From high travel costs to evolving student behaviors, forward-thinking organizations have had plenty of reasons to question their approach to on-campus recruiting in recent years. There were signs that a shift to a more virtual strategy was inevitable.
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When the pandemic hit just before spring, that gradual move to virtual became an immediate necessity. Colleges and universities across the country canceled in-person career fairs and on-campus events. Suddenly, companies were left scrambling to organize their summer internships and struggling to figure out ways to fill their candidate pipeline in the fall.
Just as the pandemic canceled in-person events, EAB had begun working with corporations to help them recruit early career talent. Working with several Fortune 500 organizations in technology, financial services, and industrial engineering, we helped these partners quickly build efficient and effective virtual events. Using tried-and-true marketing strategies from college admissions recruitment, in a few short months we were able to attract thousands of students to a dozen events. Not only were we able to fill the funnel with quality prospects and engage with students, we also saved these companies the expense of traveling to multiple campuses.
From our work helping Talent Marketing Services partners recruit virtually—and our work helping colleges and universities recruit Gen Z students—here are five key strategies to help get an online event strategy up and running.
1. Avoid the “one and done” approach
You already know that campus recruiting is a marathon, not a sprint. With that in mind, don’t rely on a single webinar to do all the heavy lifting. You’ll want to engage students over a longer period of time, which means it’s important to host multiple virtual events throughout the season. Develop a plan for a series of events and consider how multiple sessions can build off one another.
Create a concept that can remain consistent across all webinars or themes that align with the different stages of the recruiting process. Case in point: one of our partners hosted six webinars, each attracting over 1,000 unique students from top universities. Held over a period of roughly four months, topics ranged from high-level overviews of the organization (to attract a broad pipeline of students) to in-depth looks at company culture (as students began to narrow their internship choices).
2. Diversify your audience
It goes without saying that you need to promote your webinar—“if you build it, they will come” doesn’t work with online events. When inviting students to attend, don’t rely on a single source to “fill” the virtual room. Reaching out to existing candidates will bring an audience, but you can drive additional students into the pipeline through tactics such as career center outreach and social media. Start your promotion early and often—one email and one social post won’t maximize attendance and engagement. In fact, in our work with both higher ed partners and Fortune 500 companies, we’ve found that a majority of event registrants come from second, third, and even fourth email invitations.
3. Choose the appropriate format
One-way presentation? On-camera student interaction? Q&A through chat? There are multiple ways to structure your online event, and there is no silver bullet. First and foremost, you should do what makes you feel comfortable, in a platform with which you’re familiar. The last thing you want when making an impression in front of dozens of candidates is to struggle with the technology.
Keep in mind students crave personal interaction with employers, so build in time and capability to field questions (and don’t forget to provide contact information for campus recruiters!). And finally, practice and plan ahead! If you have multiple presenters, hold a dry run, and have everyone join the webinar early for last minute audio and video checks.
4. Don’t forget to follow-up
You just finished up your virtual event and have a pipeline of engaged students looking to continue the conversation. Don’t wait for them to come back to you. Instead, proactively reach out and encourage them to take action, whether that be to join your talent community, apply now, or provide feedback on your webinar through an online survey. At EAB, we’ve seen over 75% of event registrants engage with follow-up communications. It’s also best practice to record your event and post it online so students who weren’t able to attend can still experience the webinar, and maybe inspire others to forward along to friends.
5) Measure, measure, measure
Many organizations may declare success on attendance figures alone. While the number of attendees is certainly a valuable metric, it’s important to dig deeper in the data. How many students RSVP’d but didn’t attend? Where did these candidates come from—what source drove the biggest response, and what schools are highly represented? Do these students engage after the webinar by responding to follow-up messages and submitting applications? To answer these questions, it’s critical to collect basic information—such as name, email address, school, graduation year, and major—as part of the RSVP process.
The world of virtual recruiting will most certainly continue to evolve. Incorporating these five tips into your new strategy will position you to successfully adapt in this ever-changing environment.
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