By Johanna Seasonwein, Associate Director of Employer Engagement, University Career Center
This past fall, we learned that employers can’t rely on their in-person recruiting plans and expect to be successful in the virtual space. At an in-person fair in the “before times,” you could set up your booth and expect hundreds of students to stream by in just a few hours. Students didn’t need to know anything about you in advance to stop and chat (or grab some free swag!).
Virtual fairs require a different approach. Students have to pre-select which employers they’d like to engage with and sign up for specific time slots in advance. The result is that the students who do show up are better prepared. They’ve done their research and have decided that your organization is a good fit for their career goals and values.
The downside is that students are unfamiliar with most organizations that recruit on campus—and they may not take the time to educate themselves.
This means that it’s more important than ever for employers to focus on building their brand with students proactively. Employers can no longer expect students to just find their way to their booth—they have to give them a map.
This map is how you choose to communicate your brand to students and engage them in a conversation before a virtual event even begins.
Here are our top five tips for branding and student engagement at the University of Oregon:
1. Focus on your organization’s values.
Branding is about communicating your organization’s values and your unique “value proposition.” Our students value diversity, inclusion, personal growth and development, and opportunities to learn about potential career paths, and they want to work for organizations that share those values. Here are some ways to spotlight your values on your Handshake profile:
- Highlight your company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives—and be sure to use inclusive language on both your profile and in all of your job descriptions.
- Include information on professional development and mentorship opportunities or programs.
- Spotlight your internship program (if applicable).
- Share links to videos of current employees talking about a “day in the life” or what they love about working there.
2. Identify your target audience and invite them to connect.
In advance of the fair, identify your target audience using Handshake’s Search Students page. You can filter by keyword, school, major, graduation date, or primary college. (We recommend that employers remove any GPA requirements.)
Reach out to these students and invite them to meet you at the fair. Personalize your message and tell them why you wanted to connect with them. Ask them what questions they have in advance and bring your answers to the fair.
When targeting specific student groups—especially students from racially minoritized populations—be clear about your goals in engaging them and be authentic. No student wants to feel tokenized. Handshake has some great tips on the dos and don’ts of messaging underrepresented students.
3. Register and create your fair schedule at least a week in advance of the fair.
This fall, most students signed up for their school’s fair 5 days in advance of the fair. Make sure that they will see you and your sessions by having your fair schedule completed well in advance.
4. Don’t cancel empty sessions too soon.
Around 20–30 percent of students wait until the day or two before the fair to sign up. If you see a lot of empty session slots, give those students an opportunity to register and find them. We heard from many students this fall that they couldn’t find any available slots at times they were available to meet with employers that interested them.
5. Aim for a mix of group and 1:1 sessions.
Handshake recommends 1:1 sessions for employers who are actively recruiting. However, we know from our students that many of them prefer the group sessions as a less intimidating option. Even if you’re looking to connect with potential applicants, we still encourage you to include some group sessions on your schedule.
Want to connect with UO students this winter and spring? Register for one of our virtual fairs or networking events—including our new series of industry-focused, speed-dating-style Connect events—on Handshake.