8 Ways to Make Your Virtual Job Fair a Success

Freddie Adams

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of being innovative and thinking outside the box. This applies to everything we do now: From attending in-person concerts to streaming live concerts; watching sports with fans to watching sports with digital fans; eating at crowded restaurants to eating outside and socially isolated from others; and more. Everything we were used to doing had been altered in some way. The same is true for businesses. Traditional strategies that have worked in the past must be reinvented. Job fairs are a component of this mix.

Whether you are used to attending job fairs or holding your own, they must now be virtually reinvented. So, how can staffing firms transform the traditional job fair into a virtual one while still getting the most bang for their buck? Here are eight tips for making your virtual job fair a success.

1. Make a commitment to it

Before you begin planning your virtual job fair, avoid the mindset that it will be inferior to an in-person event. A virtual job fair can be just as effective (if not more so) if you have the right resources and are fully committed to it. Don’t put off investing in resources just because it’s a virtual event. Commit to obtaining the resources required to make the event a success.

2. Select an Appropriate Platform

To choose the best platform, first decide on the goals and format of your job fair. Do you intend to keep it simple and hold one session at a time, or do you intend to have breakout rooms? Do you want to use a standard webinar platform or one that allows for networking, booth time, the ability to hold more than one session at a time, and so on? All of these factors will be determined by the virtual platform used for your fair.

If a webinar platform, such as GoToWebinar®, is used, you can hold one session at a time and allow candidates to join for the sessions they want to attend. Each client participating in the job fair can hold a session to discuss their company, positions they are looking to fill, and ideal candidates for these positions. At the end of each session, time can be set aside for candidates to ask questions. This format is less intimate, but it allows clients to promote their company to candidates while also allowing candidates to learn about your clients. If the goal of the job fair is to be informative, this format could work well.

If you want to hold a job fair that is more interactive and allows candidates to speak with clients, you should consider a different format. Some webinar platforms, such as Zoom®, allow for breakout sessions. You could still have sessions with all attendees, but you could also include breakout rooms. Each of your clients can have their own breakout room, allowing candidates to jump into the rooms they are interested in. This allows candidates to ask questions and speak one-on-one with employers. 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 than holding one large session for everyone.

If you want to go above and beyond, there are even fancier platforms that allow for all of the above and more! I recently used a platform that offered virtual booths, one-on-one networking time, and sessions for all attendees. If you want to invest a little more in your virtual fair, this is a great option. Each client can have their own virtual booth that is customized with their company’s branding. Candidates can then enter their booth and engage in one-on-one video conversations with clients. Each booth on the platform I used had a “register interest” button. So, if a candidate is interested in a job opportunity with the client, they can click a button and indicate their desire to learn more. Clients can still give a presentation during a session time, but they will also have a virtual booth for candidates to visit. If this is something you’re interested in, there are several platforms that provide similar services.

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. Create a Powerful Program

Once the format has been decided upon, the program and agenda should be put together. What clients will you invite to participate? Will each client be able to give a presentation? Will there be a keynote speech? Will there be workshop sessions for candidates throughout the event? Will there be a happy hour/networking session at the end? It is critical to put together a strong and appealing program. After all, you’re attempting to create an event that people will want to attend! So, how do you go about it?

One factor to consider is whether you will hold a single job fair for all of the industries you staff in or if you will hold separate job fairs for each industry. If your staffing firm works with a variety of industries, it may be best to hold separate job fairs for each industry. The more niche and specific the job fair, the more appealing it will be for candidates and clients in that industry to attend.

The next step is to decide which clients will be invited to participate. Unless you are a small staffing firm, it is unlikely that you will 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 could also consider inviting prospective clients to participate. If you have a few “hot” prospects with whom you want to do business, invite them to the job fair! Maybe they’ll meet a candidate they like and want to do business with.

The agenda is important in addition to lining up the right set of clients to participate. Will it primarily 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 throughout the event could be ways to entice candidates. The greater the value provided to candidates, the more likely they will attend. Clients can even sponsor some of these additional sessions. It will provide them with additional exposure, and they will appreciate the offer to sponsor it. It’s a win, win situation!

