Life after a Virtual Career Fair

We hosted our first virtual career fair last Wednesday. It was a pretty hectic day. As soon as the clock struck 4 pm everybody at the office clapped, and instantaneously opened a cold beer. Much deserved, we all agreed.

The entire Graduateland team has been looking forward to launching the virtual career fair for many months, and the concept resonates exceptionally well with our vision of creating touch points between university talent and employers.

Many major industries have seen disruption the last years, and the rest will be seeing it soon. The biggest innovations in recruitment, however, have been to 1) take the ‘We’re hiring’ sign in the shop window and put it into a newspaper ad, and then 2) take that job ad and put it on an online job board.

When sex is the driver you’ll see innovation spark! Dating apps are using ‘Super Likes’, ‘Swipe Ups’, geolocation, ephemeral selfies and other means to interact for the sole purpose of setting up connections, getting people to engage with each other, and hopefully creating meaningful matches.

Fundamentally, recruitment evolves around the same principles. But recruitment and employer branding are yet to leverage the many ways that interaction can happen. And considering how the demographic segment of students and graduates is brought up with smartphones and the associated constant online presence, there definitely are some low hanging fruits to pick.

So… put on your fruit picking hat, we’re going into the apple orchard!

Thanks to all the first movers!

The online career fair that we executed yesterday had almost 20 participating companies. The support and enthusiasm from these companies have been a major validation that real-time online interaction and communication (some use the short term ‘chat’) is part of the future of recruitment.

And first of all – a huge tip of the hat to you for taking a chance with this initiative and jumping on the first mover wagon. I know that a powerful employer brand is a delicate thing and sometimes requires that you treat it like a Chinese vase. And that means not trying too many crazy things. So I genuinely think it’s fantastic that you wanted to be part of this first event.

Many complex elements can be added to the ideal virtual career fair experience, but according to startup principles, you must not build a rocket ship before you test the market. Consequently, we teamed up with a third-party provider of said online career fair software, and thus the creative wiggle room was somewhat limited.

Evaluating the Career Fair

Okay, I’ll say it – yes, we did experience some technical issues and connecting several autonomous systems via custom API’s can prove to be challenging. We’re following up on everybody that participated and hearing your feedback.

We had done a pinky swear to the corporate participants that we’d make sure that we could get the right candidates to visit their online career booth. Post-career fair I feel that I can reveal that we were quite unsure about exactly how many candidates should attend the fair for it to be a success. It’s a fine balance between too few and too many, and since there are no candy bowls and free pens the candidates either find a vacant recruiter to converse with, or move on to the next booth.

Like anybody hosting anything, it’s always a nail-biting experience to see if anybody actually shows up. Well, in this case, they did. Big time. The career fair opened at 11 am, and already then +1.000 students and graduates were ready.

I imagine that the recruiters, who were sitting all across Europe, were surprised as well – from 0 to 50 conversations as the clock struck 11. Almost too much of the good stuff.

As the career fair went on the activity hit a more reasonable level, and in hindsight, we can see that our activity level resembles that of physical career fairs; extremely busy when the doors open, perfect ratio of candidates to recruiters in the middle, and a slightly calmer ambience towards the end of the day.

Digging into the numbers

Shakira claims that hips don’t lie – in our case, numbers don’t lie. Almost 2.000 unique students and graduates visited the career fair, from an impressive number of countries. That said, the vast majority (70%) were from Scandinavia, convenient for the many Scandinavian recruiters.

According to our principles of Permission Recruitment we should only facilitate a connection between candidates and companies if both parties live up to the preferences of the other. This worked in theory, but a few technicalities resulted in the filtering being a bit inhibited. And the convenient hole in the system where you could bypass the criteria from the companies, by accessing the chats from the front page, and not via the company booth.

Well, move fast and break things, as they say at Facebook, and I agree in the sense that if we were to develop the ideal career fair system ourselves for this version 1 we’d still be developing, and there’d be months of hard work ahead. We’ve learnt so much from this career fair yesterday, and we’re already looking forward to the next round.

Our overall experience is definitely great, and the users we’ve heard from had a valuable experience. At the end of the day, that’s the key element for us. Visitors spent an average of +26 minutes on the career fair, and our first surveys show that 50% of users prefer to meet companies online, as opposed to physically, in the future. Definitely interesting.

We keep on pushing the scope of how to make university talent and employers interact in order to kickstart great careers.

Career fair: checkmark. Next month: Graduateland Insights, quantifying your employer brand!