Recruiters are facing a new challenge this fall: Connecting with students and recent grads via virtual events. In the midst of a pandemic that’s forced many colleges to take all classes online, traditional career fairs are not an option.
On Talent Experience Live, Tatiana Messersmith, University Recruiter at Qualtrics, shared what’s working for her in this very different year, including best practices for attracting, engaging and nurturing 2020 graduates and college students.
How have you changed your university recruiting approach this season?
The majority of schools Qualtrics typically targets for recruitment are set to host virtual career fairs over various platforms. Messersmith has narrowed attendance to core schools, from the usual dozen career fairs to just five.
She expects many spring career fairs will be virtual as well. In addition to participating in virtual career fairs, Qualtrics will host a series of webinars tailored to university students.
How has scheduling and attendance shifted this season?
Scheduling has gotten easier for Messersmith this year. For instance, eliminating the need for travel prevents career fair scheduling conflicts.
Virtual attendance also allows her team to invest extra hours into planning the webinars that will supplement virtual career fair attendance. (It’s definitely a time to look for silver linings!)
What else will change to get students excited for the virtual opportunity?
According to Messersmith, it’s all about experimenting this fall.
For each month — September, October and November — her team is presenting a different theme. For example, September’s theme has been “Building Your Brand.”
Webinars focused on leadership skills and transferable skills (e.g., how to find a position in the technology field even if you don’t have a tech background) seemed to resonate with students, driving organic RSVPs to the broadcast.
Qualtrics will also present monthly webinars that feature a member of the executive team, and these have really struck a chord with students, according to Messersmith.
“They [students] are in front of the leaders much earlier in the process than usual, giving them the opportunity to see firsthand what leaders say about company culture, before they even apply," she said.
Will you get alumni involved in this year's virtual event?
Having alumni interact with students at career fairs is a valuable piece of the strategy. Like so many other aspects of recruitment in 2020, alumni involvement has changed, too.
Qualtrics is involving alumni this year by:
- Offering the option for students to schedule one-on-one talks with alumni during virtual career fairs
- Inviting them to participate in Q&A-style webinars
- Planning specific alumni panels for core schools, in which former students who now work at Qualtrics will exclusively answer questions.
- Helping the recruitment team promote events by sharing information on LinkedIn and within their networks.
How will you encourage students to sign up and attend?
Messersmith said making sure students show up for their allotted time slot is a major concern in a new, uncertain environment. Her team addresses this with campaigning and frequent outreach.
Qualtrics is running email campaigns through Handshake, a platform many universities are using to host virtual career fairs. (Free access is available to recruiters.) They also market through LinkedIn and student organizations.
While these methods have proven helpful, she said attendance is higher when students are already familiar with Qualtrics.
What technology is essential to running a successful virtual event?
Having the right technology in place is vital for virtual university recruiting. Messersmith’s top three platforms include:
- Handshake, for reasons mentioned already – it’s a predominantly used platform among universities, and premium access provides marketing capabilities.
- Zoom, for obvious reasons – it’s become the lifeblood of virtual meetings.
- Phenom, which includes a central events calendar and an event page with back-end registration capabilities and automation to send out reminders and zoom links.
“It’s taken a lot of the manual work out of the process that I’d typically have to do,” Messersmith says.
How are you using the career site to connect with students?
Each month, campaign messaging drives students to the Qaultrics career webpage, which includes a university designation. Students are encouraged to sign up for the talent community, through which Qualtrics collects information that will help personalize information on best-fit jobs. Follow-up campaigns have generated excitement among students, according to Messersmith.
How are you handling freebies and swag this year?
The all-important career fair swag – great for attracting students and promoting brand interaction – also needs modification this fall. Qualtrics’ approach this year is to send freebies to student organizations.
They are also hosting enter-to-win swag giveaways in return for participating in feedback surveys.
What are the most effective ways to convey your company culture during virtual campus recruiting events?
With access to the office still unavailable, Messersmith and her team are using alternative measures to show students what it’s like at Qualtrics:
- Webinars featuring key leaders who talk about company culture
- Alumni share inside views on the Qualtrics experience
- Company videos convey culture and show footage of the office
- Individual touchpoints – “My own phone screen is a big opportunity,” Messersmith says.
- Employee stories are featured on the Qualtrics blog
What is your strategy for email and SMS messaging?
This is a multi-tiered effort, Messersmith said.
Once a month, Qualtrics uses Handshake to reach a large group of students with the message that they’re hiring, and inviting them to join a webinar for great career tips. They follow up two weeks later.
When students register, they immediately receive a message with Zoom link information. A reminder email is sent one week prior to the event, and a reminder text goes out one day prior. One week after the event, all registrants receive a link with a recording in case they missed it live.
A follow-up campaign strategy is in development to increase applicants and higher-level involvement among virtual event attendees. It’s a top priority, Messersmith says, noting how crucial follow-up is right now in recruiting.
What can you do to drive engagement and participation during virtual events?
Virtual career fair presentations and webinars are designed for as much interaction as possible:
- Built-in polls get students interacting (questions include what year of school students are in and how they heard about the webinar)
- A Q&A wraps things up
- A feedback survey is given to attendees
- Presenters include questions throughout the event for students to answer via live chat.
Overall, Messermeth says that the students love when they are asked by name to answer questions. Plus, this feedback comes in handy for future webinar planning.
What metrics guide planning for future events?
Messersmith said she and her team are taking an agile approach and making adjustments according to several analytics and metrics:
- Attendance drop-off points are helpful to determine ideal webinar length
- Campaign engagement is measured according to rates of opens, clicks, and registrations.
- Feedback surveys help to refine approach and content.
How can recruiters facing budget restraints still make an impact?
Messersmith provided several low-cost and even free ways recruiters can reach university students:
- Create a profile, and then post events and jobs on Handshake. For no cost, the tool helps to get your employer brand in front of many different schools.
- Reach out to student organizations. Contact information is generally publicly available and easy to find with a little digging.
- Reach out to university career centers. Ask to talk to career counselors, and let them know your goals and positioning.
Learn more about virtual university recruiting with Phenom—request a demo today!
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