Careers fairs have long been considered a central part of University careers services. They create an opportunity for students to connect directly with employers, to broaden their professional network and build the foundations for their first jobs and beyond.
The Covid-19 pandemic has, of course, brought seismic changes to the way they operate – and has threatened to be a significant stumbling block to engagement and results. However, thanks to the ability of University leaders to adapt, and to harness innovative technology, this hasn’t been the case. Indeed, a move to virtual fairs has actually presented an opportunity to create a more equitable playing field for employers, students, and universities alike.
Let’s look at how…
In-person fairs will always have their place on campus, grabbing the attention of those passing
by. While this is a great opportunity to create serendipitous connections, virtual fairs can
become the place of more meaningful networking for the long-term. By breaking the barriers of
time and space, the online medium can create more opportunities for all, letting students
engage on their own terms, and on their own time.
Of course, in person events require businesses to travel to campus, and invest in creating a
promotional space to attract the talent. This sometimes means that employers will choose the
event based on proximity, budget, and the popularity and status of the institution. As such,
renowned Universities take priority, while lesser known institutions lose out. And for many
businesses, the investment in attending an in-person event is just too great.
Organising virtual fairs opens up doors for students across the world, regardless of where they
study. Handshake’s recent report, Bringing Humanity Back to Career Recruitment, showed
that over the past year, 8 out of ten students engaged with employers solely through virtual
events – and their success rate has been impressive.
It perhaps goes without saying that making genuine, human connections are at the heart of
career fairs (and ultimately workplace success) whether they are in person or online.
The rapid shift online is a challenge when it comes to replicating the experience of meeting
people face-to-face. But even this can be achieved through creating an engaging environment
for both students and employers when they can exchange more than their networking details.
Collaborative tools, virtual interviews, reciprocal feedback and progress tracking are all part of
the technologies which are powering careers fairs in the virtual world – and in powering these
So, we’re still at the beginning of creating an accessible and inclusive virtual space, with a fair
recruitment process. However, what we can do for students is to make sure we’re learning from
the process, and as industry, we are working towards creating new avenues for recruitment,
whilst not forgetting the most important element of it all – that we are all human.