In this Nace article, Soulyka Agana-Woodbine, director of Career Development and Preparation, Trinity Washington University, discusses the decrease of employer registrations for career fairs as well as the rapid decline in student participation.
Recently, Soulyka Agana-Woodbine, director of career development and preparation at Trinity Washington University, reported inviting all the employers in the school’s network to register for a career fair, with a goal of 50. However, only 10 registered.
She asked members of the NACE Community if their career centers have noticed a decrease in employer registration for virtual career fairs and what strategies might increase the number of employers attending.
Agana-Woodbine’s concern was echoed by other career center staff. While some offered suggestions for addressing the issue, others noted that students don’t seem as interested in attending.
HERE’S WHAT THEY SAID:
We’ve had a similar experience. We’ve decided to host industry-focused fairs this semester. That seems to be bringing the number of employers in for our social services/healthcare fair due to our population, but the other events (were not as) well attended by employers. I’ve found that a few employers are not sure what to do or how to use the system, despite all of the trainings, instructions, and video walk-throughs.
On the other hand, a lot of employers are hosting virtual information sessions. It might just be easier for them to host those types of events rather than participating in the fairs. Also, student participation has been stronger for the info sessions than for the fairs.
While the setup for the fairs may have been a bit overwhelming, once the fairs got underway, both students and employers found the experience easier than they expected and they were able to make meaningful connections. Continuous follow up with employers and helping them throughout the process really helps. The video walk-throughs make the virtual career fair experience more tangible for employers too.
Keith Okrosy, student career programs manager, Hunter College
The combination of Zoom fatigue coupled with the inherent challenges of virtual events has created a downward spiral causing fewer employers to attend, causing fewer students to attend, causing even fewer employers to join. My suggestion is to stop thinking about career fair participation as the goal, but rather focus on other ways to help your students and employers engage. We’ve seen two in particular be really effective this year: experiential recruiting opportunities and speed networking events. In both cases, participation by employers and students has been incredible as there is real value created for both.
During a survey this summer, almost half the college seniors reported they were not planning to attend virtual career fairs. And, while not as scientific as the survey, we’ve informally heard from students that the number is much, much lower. When digging in further, we’ve found that the students are not using these sessions to explore (which is the primary benefit for employers), but rather to express interest to those companies where they are already planning to apply.
Beyond the surveys, having done a bunch of guest lectures and other events with students (tied to my roles on the boards or advisory councils of some colleges), and the responses from students shows the engagement numbers are worse than the survey projected. Not scientific, but interesting.
Specifically, the percentage of students showing up to the events seems to be below 50%, but I do expect that will increase over time. However, the more interesting aspect is the average number of companies with which the students engaged at the virtual career fairs or info sessions seems to be under three.
Students have shared that they are either showing up “for the face time at companies where [they] are already planning to apply,” and/or they go to a couple and realize (in their words) “they’re useless.” Some other terms that came up were “nothing new,” “same as the website,” and “scripted.”
On the company side, many have shared that the numbers are way down as well. However, even those who are seeing strong attendance have been disappointed with the lack of diversity of the students as “they reflect the backgrounds of our current employees.” While the ad hoc engagement from on-site events help overcome the lack of social capital that challenges many students from underrepresented background, the structure of remote events make this much more difficult.
Jeffrey Moss, founder and CEO, Parker Dewey