With a myriad of virtual career fairs taking place during this Fall recruiting season, we’ve heard lots of feedback on the number of university students who register for the fair versus how many actually attend the fair. Some schools have attendance as low as 24% while others see attendance upwards of 70-80%. What are the key differences between these schools, and what can we change in the spring recruiting season to increase these turnout values?
We decided to complete a case study on Rutgers SHE-SWE-MEET Eng & CS Virtual Fair, held through InternX, on October 22, 2020. With 2,883 one-on-one meetings taking place in one day and over 75% of registered students attending the fair, we took a deep dive into how they were able to host such a successful event through our platform.
1) Pre-Career Fair Events
Some career fair organizers feel that hosting a large quantity of events leads to student attendance burnout. We disagree. A high number of low-quality, required events may cause lower attendance, sure. But if students are offered opportunities that they can pick and choose, based on their own personal schedule and interests, we see significantly high attendance numbers.
For Rutgers, they ran a pre-CF events series, where they consistently had 60-100 students come to each event. They held 5 professional development sessions three weeks before the fair and 12 information sessions one to two weeks before the fair. At these events, companies would remind students that they were attending the Rutgers Eng & CS Fair, and SWE/SHE/MEET would remind students when scheduling was open for these events. Students were able to learn more and see which companies they were really interested in, and they were then motivated to attend the actual fair event in order to meet with a recruiter for a one-on-one meeting.
2) Recruiter Invitations
Through InternX, recruiters have the ability to filter through and reach out to students before open scheduling starts, which is the time when all students have the opportunity to schedule. When recruiters send out invites to qualified candidates, students receive an email to select any time slot within the recruiter’s pre-set availability. This allows the student to schedule a time that works for their personal schedule.
The positive effect of this feature for the Rutgers fair attendance was two-fold. One, students were excited to be hand-selected for a meeting with a recruiter, which made them more likely to accept the invite and attend the one-on-one. Two, students were not waiting in virtual queues for hours, hoping to meet with a few recruiters. With the pre-scheduling feature, students knew exactly what times they would be meeting with recruiters, which allowed them to seamlessly go about their normal schedule with scheduled meetings already set.
3) Company Attendance
While it’s easier said than done, having a high number of quality companies that are hiring candidates with the same majors and background experiences that your student attendees have is crucial. One of the most common feedback comments we receive from students after a fair is that there were not enough companies available looking for students with their specific background and experiences. Both quantity and quality of companies are important for these fairs.
For Rutgers, the Eng & CS Fair was the only dedicated engineering and computer science fair offered, so they were able to put in the time to bring on the right companies that students were wanting to meet. Through the combined personal contacts of SWE, SHE, and MEET, they were able to invite 65 valuable companies to recruit at the fair. Students were interested in signing up with companies to not only interview, but also to network and gain experience by meeting with more than just a few recruiters.
4) Utilize University Student Organizations
While many universities are the hosts of career fairs, it’s strategic to focus on the marketing and backing of smaller student organizations for the event. Students tend to engage more with their personal student organizations for upcoming opportunities versus viewing the plethora of general university emails that are sent. With consistent communication across these channels, the right students are targeted to learn about the event.
SWE, SHE, and MEET student organizations were the hosts of Rutgers Eng & CS Fair. Through SWE alone, there was an internal push to their large member base of 300-400 student members. However, even though some fairs may not be student-org run, student organizations can still be contacted to advertise the event. SWE, SHE, and MEET reached out to every engineering and computer science student organization on campus and asked them to remind their members about the event, repost their content, and keep a highlight reel on their own Instagram account of career fair details. This collective student organization effort informed thousands of students about the event.
5) Email & Social Media Reminders
At the end of the day, there’s always value in the classic email. There may a high quantity of emails going out to students to inform them of different events, but that doesn’t mean you should decrease reminders of the events and opportunities available to students. Students can filter through what they find the most important, and Rutgers made sure to provide their students with all of the detailed information about the fair and how to take advantage of the numerous features within the InternX platform. Rutgers sent out emails every few days, providing information about the pre-career fair series and reminders about the career fair, registration, scheduling, and more. In addition to their emails, they also were active on their Instagram page, with more detailed company opportunity postings and reminders. While they shared that they did not receive substantial engagement through Facebook, their Instagram posts and stories about different companies attending pre-CF events and the virtual career fair had significant engagement.
During our follow-up survey, Rutgers students rated the communication that they received from Rutgers SWE, SHE, MEET, and InternX an 8.1 out of 10, and many additional comments were submitted regarding how much they appreciated the outreach leading up to the fair. It’s worth putting in the work so students are thoroughly aware of the details of your virtual events.
What approaches have you taken for your university career fair that have helped? Which ones would you avoid for the next fair that you host? Please share below, as we work together to increase student attendance at these valuable events!
*Special thanks to Kinjal Patel, Rutgers SWE External Vice President, who shared her team’s detailed approach and experiences with the fair to help us develop this article.*