The Future of Career Fairs
The Future of Career Fairs
EACE Blog contribution by Anne Scholl-Fiedler, Vice President Career Services at Stevenson University
The long-standing institution of the Career Fair held on college campuses several times a year — is it still viable in its traditional form? How many times have you heard students say, “There is no organization here for my major.”? And the jury seems to be out on virtual career fairs, depending upon the audience and who is doing the hiring. We do know that career fairs serve employers well as a venue for organizational branding and a source of candidate volume. We also recognize that they serve as a source of revenue for college career centers that may rely on this income for operational costs.
Where is the happy medium and how can we measure effectiveness? No doubt, there is no substitution for face to face networking and engaging conversations in a format that is not intimidating to the candidate. Professionals in the field have talked about career fairs possibly going away, but we have not actually seen a decrease in their numbers. Universities still host them, and employers keep coming.
Perhaps we may ask the question of how they can better serve both students and employers in terms of actual hires. This is a relevant measure of effectiveness since universities are measuring this outcome and businesses measure for return on investment. In surveys to employers, primarily distributed through professional organizations, there tends to be a preference for the customized, boutique networking event that target a specific audience. Students also feel that there is a networking event especially designed for them which may yield better attendance. Several of these boutique events strategically planned throughout the academic calendar, in collaboration with academic departments, may also yield the same number of employers overall per year with better outcomes for all constituents.
Consider also including an engaging keynote speaker to kick off the event that will talk on a current topic of interest relevant to the targeted industry. This approach may also help with academic buy-in to encourage students to attend, and maybe even cost sharing. Another consideration is the actual set-up of the event. Although organizational booths may be convenient and assist with branding, brainstorm a layout and venue that would allow for more in-depth conversations between candidates and employers. This type of dialogue may create a situation that is more memorable, for both parties.
After doing a cost-benefit analysis and analyzing the hiring outcomes of the large, general career fairs vs. customized, boutique networking events you can decide for yourself the future of career fairs that will benefit your institution, as well as your employers.
Anne Scholl-Fiedler has been appointed as the first Vice President for Career Services at Stevenson University. Scholl-Fiedler served as Director of the Career Services Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her professional background includes employer and alumni relations, developing collaborative partnerships between various organizations, and leading strategic development initiatives for university career centers.