The challenge: maintaining the essence of a successful fair for employers and students while maintaining flexibility and engagement
As the pandemic meant our end-of-year recruitment fair was pushed online, we decided to experiment with using the in-built TARGETconnect events functionality to run our Summer event. This fair traditionally takes place in June and brings employers and finalists together at the end of the academic year within a traditional careers fair environment.
We knew the platform we used would need to do two things: first, it would need to allow students to easily find out about the employers exhibiting – so they could plan their day by discovering who the employers in attendance were, exploring information about each one and the vacancies they had to offer.
Secondly, we wanted to give employers as much flexibility as possible when it came to content delivery so they could choose how to engage with students. This wasn’t just to empower employers; allowing them to choose the platform and how they set it up would also mean they were more likely to be able to use it successfully. In the end, most employers used Microsoft Teams or Zoom, while a couple used Google Hangout.
The solution: suggestions and guidance for employers
Now that scheduling online meetings has become second nature for most, we found that employers had no trouble setting up their meeting for their stand, or, providing information about their company for students to browse. We found that TARGETconnect’s system of allowing students to view this information in advance from the event page before the fair worked well. In future, we will be able to include this in our marketing activities pre-event.
The feedback from employers was that students were very informed about the opportunities offered and knew what they were looking for when they visited stands. As the stand descriptions linked to the employers’ vacancy pages on TARGETconnect, we ensured students could quickly access all the information they needed.
The end-of-year fair involved many more small employers when compared with our sector-specific autumn fairs. As the tech know-how was limited for some, it meant that we had to be creative and clear with our guidance. Working with the GTI Team, we suggested that employers use a waiting area to control access to their stand, and encourage students to take turns to ask questions to someone controlling this section, alongside break-out chats for one-to-ones where the employer’s meeting technology allowed. Despite being virtual, students generally found the different ways to connect with employers useful. One attendee commented, ‘It was good to have live conversations – particularly video chats. This acted as good practice for interviews/talking about technical subjects.’
The result: lessons learned
While forum-style stand configurations weren’t possible for all employers (one reason being that you needed to plan for multiple people working on the stand), it proved to be a robust system. Students appreciated having the opportunity to ask questions or discover information while they waited for one-to-ones. This was evidenced by student feedback as well as the statistics we gained via TARGETconnect’s reporting functionality, which gave us great insight into what worked well and what didn’t in terms of student engagement and satisfaction.
The engagement reports were easy to access and provided a detailed breakdown of the activity of each individual (which stands they had visited and how many times they had visited each one) as well as the popularity of each stand (how many students had visited and how many multiple visits they had). We can now use these reports to help employers make informed decisions about the system they put in place and format to use for their stand. So, TARGETconnect gave us useful data, which will make our virtual careers fairs more successful in the future.
Note: this event was run through TARGETconnect’s existing events functionality in Summer 2020. TARGETconnect are currently augmenting this to have full in-platform virtual career fair functionality which will launch across the network from February 2021. Please contact your Account Manager or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more details on the best virtual event solution within your platform.
What students said about their experience:
“The event was well organised and possibly provided the best alternative to physical job fairs in the current situation. Flexibility to join different employers to have discussions and to leave and join another employer was very helpful. Most employers I visited had more than one staff to handle the attendees, and separate 'meeting rooms' were set up to reduce waiting time for anybody joining. The information they provided were very specific and compact, and answered to the point, without dragging into detailed descriptions of the employer themselves. Overall I am very satisfied.”
“Good to have live conversations - particularly video chats. Acted as good practice for interviews / talking about technical subjects.”
“…the virtual stand format was really good - easy to navigate.”
“Everything was very well organised and thank you immensely, UCL careers, for presenting us with the opportunity to attend a Jobs Fair virtually! Everything was awesome. Thank you!”
“Not having to wait around. Being able to select a room and leave the event once we were satisfied rather than feeling obliged to stay and socialise.”
About the event
Date of event: 16 July 2020
Number of employers exhibiting: 21
Number of students attending: 212
Number of stand interactions: 856
Information Manager at University College London