Help! Students are ignoring my B2B company at virtual career events. What do I do?

Posted September 25, 2020 by

One virtual career fair event platform can work well for one employer but terribly for another. A couple of thoughts for employers who are struggling with the new reality of having to recruit students on-line instead of on-campus:

  • Employers are marketing their job opportunities to students. In order to successfully market a product, service, or career opportunity, you first need to build awareness then move the buyer (the candidate) to consideration then sell. What seems to be happening to your organization and many others is that they’re skipping the first step and jumping straight to consideration and, in some cases, straight to selling. That’s a recipe for disaster. The candidate hasn’t been warmed up. They don’t know who you are and so they’re unlikely to consider you and if they won’t consider you then you won’t be able to convince them to work for you. 
  • For decades, job seekers have been taught that something like 80 percent of job openings are unadvertised and yet 80 percent of job seekers focus on the 20 percent of jobs that are advertised. It is fine to apply to advertised jobs. It is wise to do so, actually, as those employers are actively hiring and it takes little time to find and apply to those jobs. But if all you do as a job seeker is apply to advertised jobs then you’re competing with 80 percent of candidates for 20 percent of the jobs. Better to be one of the 20 percent of candidates who is competing for 80 percent of the jobs. The same applies on the other side of the table, especially during times like this. It is fine to attend virtual career events where you’re one of the 80 percent of employers going after 20 percent of the students (it is actually probably more like 90 percent of the students going after 10 percent of the students) as those students are actively searching and it takes little time to find and engage with those candidates. But if you want to be successful, you want to find a way to be one of the 20 percent of employers engaging with the 80 percent (or 90?) of candidates who are not participating in the virtual career events. 

When we’re talking with employer customers of College Recruiter, we often talk about their need to build awareness with candidates, especially when they can’t (or have chosen not to) go on-campus. Quite frankly, the tools offered by some of the schools are well suited to the consideration and selling phases but not to awareness building. At a high level, what we’re seeing from the employers who lack strong brands yet are succeeding is that they’ve rethought their entire approach. They used to recruit most of their students by visiting campuses and supplementing that with online sources like college job boards, social media, targeted email campaigns, etc. This year, they’ve reversed that. And because they’re doing the bulk of their recruiting online, they’ve also reduced or even eliminated their school-by-school approach as they realized that they aren’t recruiting schools, they’re recruiting students. They also figured out that if they can’t go to where the students are physically that they need to go where they are online…and that’s rarely a virtual career event. In fact, for most students, that’s never a virtual career event.

Remember to target your marketing efforts. If you’re looking for software developers (or any other specific skillset) then casting your net into a general pool will result in a lot of wasted effort as your dollars and time will largely go toward candidates who are of little interest to you and have little interest in you. For example, if the school is pretty traditional and offers a wide variety of majors and the virtual career event is open to all, then even if you’re just looking for software developers your time and money will largely be spent on students in liberal arts, business, education, healthcare, and other majors. Those are likely great candidates, but not for you. You’re likely a great employer, but not for them.

Finally, keep in mind that surveys by companies such as Parker Dewey are showing that most students plan to attend only a few virtual career events and to engage only with employers they’re already interested in working for. That’s consistent with the awareness then consideration then selling strategy. Those students are effectively saying that the employers they plan to engage with have already built the awareness and so the student is willing to consider them. If you’re struggling to get students to consider you, it is likely that you need to back up and first build that awareness. Virtual career events can be awesome, but not for building awareness. Instead, look at solutions like targeted emails, mobile and display banner ads, search engine marketing, and others. A piece of good news is that these campaigns can reach tens of thousands of highly targeted candidates within just a few days and at a cost that is comparable to flying one recruiter out to interview for a day or two at just one school. 

College Recruiter is co-hosting a free webcast in a couple of weeks during which we’ll discuss exactly these issues with some of the country’s foremost experts on hiring students and recent graduates. Join us.

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Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters | Tagged