4. Promote and Market the Event for Success

After the clients have been secured and the agenda has been finalized, the next critical step is to market the event to candidates. Not only do you want a large number of candidates, but you also want qualified candidates that clients are interested in hiring.

Before you begin marketing, consider 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 are boring or amateurish, they will not attract the right audience, and may not even attract anyone! However, if your marketing graphics look professional and convey 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 completed, the marketing can begin! Use your ATS to create a list of candidates to invite and an email campaign. Send a few emails to this distribution list in the days leading up to the event. The more promotion they see for it, the more likely they are to sign up. Texting is also an excellent way to follow up with candidates after the initial email. It adds a personal touch that candidates would not get from a standard marketing email. If your ATS supports texting, 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. Unlike a regular marketing email, plain text emails appear to have been sent by someone. Plain text emails are another effective way to follow-up and send personalized messages in bulk.

Combine social media marketing with email and text messaging promotion. Boost your organic posts to ensure that your followers see them. A Hootsuite study found that only about 5.5 percent of Facebook® page posts are seen by their page followers. You will be able to reach a much larger audience if you pay to boost your organic posts.

Consider running ads on Facebook, LinkedIn, and job boards to reach out to new candidates with whom you are not already working. Paid ads will cost you a little more, but they are a good option if you want to broaden your audience and reach new candidates.

5. Gather resumes ahead of time

Gather the resumes of the candidates who will be in attendance and send them to the clients who are participating in the lead up to the event. This is a good opportunity for clients to meet the candidates who will be attending. They can also make a note of any specific candidates with whom they would like to speak.

6. Make it enjoyable

Job fairs don’t have to be all serious; have some fun with it! Everyone is feeling a little “bluer” these days because they are unable to do things they are used to doing. That is why it is critical to embrace new ways of doing things while also having fun with them. What if you organized a raffle? Everyone who registers and attends the event is automatically entered into a raffle drawing to win a prize. Clients may also wish to provide a raffle prize to candidates who visit their booth. What about a social media competition? If they use the job fair hashtags on social media, they will be entered into a raffle drawing to win a prize! A social media contest allows your staffing firm to gain additional exposure from your candidates. Everyone enjoys receiving prizes. This could be a simple and easy way to get candidates to attend while also having fun.

If you really want to go out with a bang at the end of the job fair, end with something fun! I’ve witnessed virtual concerts, magic shows, trivia, family feuds, and other events. All of these activities are enjoyable ways to end the day on a high note.

7. Provide it for free

Unless it is financially impossible to make the job fair free, make it free for clients and candidates to attend. People will be turned away if there is a fee to attend a job fair. Attending a free event, on the other hand, will have no negative consequences and will attract more clients and candidates.

8. Post-Event Follow-Up

Everyone will be ecstatic after the event, but success does not stop there! The ultimate goal of the job fair is to connect candidates and clients for interviews after the event.

Following that, personally follow up with clients. Inquire how it went. Inquire if they have spoken with any candidates in whom they are interested. Follow up with candidates as well. Send them a survey and ask them to select the positions/companies about which they want to learn more. This information can then be communicated to the client. It’s possible that some candidates will not have the opportunity to speak with clients one on one, but are interested in a position they have open. If no breakout sessions are scheduled during the job fair, sending a follow-up survey to candidates will be even more important, as clients will not have that one-on-one interaction time.

Follow-ups after the event are critical for making the most of the job fair. The purpose of the job fair is to connect clients and candidates. The next step is to convert the relationships that were formed during the event into job offers.

A New Staffing Era

A virtual job fair is not the same as an in-person job fair. There are numerous factors to consider, but virtual fairs can be just as effective as in-person ones if you are fully committed and invested in them. The most important part is to know what you want to get out of the virtual fair and to format it to meet your needs. Virtual job fairs are a “new wave” of staffing that will not go away. So, how are you going to reinvent the job fair?