Ever wondered why companies spend so much money on campus drives to capture fresh graduates? Despite being the least experienced lot out there, 97% of a surveyed group of 5,700 companies planned to hire at least one new college graduate every year, according to a study by Michigan State University. Enterprises launch trainee programs exclusively for them and startups hire them in managerial positions right off the bat. Their appeal is as baffling as it is intuitive.
What new graduates lack in experience, they are willing to make up in tenacity. They are bent upon making a difference and validating their position in the company and to do this, they readily take on fluid job roles, opportunities to multitask and rigorous training. Couple this with their lower-scale pay and you can see why they are sought after. But here’s the catch: it’s difficult to get their attention and even harder to sustain it.
When planning to attract new graduates, another factor that is as important as event engagement is cost-effectiveness and the key channel that is becoming popular in this respect is virtual career fairs. Virtual Career Fairs are the modern way of gathering top talent. These are exhibitions carried out in an easy-to-navigate digital environment complete with virtual booths, avatars, desks, lobbies and video vaults. Virtual Career Fairs mimic their conventional counterparts in experience and exceed them in engagement. But the idea is just the half the solution; the quality of execution of a virtual event is essential. With run-of-the-mill techniques becoming increasingly ineffective in engaging new graduates to your career fair, here are a few things you can do to make your virtual career fair a smashing success with these zealous graduates.
Reinforce your employer brand
A good employer brand is almost a prerequisite in this day and age. With 56% job-seekers citing ‘Employer brand’ as the top deciding factor in choosing an employer, it’s a no-brainer that having a positive employer track record is crucial. Reinforce your employer brand by initiating early ongoing engagement with your audience to reduce the disconnect between what is portrayed to them and what they observe. By working on your employer image a few months prior to the actual event through social media, CSR initiatives, and employee stories, you allow your audience to enter the event with a certain degree of trust in your organization.
Invest in compelling content
With virtual career fairs, compelling content is paramount. Be sure to prepare interesting and relevant material well in advance that you plan to set live during the event. Aim to incorporate as many live Q&A sessions, webinars, and discussions because this audience won’t stick around for monotonous presentations. Also, make use of as many interactive videos as possible supplemented with the opportunity for visitors to engage in live chats over the content they are viewing. Having several in-app polls peppered throughout your event can be the much-needed catalyst in boosting event engagement. Fresh graduates like experiences and nothing gives a communal experience than an interesting opinion poll during the live event.
Start building an audience well in advance
Another great way to ensure large event turnout is building an audience prior to the event through social networks and niche discussion forums. For instance, if you’re an IT company, have your company reps engage with programmers on forums like Stack Overflow and CodeProject to pique CS graduates’ interest in your company long before the event date. You can also leverage Quora to become thought leaders in a topic and build your audience there. Nurture relationships with leading colleges to add university career offices to your employer branding assets and use their student databases to send custom invites to relevant graduates. In our current one-size-fits-all world, this personalized messaging could make all the difference.
If you’ve handled the pre-event components well, there will be little left to do during the event. Most of your tasks will revolve around spreading the news of the event being live, enabling conversations and leveraging the stellar content that you had prepared beforehand.
One of the best techniques to increase your event’s engagement score among college graduates is to allow them to interact with both the speaker and their peers before a webinar/live discussion is commenced. This can be particularly useful if your company HR Manager is hosting a live webinar session since this opportunity can be used to share information about the work life at your company in an emphatic way.
Use Social Marketing
Make full use of social media to generate interest towards your live virtual career fair. Use your company pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google plus to inform and engage audiences and crowdsource. Use a catchy hashtag and use that to converge all your event-related activities across all these platforms. You can also encourage the visitors to use the hashtag to earn scores during the event which can later be redeemed for virtual giveaways or access to premium content. The options are aplenty.
Focus on Live Networking
When dealing with fresh college graduates, live networking will be the backbone of your virtual career fair so ensure that you have professionals manning the virtual booths at all times when the event is live. Allowing fresh job-seekers the option to participate in group or private networking forums can be a great way to taking their virtual career fair experience to the next level which contributes to your fair’s popularity and ultimate success.
Since this freedom of choice is bound to resonate well with fresh talent, you should incorporate it through as many mediums as possible. For instance, you could make all your virtual career fair content available ‘on-demand’. Let your visitors handpick the webinar they want to watch, the documents they want to download and the videos they want to share without any compulsions of mandatory viewings or strict schedules.
Want to take this a step further? Make all your webinars and group discussions available for viewing and download after the live sessions are over. This extra gesture of not punishing visitors who could not make it to the live feed is bound to payoff in the form of favorable event reviews.
Once the event is in full swing, you should focus on cultivating a holistic experience for your audience which ensures that your event’s impact exceeds the days that it is live. If your team keeps conversations alive, authentic and relevant, this will not be a hard feat to achieve.
Congratulations, you’ve pulled off a great event! But don’t stop just yet because you’re still a few steps away from hitting the homerun. Post-event follow-up can be the differentiating factor between a warm lead and a closed deal. So, make sure to catch up with your virtual career fair visitors with quick personalized ‘Thank you’ notes. With their data captured in registration forms and with the power of mail merge, this will be a mere matter of seconds. You can also share feedback surveys with your visitors and ask for quick ratings on different aspects of the event. This will help improve your future events and will also leave your visitors feeling like their participation was valued. Another way of furthering post-event engagement is leaving the floor open to questions via email so that you can tend to any unresolved queries that the college graduates still have.
Another thing you should try is leaving the event open for indefinite access once it’s been wrapped up. This gives you the edge of an evergreen event that continues to generate leads long after it’s time is up. But perhaps the best post-event practice, for virtual career fairs, in particular, is continuing engagement with candidates after they have pursued a job elsewhere. You have nothing to gain from holding a grudge but lots to lose if you don’t use these candidates as part of your passive talent pool. Keep sharing interesting content with these candidates and who knows, when they plan to switch careers, they’ll come flocking your way.
Much like any marketing practice, you must approach your younger talent base with a clear strategy. Trying to pull off impulsive moves simply because you’re dealing with an impulsive audience can lead to tragic results. Instead, you need to be extra careful in capturing and maintaining the intrigue of this surprisingly capable and highly mercurial demographic. Use clear plans to execute your pre, during and post-event elements and you will unlock the fascinating benefits of the modern-day ‘diamonds in the rough’, more commonly called fresh graduates.
Want to learn more about Virtual Career Fairs? Read "The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Career Fairs".