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This article comes to us from our Platinum Level partner, PracticeLink! 

By Eric Martin, Director of Sales and Client Relations, PracticeLink

When you’re exhibiting at in-person events and career fairs, it’s easy to know when you’ve caught a candidate’s attention. You’re able to see them as they’re walking through the exhibit hall, scanning the lines of booths, and you can make eye contact or extend a “hello” that draws them all the way in.

However, the transition to virtual settings in 2020 has made it more difficult to determine interest, and more importantly, know you’ve made a connection when there aren’t those in-person cues.

As you attend virtual career fairs, you may need to plan differently to get the most out of your time and maximize your appearance to candidates. Keep in mind these tips.

Make your booth pop

Just as you would for in-person events, you’ll want your virtual booth to be attention-grabbing and compelling to attendees. In a live setting, this might involve appealing signs, fun giveaways lining your tables, handouts about your organization and warm body language that invites your candidates to stop by. Now, you’ll need to bring out the best of your organization with fewer props and more features.

Here are some ways you can prepare and fashion your virtual booth for success:

  • Update all fields and customize your organization’s information during booth setup.
  • Add a title to help candidates to see your booth in the event lobby – this is usually the name of your organization, or something like “Opportunities at [your organization]”
  • Include a subtitle or description for when candidates enter your booth. This should be an important feature such as your organization’s locations or a list of representatives.
  • Make your logo visible to help catch candidates’ eyes and elevate your brand.
  • Link to social media if possible to allow candidates to find you online to network, see your resources, opportunities, culture and more.
  • Add custom information and multimedia to stand out. Options include: mission statement, benefits, videos, photos, resources, links to your site or other useful publications.
  • Showcase opportunities within content fields, but keep your descriptions brief so it doesn’t feel overwhelming to candidates.
  • Preview your booth before going live to make sure you’ve included everything and your booth is exactly how you want it to appear.

Have your talking points prepared

When chatting with candidates, it’s likely you’ll have some type of limit on the amount of time you can participate in each conversation. That’s why it’s a good idea to have your key points prepared beforehand. But what should you say?

Stick to the basics and highlight what matters. This will probably look something like:

  • A greeting or introduction
    • Include your name and role or title. You’re glad they’re here – let them know.
  • Asking your candidate:
    • What brought them to your booth, and if there was something specific that stood out to them in particular.
    • If they’re on the hunt for a specific position or opportunity.
    • About their qualifications or experience.
    • For their CV, contact information and how they would like to be contacted.
  • Having a response ready:
    • If you’re chatting with a candidate seeking a position for which you’re not currently recruiting.
    • If they do/don’t meet necessary qualifications.
  • Answering your candidate’s questions
  • A closing remark
    • Expressing your interest in pursuing the connection further – now or in the future.
    • Clarifying next steps with your candidate: when they can expect to hear from you, how you’ll be reaching out or where else their CV will be forwarded.
    • If you’re not interested at all, you can simply thank your candidate for the opportunity to chat and learn more about them.

Ask memorable questions

Candidates are used to hearing the same questions from recruiters, especially at events like career fairs. Usually, it’s a repetitive variation: “What kind of position are you looking for?” “What qualities are you looking for in an opportunity or organization?”

Remember, you’re not the only recruiter your prospects will be interacting with at the event. Make yourself more memorable by mixing it up and asking questions that touch on more personal aspects of their job search, such as:

  • “What has been the biggest challenge for you to find an opportunity that feels like the right fit?”
  • “What don’t you want in an opportunity, community or organization?”
  • “What are your biggest considerations when assessing a career or community?”
  • “What are your goals as a practitioner?”
  • “What kind of support is important to you as you start a new position and continue practicing?”

Manage your time

As mentioned before, there will probably be some time limit on your conversations with candidates. Many virtual career fair systems also allow you to participate in multiple chats at once, so keep that in mind as an option as well.

Be aware that these conversations can move quickly. Candidates are trying to maximize their time with you as much as you are with them. With this being the case, you’ll want to be conscientious of how many chats you feel prepared to commit to at once.

You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, but you also don’t want to be wasting time that could be utilized when a candidate is typing their responses or engaging with another recruiter.

At the end of a chat, some platforms will prompt you to write a summary or description to give you a refresher of your conversation later. You’ll be chatting with a lot of prospects, so take advantage of this feature to stay organized and accurately capture your impressions of candidates.  

When a candidate really grabs your interest, you might also consider taking short notes to capture the highlights of your conversation. Being able to reference these points will help jog candidates’ memories later when you follow up, and make you more personable in the process.

Follow up

Some interested candidates will be eagerly following up with you shortly after the event. But for those connections that made you want to learn more, you’ll want to be intentional about establishing a line of communication outside the career fair.

When you do reach out, make sure you lead with something about the pleasure of connecting with them at the virtual event. You can then go into your specifics about why they impressed you and what made you want to continue a dialogue. Here is a great place to reference your notes and even use their own language to show you were paying attention before putting a line out to connect.

Another way to stand out, aside from expressing your interest alone, is to include useful or education content in your message. These could be job-search resources or publications your organization produces, or even external ones like First Practice, The Resident and Fellow Career Guide, or PracticeLink Magazine, The Career Advancement Resource for Physicians. This can help you go the extra mile in not only showing them you care about their interest in your opportunity, but about their career pursuits and growth as a practitioner.

You might be chatting with a lot of great candidates that you don’t have open positions for now, but you can still add them to your candidate pipeline. Be sure to express your gratitude for connecting, let them know you don’t currently have openings for the role they’re seeking, and assure them you’ll be in contact about future opportunities when they’re available. Even if you know they’re not your next hire, keep the connection and the option open moving forward.

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