs saved employers time, money and increased the student reach.
- Recruiters overcame reservations about engaging with a large group of people online - employers saw how simple and convenient the process was and in fact enjoyed participating.
No new venture is a true success unless there were a few lessons learnt along the way:
- Prepare, prepare, prepare – this cannot be over emphasised. The better prepared you are the greater success you will have, it’s that simple.
- Employers must test their internet connection ahead of the time – the last thing you want is for the entire fair to end before it even begins.
- Ensure that your organisation’s IT policies allow access to the virtual careers site – basically get yourselves organised and ready.
- Know your company and graduate programmes well – key milestones, opportunities, skills, qualifications and hiring policies.
- Pre-prepare answers to questions that you know will come up – basic information about the programme is likely to be asked a few times so make sure you don’t waste time typing out the same answers dozens of times.
- Share some exciting news about your organisation - often graduates are familiar with your products and company, share some interesting additional information that they might not find on your company website.
- Avoid just referring candidates to your careers site for information - where possible provide the requested information online to the students, this increases engagement and interaction.
- Virtual career fairs are public forums - be open to engaging with students that are not from your target disciplines as well.
- Engage authentically – don’t be afraid to offer advice and tips, such as interviewing or career tips.
As with most things, virtual career fairs too have their limitations:
- Employers can’t assume virtual fairs are a replacement to careers fairs or their online marketing strategy.
- Virtual fairs are only effective if an employer has invested in their brand in other places outside of the fair.
- Reporting will always be limited as 90% of the users won’t participate in asking a question.
- Virtual fairs can’t just be measured on the time that an employer is online. Overtime more students will view the virtual fair thread than those that attended the session