In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that we needed to pivot our product roadmap to meet the immediate needs of our higher ed partners. With an all- or mostly-virtual fall on the horizon for many of our partners, creating virtual career fair functionality became our top priority. We’ve spent the last several weeks talking to colleges and universities, students, and employers to develop our approach.
Knowing that many of our higher ed partners need to make a decision on how to host a virtual career fair quickly, we want to share all the details we have to date, so that you feel confident Handshake’s solution will meet your institution’s needs.
For more answers to your questions, check out our virtual career fairs pre-release FAQ doc here and read on for an initial look at our launch milestones, pricing, proposed functionality, and next steps.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced the higher ed community to evaluate an evolution from in-person career fairs that normally would have occurred over two to five years and condensed it into a single season. Similarly, Handshake has condensed a traditionally months-long product building process into about eight to ten weeks.
We plan to launch the new virtual career functionality in mid July. Here’s what you can expect in between now and then:
- NOW: You can start or keep collecting employer registrations for your fall fairs. Any regular fair registration you collect now can be converted to a virtual career fair registration soon.
- Late May: We’ll release the product functionality to convert regular fair registrations to virtual, without losing any existing registrations.
- June 17th: We’re hosting a webinar to demo or display all of the features we are building. Register here!
- Late July: We’ll release our virtual career fair solution!
- Late July: We’ll host a career services training webinar to get you comfortable with all of the features ahead of back to school.
We recognize that some of our partners may need to commit to using our solution now, before we’ve announced all of the features we’re building. Virtual career fairs represent a new space that no one platform has perfected yet, so it’s natural that the decision could cause you to take pause. That said, Handshake has a proven track record of success that makes us the most well-equipped company to deliver a virtual career fair solution. Over the last three years, we have supported:
- 10,000 career fair sessions across 706 schools
- 2 million unique student attendees
- 408,000 employer registrations for 76k unique employers
Our existing product feedback cycle means that we had immediate access to a robust flow of feedback from our partners, plus the added guidance of our Events & Fairs Mini Advisory Board (we’ve held four sessions in the last three months). We’re committed to honoring our partnership by continuing to listen to your feedback as we finalize our plans.
Our virtual career fair solution will be available to all Handshake college and university partners during the Fall 2020 semester at no additional cost. As we evaluate video hosting costs we may consider contract updates but we will provide timely information and transparency if/when that decision is made.
We know that your employer partners’ ability to participate in virtual career fairs is also critical to their success. All employers will be able to participate in your virtual career fair without needing to upgrade. There will likely be additional virtual functionality that employers can purchase, but we remain committed to never charging for job postings, event attendance, or access to an individual school.
Virtual Career Fair Features
Based on our research with our higher ed partners, students, and employers, here is what we know we will build into our virtual fair solution.
Varied, accessible ways for students to interact with employers
We know that supporting video conferencing between students and employers is critical to maintaining the personal connection fostered in the traditional career fair experience. At the same time, we also want to ensure that our solution works for all students and all employers. Thus, we’re planning support for audio and text-only options too.
An educational, directive experience for students
Many of the anecdotes we heard in our research indicated that students benefit from guidance ahead of the career fair—namely, which employers they should connect with and basic information about working at those companies. This helps students feel less intimidated about networking, and ensures they make the best use of their time.
We plan to use our pre-existing relevancy algorithms to:
- Alert students about employers that are interested in their profile ahead of time so that they can feel confident about who they want to connect with
- Recommend employers they might not otherwise have discovered
We’re also updating the information we show students about companies so that they can easily glean what roles are available, and what it’s like to work there.
Engagement options that work for all students and employers
“The demographics of students are very different: business and engineering will be all over pre-scheduling, but we want the students who aren’t as career minded to be able to show up on the day of the fair and still have a positive experience.”Vicky Hamby, Senior Associate Director at University of South Carolina
Handshake’s solution must support students who already have their list of preferred employers and those looking to explore their options and capitalize on the more serendipitous opportunities to make a connection.
With this in mind, we plan to allow employers to offer:
- Pre-scheduled 1:1 appointments if the employer has been engaging with students ahead of the fair
- Group sessions that help students learn about the companies they’re interested in during the fair
- 1:1 appointments that allow students to form a more meaningful connection with recruiters during the fair
As mentioned above, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about our virtual career fair solution that you can review now. We’ll continue to update and circulate it over the coming weeks as our product development progresses.
We also highly encourage you to get in touch with your Relationship Manager or Handshake Support to share your feedback and guidance on our approach—we’d love to hear how we can make our virtual career fair solution work for your team.
Finally, if you haven’t already, register for our June 17th virtual career fair demo webinar, where we’ll review more details about the features we’re building.