In-Person, Virtual, or Hybrid Career Fairs – Which Approach is Best?

When planning a career fair, the common goal is to connect employers with qualified job candidates. A secondary goal is for jobseekers to learn more about companies they may have not considered working for previously.

Traditionally, live or in-person career fairs were the best option, but in today’s world, other options should be considered. Let’s take a minute to review them all.

In-Person- All attendees are physically present in one location

Virtual- People attend the event entirely online

Hybrid- Some people attend in-person and others online

How do you know which approach is right for your career fair? There are different factors, such as event size, budget, timeline, the geography of attendees, and a common issue faced during the writing of this blog post – social distancing due to the Covid-19 virus.

Live Events – Still considered the most effective form of communication and is perceived as more credible and positive.

It was not long ago that the idea of meeting people online was denounced. Boomers and even millennials were openly against it and had the opinion that people only chose to go virtual if they lacked interpersonal skills. In a sense, they were somewhat ‘shamed’ for not wanting to connect in person.

In large part due to the Pandemic, and also as part of the natural evolution of digital apps and platforms, virtual events are quickly becoming a perfect alternative to in-person meetings. It is said the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation by as much as 3 to 5 years.

However, many people still appreciate and seek the opportunity to network in person, with factors such as effective communication, credibility, and overall positive experience as the leading factors.

It’s hard to argue that humans find face-to-face communication as most effective because of the entire experience it produces. Body language, postures, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements do not translate as well, even on a video call online.

Virtual Events – Faster turnaround time, reduced costs, and broader reach

The most common reasons clients choose virtual (pre-covid) include that time and money are at a premium. Virtual events allow the host to quickly create and launch an event, and depending on the size, on a much smaller budget.

Post-Covid, we see that social distancing and keeping everyone safe is the top reason organizations are choosing virtual. When it comes to virtual career fairs, the virtual options have resulted in higher attendance rates for jobseekers and more hiring companies are participating as well, due to the reduction in time and money required to do so.

Everyone who has hosted or attended a virtual event agrees it is a much more efficient process. No one has to wait in a long line to speak with a recruiter, and no company has to deal with the frustration of a poorly attended booth since they will typically receive reports with access to all of the resumes from registered candidates.

Reporting is another huge advantage to virtual events since each employer has their dashboard and is provided reports with all attendees, who attended their booth, and what resumes match their job openings.

While text/chat options or even a built-in one-on-one video interface do not compare with speaking in person, these tools do make it very easy for the recruiter to meet with candidates and get to see if they are a good fit, right on the spot.

Hybrid Events – Flexibility to reach the greatest number of qualified candidates.

So, while in-person hiring events remain a popular option for recruiters that enjoy face-to-face interaction, the limitation of social distancing, as well as traditional limitations of being available to travel to an in-person job fair make hybrid the best option.

Most often in-person job fairs attract the unemployed jobseeker. A hybrid event allows highly qualified candidates who are employed to also attend. These virtual attendees can quickly log on before work, or during a lunch hour, attend and apply online, whereas attending in-person might have been impossible.

The Pros and Cons of Hosting Virtual Events:

Pros:

  • Reduced Costs – The logistics of a physical event can be daunting. Renting a venue, printing badges, selling tickets, food, clean-up, etc., all drive up costs, time, and resources. These are all eliminated with a virtual event.
  • Broader Reach – with zero travel time, anyone from anywhere can attend. In a state like Florida which attracts people from across the U.S., many citizens that want to move have a unique opportunity to attend a virtual job fair and land a job to facilitate the move. In industries in high demand like technology and medicine, you don’t have to limit your job pool to the local population. Also, external factors like poor weather, or emergency events do not affect virtual events, so there is very little chance for interruptions or cancellations.
  • Increased Productivity – hiring managers can meet with multiple job-seekers simultaneously, and do not have to make the job candidates wait in long lines. Being able to view resumes and start video chats makes it easy for recruiters to choose who they believe will be the best fit.
  • Reporting – platforms like Premier Virtual offer detailed reports that make virtual events much more efficient as well. Each employer will know, who visited their booths, and who submitted a resume. Each recruiter can rank the candidates and easily set up follow-up interviews.

The Cons

  • Less personal connection- for recruiters that put a high value on the physical handshake, there is nothing a virtual event can do to replicate that. The personal face-to-face experience is very immersive, so virtual events have to work harder to attract and keep the attendee’s attention.
  • Distractions – If the job seeker is at work, or multi-tasking it will be difficult to remain focused on the event. It is easy to get distracted when attending virtually, which can hurt retention or the job candidate not attending each booth that matched their qualifications.
  • Overwhelming – when an event has 300 or more booths, it can be overwhelming for the job seeker. This can create anxiety for a jobseeker that is trying to visit each booth to see what jobs are available. New options that allow job seekers to get a ‘matching job report’ and a job-seeker journey are being added to make their experience more positive
  • Downtime – although the Premier Virtual platform has not suffered any significant downtime, there is a chance the platform or the attendee’s internet connection is interrupted. This can cause a poor experience and be very frustrating if it occurs during a live interview. Technology doesn’t always cooperate and can be a bigger issue for areas of the country with less service or less broadband access.

Which Event is Right for your next Career Fair?

If you have not hosted a virtual event, here is a chart that helps illustrate the options:

Face-to-Face Virtual Hybrid
Most Effective Communication X
Faster Turnaround X
Cost Savings X X
Increased Collaboration X
Greater Reach X
Flexibility & Convenience X
Relaying Complex Info X
Reduced Travel Cost X X

If you would like to get free advice on which option is best for you, please contact Premier Virtual online or at 561-717-9717 to schedule a no-obligation consultation with one of our advisors.

We have powered over 1,500 virtual hiring events, where 15,000 employers have connected with over 150,000 registered job seekers. Our best-in-class platform and experienced account managers are here to ensure you host the most successful virtual career fair possible.

We look forward to meeting you, so you can make the most informed decision to reach your company’s staffing goals.