Pandemic restrictions moved BYU-Idaho’s career fair to Handshake and fundamentally changed how it’s organized and marketed. The Career Center tried to replicate the live event remotely in the fall semester but found little success with such a large event.
The traditional career fair was a big undertaking, and a lot of hours went into organizing the event. Before the event, school representatives would reach out to businesses to inform them of the upcoming fair and invite them to attend. An average career fair could see 150 to 180 companies in attendance.
Moving into 2020, an event on this scale was out of the question. Businesses weren’t allowed to travel. This posed a problem with employers visiting the campus. The campus being closed didn’t help since there weren’t any students there to attend a fair even if career services managed to find willing companies.
Justin Hodges, the employer and faculty relations manager, said they are “making sure that it’s just a good, beneficial, valuable experience for them while they’re here. We wanted them leaving campus thinking that, that was the best career fair they’ve ever attended.”
Recruiting companies to attend the career fair is only half of what needed to be organized. The students also needed to be notified about which companies were attending, what positions were available, and what disciplines the employers were seeking. Most fairs would see 1,500 to 2,000 students in attendance.
With the new obstacles, recruiting was grinding to a stop, and career services needed to find a new way to operate like other companies and schools have during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving to an online platform was the most reasonable step.
Handshake is the company BYU-I uses for its job postings, internship management and campus recruiting. When they began building a virtual career fair module, Career Services jumped on board to be among the first to use this new tool.
After finding mild success with their first remotely held fair in the fall, the Career Center planned more fairs moving forward. The first career fair was very large in an attempt to mirror what it used to be. This only had mild success with limited participation from the students and employers who attended.
“It was a good fair, but just not quite to the level we were expecting,” said Hodges.
Career Services held some smaller fairs with more success. They based these findings on survey results from the participants and data collected from Handshake. Handshake’s data across universities showed that large campus fairs weren’t as successful as smaller, more specialized fairs.
With that in mind, Career Services stopped doing large, campus-wide fairs. This semester, they are running six to eight smaller fairs. Their new tactic is to be more targeted in their fairs for greater success and opportunities for the students.
The recent Construction Management Mini Fair had 31 companies present and 171 students. The upcoming STEM Fair has 66 companies and 630 students registered. The next big fair coming up is the graduate school fair on March 3, which has 72 companies registered.
Moving forward, the question stands: will the school return to large-scale events in the future, or will they keep these smaller, more focused career fairs?
“The short answer right now is I don’t know, but it’s something that we’re starting to talk about and look at, and we’ll see where the world is, come fall,” said Hodges.
Career Services invites all students to join them in these great opportunities by networking at these events. For more information check out the Career Center’s page, here.