How To Save Your Organization Costs When Hosting a Virtual Job Fair

Image via Bryant University

Many businesses and workforce providers have shifted their in-person programs, services and operations to being fully remote and virtual due to the COVID-19 work response. Due to the highest unemployment rate in American history, workforce providers rapidly found ways to continue preparing job seekers for the job market. That way, these individuals can get back on their feet as they are being guided through their job search, as well as assisting them by securing income relief. In the workforce development field, organizations swiftly shuffled their staff resources, pivoted their programs and discovered new ways to deliver their services. This brings us to today’s post about shifting in-person job fairs to virtual job fairs.

We’ve heard about some of the top virtual career fair platforms before such as Handshake, CareerEco, Brazen, etc. However, for many small workforce non-profit organizations, the biggest consideration would be the cost – which ultimately leads them to seek for low-cost platforms. But of course, many non-profits offer free services – so a free platform may be their top choice. However, be mindful that free platforms do not have the necessary tools that your organization may desire to run a successful virtual fair.

What is an alternative? I suggest looking into Zoom. You may be thinking, “How is that even going to work? Isn’t that platform normally used to hold meetings, social networking or virtual happy hour?” Yes, however you can make a job fair happen.

Before you begin to brainstorm with your team, be mindful that:

  • Planning and preparing a virtual job fair requires as much attention from staff as an in-person job fair does, since this involves the same amount of staff and preparation to execute the plan successfully and accordingly.
  • To plan for job fairs virtually, there needs to be a good amount of controls to prevent long winded speakers, visitors and guests from interrupting the flow of the event.
  • You need to make sure that your event organizers are prepared to handle any unexpected challenges — making sure that they are very knowledgeable of the platforms being used in order to utilize features and tools to mitigate chaos.
  • You also need to make sure that your employers are prepared beforehand — how do we make sure they know the game plan and the platform features? (e.g. Set up a dry run 30 minutes – 1 hour before the actual event)

Next, you want to ask to yourself:

  • Why should our team even do or consider hosting the remote job fair? What is the purpose of this? Will our organization benefit/get anything out of doing this?
  • How is our team going to plan our job fair? Is there a contingency plan? And after your team has it all planned out, think about “why did we arrange the job fair in the way that we did?”
    • Now you’re still thinking, “How can you do this on Zoom? There are no Zoom features that can be accommodating for virtual job fairs.”
    • Option 1 (No Cost): Group the employers per session and assign a designated time for employers (1-2 representatives) and invite interested participants to join any session that they desire to – because this will prevent lagging, crashing and in case there may be any network connection issues. You can give the first half hour of each session to employers and have them discuss about their available positions or future openings and give the last half hour to open up the floor for Q&A’s.
      • How would you group them? By sector/industry? Or diversify them? Whichever you choose, make sure that it can maximize participant attendance in each session to create an engaging discussion rather than just listening to employers speak/present the whole time.
    • Option 2 (Low Cost to High Cost): Create breakout rooms to have job seekers interact with employers. However, please note that depending on the size of your audience, Zoom Rooms cost $49 per room per month. For annual subscribers, it costs $499 per year or $41.58 per (break out) room per month. Additional add-ons include cloud recording (starts at $40/month).
  • How are we going to collect resumes? What platform/tool?
    • Dropbox may be a good alternative if you want to follow up with employers individually after you have your job seekers upload their resumes for the positions that they are applying for. It is a helpful tool to consider when creating shareable folders for the employers so they are receiving resumes directly from those who are applying for them, rather than just receiving a bulk of random resumes. It can also help your team keep track of the resumes that you can follow up and reach out to for future job opportunities that you may find suitable for them, if they do not get a job through your job fair.
    • If you go with the option of Dropbox, to keep it organized, you may want to request the submissions of resumes to being renamed/formatted uniformly so that it makes it easier for the employer to access them.
      • However, it may be a challenge if one of the employers are unable to access Dropbox due to their firewalls that blocks the application.
      • A solution to that if it does happen, is to send candidate names who have applied to that employer so the recruiter can locate their applications.
    • Zoom gives you the option to upload attachments in the chat box as well.
  • How do we have job seekers register? (You may want to check out top recommendations for event registrations)
    • Personally, I like to use Eventbrite because it is a popular registration tool for creating events. In addition, it is convenient, easy to collect statistics and see your metrics, as well as following up with job seekers after the event).
  • How is my team going to execute the plan?
    • Who is the audience? In this case, it would be job seekers. But what are the demographics/population that you are looking to serve?
    • Which employers are participating? Are the positions that they are applying for going to meet the language/educational/skills requirement of the job seekers that will be attending?
      • How would our team pitch the event to employers?
        • A tip for non-profits:
          • Employers that you have established long-term relationships with, will not decline unless they do not have a hiring need for that season.
          • You also want to maintain a close relationship with your organization’s fundraisers, gala honorees and board members since they can be a huge contribution because they are your biggest supporters.
    • Work on outreach and marketing
      • Create flyers and outreach materials to get the word out to your community.
  • Outcomes: How do we follow up after the event?
    • Feedback surveys from job seekers and employers are a helpful way to improve future virtual job fairs
    • Stay in contact with employers regarding next steps on reportable number of interviews and/or hires
    • Evaluations: Consider best practices, challenges, highlights and what your team would have done the same and/or different. Also some questions to debrief on after:
      • How many resumes were submitted? Which employers received the highest number of resumes? Which received the lowest number of resumes?
        • This kind of data will be helpful to determine which employers are the most popular to pursue further relationships/partnerships in the future because the number of placements/hires matter most vs. those with barely any improvement in the number of hires.
        • This kind of data is also helpful to figure out why job seekers were not interested or qualified in a particular employer.
      • How many participants showed up vs. those who registered?
      • What kind of technical difficulties while setting up the fair (prior and during)? What contingency plan should we consider moving forward?

Technical issues to take care of while practicing dry run on Zoom

  • Avoid disrupting call-ins
    • Registration is very important to keep unwanted guests from entering in. Therefore, it is good to enable a waiting room in your Zoom account settings if you are the host.
  • Allow call-ins to raise hands if they want to speak
  • Automatically mute participants upon entry to prevent distractions/echoes
  • Disable sound when participant joins or leaves
  • Limit spamming on chat box
  • Make sure employers come prepared and have them do a quick dry run before event actually begins!