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The advantages to hosting online job fairs and hiring events are many. Both employers and job seekers save time and money from not having to set up and attend the events in person, attendance is not limited by geographic boundaries and the initial stages of recruitment are accelerated.
Ed Barrientos is the CEO of Brazen, a technology company based in Arlington, Va., which is at the forefront of producing chat-based virtual hiring and networking events. He talked with SHRM Online about the ways virtual candidate engagement is used, best practices for organizations conducting online hiring events, and whether the traditional in-person career fair may soon be a thing of the past.
SHRM Online: What are the primary ways that chat-based virtual events can be used in talent acquisition?
Barrientos: Most companies use virtual chat events for top-of-the-funnel engagement with prospective candidates. We've always had career fairs, but they are generally ineffective. Large employers collect resumes and job seekers feel like the whole experience is kind of useless. Virtual job fairs, held by a single employer, perfect that human engagement in a more efficient way. Employers either send out invitations to specific people that they want to engage with, like engineers in their ATS, or broaden the engagement for an open house style event advertised through social media and programmatic advertising. People register for the event and use their smartphone or computer to connect with someone from the company for a one-on-one chat. The timed interaction can be based around a specific job posting, and serves as a preliminary screen, or it can be purely informational. Anyway, it's a useful, productive conversation. Because it's virtual, recruiters can be multitasking, chatting with up to four people at a time.
For the recruiter, these events compress the time to first engagement and ultimately the time to hire. Candidates are given the opportunity to engage with an actual recruiter from the company they are interested in on a specific day and time. That's something you normally don't have that early in the process. Once candidates apply, they generally don't have any idea when or if they will get a response. That touch is valuable. It is more likely to lead to a job seeker being told to 'go ahead and apply' or an applicant being moved to the next level.
Organizations also use virtual chat events to support internal mobility. Employees can talk to and hear from different people from different departments at a large company, for example. KPMG does this very well, bringing in senior partners from all over the world, who are then connected to thousands of employees who may be interested in seeing what is happening in other parts of the company.
[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]
SHRM Online: What are some best practices for employers holding virtual hiring events?
Barrientos: Make the signup process easy. The typical employment application process is generally cumbersome, and depending on what ATS you're using, it could be super cumbersome. When people sign up for an event, make it like an RSVP to an Evite. Employers can ask for as little or as much information as they want, but we recommend collecting only core information. Make it easy for the job seeker to say 'Yes, I want to engage, I'll come and chat with you,' without making any other commitments. Asking for almost as much information as you'd typically ask for in a job application defeats the purpose.
We also like to encourage including hiring managers and potential co-workers in the chat for especially hard-to-fill positions. It can be logistically difficult to do that, but can go a long way toward engaging passive candidates.
Lastly, think like a marketer. Recruiting is marketing. It's always been that way, but now recruiters are accepting that. Employers can use these virtual engagements in various creative ways, from hosting a weekly "office hours" with recruiters to offering information sessions purely for branding and talent pipelining.
SHRM Online: Is the in-person career fair dying because of chat technology and candidates' engagement preferences?
Barrientos: Not entirely. There's always room for in-person hiring events. Virtual chat will not replace the hiring events often seen in high-volume, high-turnover recruiting, where employers do all the screening, interviewing and hiring on the spot. These job fairs are typically held for hiring a lot of people to work in retail, food service, concessions, etc.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are also catered events where the employer is wining and dining prospects, such as at law firms. You can't do that virtually. I would also include executive recruiting here. There's so much selling that needs to happen on both sides that the physical touch is that much more critical.
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