Advice from a Support Professional on Staffing your Virtual Career Fair

Handshake's best practices for staffing and supporting your virtual career fairs

Hello! I’m Jordan Pedraza, Director of Global Support. With three years of developing our higher ed partner experience and twelve years working in higher education support I’ve learned three important lessons: 

  1. If we remove blockers and barriers for higher ed partners, employers, and students, then we enable equal opportunity for all;
  2. Support teams can become change agents by acting as thought and operational partners that identify goals, challenges, and personalized solutions; 
  3. Support teams become frontline advocates for partners by harnessing and amplifying the voice of the Handshake community to drive continuous improvement in our product. 

To help our higher ed partners prepare and make their virtual fairs a success, I’ve put together considerations below to support your events smoothly.

We’ve learned from our higher education partners that they prefer to conduct first-line support for their employers and students, so we’ve put together considerations below to help you operationalize and provide day-of support as you host a virtual career fair.

And if you’re unable to address or resolve employer or student questions you can escalate to Handshake Support as usual (check out this blog post to learn more about how we can help). 

In addition to the suggestions below, we also encourage you to ask and share ideas around day-of support and hosting virtual career fairs with other higher education peers in the Handshake Career Services Community

Roles

While not every institution has a large staff to harness, even smaller schools can divide responsibilities by thinking through the different roles that are required to effectively host a virtual fair. Many of these roles are good for student staff, as well!

Communications 

Designate a staff member to manage communications for your virtual fair. This can include putting together promotional materials and outreach via email, social media, the career fair page, your website, and any other communication channels. 

You could also designate this staff member to MC your virtual fair, including sending reminders on the day of the event, announcing when the virtual fair is live, and announcing certain milestones, updates, or resources throughout the fair to ensure connections are made afterward.

Operations

Designate a few or several staff members and/or student workers to manage operations and logistics for your virtual fair. This can include coordinating and implementing your virtual fair setup and test plan, monitoring sessions and engagement, and fielding employer or student questions or issues. 

Engagement 

Designate staff members and/or student workers to monitor your virtual fair activity and engagement during the event and provide proactive guidance as needed. For example, engagement-focused staff can monitor how many group and 1:1 sessions are active and what the participation levels are. 

If they see employers that have few or no participants they can find students and encourage them to sign up for those sessions. Conversely, engagement-focused staff can monitor student attendees and proactively offer assistance if students haven’t connected with any employers or don’t know what to do. This is where student workers could be particularly helpful with peer-led advising and support! 

Day-of Support

Designate staff members and/or student workers to field and assist with technical issues or questions from employers and students on the day of your virtual fair. Make sure your staff and student workers have employer and student Handshake accounts and access to your fair for testing and troubleshooting. 

Depending on how many staff you have available, you can assign them to participate in all employer group sessions (or assign them to multiple sessions) to participate and ensure things are running smoothly—or assist if not.

And, if your staff can’t address or resolve day-of support inquiries, they can always contact us here and select the “Day of Virtual Fair/Event” option.

Pre-fair Operations

Communications

Consider creating a communication plan outlining what outreach needs to go out, through which channel, at what time, and by whom. For email, you can use the HandshakeTargeted Emails or email registrants directly from your career fair page to send announcements and updates out to your employers and students before, during, and after your fair. In your communications plans, clarify how employers and students can contact you and your team. 

You can also leverage social media, such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, to promote your fair and share announcements, updates, and highlights during and after. Feel free to post in the Handshake Career Services Community to ask or share communication strategies and plans.

Operations 

To configure and test your virtual fair we recommend creating a test fair and testing all features and workflows before your actual fair. Check out this article for a full guide to testing in advance.

In advance of your fair, make sure career services staff, student workers, employers, and students have a strong internet connection and a working camera, mic, and audio on their devices. Also, be sure that everyone knows to have Handshake supported browsers (video screensharing will NOT be supported on Internet Explorer, so please use Chrome or Firefox). Finally, make sure staff have appropriate roles and access to your fair and that employers and students are successfully registered. During your test fair, test video and chat features from the career services, employer, and student perspective to familiarize yourself with the experience. 

Role + Engagement Prep

Consider having your staff and/or student workers practice the roles that they’ll cover for the actual fair. 

Career services does not need to “launch” anything or do anything in product on the day of the fair! They don’t need to check anyone in either as we’ll automatically track that in the app for you and you’ll be able to report on it.

Career services staff and/or student workers who have the appropriate career fair permissions and roles will be able to monitor virtual fair activity before, during, and after the fair. Consider creating playbooks or plans for common scenarios that could come up, such as employers not getting enough activity in their sessions, students not showing up, or what happens if you, staff, employers, or students get disconnected during the virtual fair. 

Day-of Support

Employer sessions 

Assign staff and/or student workers to participate in employer group sessions to ensure they’re running smoothly and provide real time assistance if needed. Make sure staff create student Handshake accounts and coordinate with employers to ensure they can join their sessions in case employers have specific qualifications. 

Message in Handshake

Use Handshake messaging for support between career services, employers, and students. Make sure your staff and/or student workers have public profiles on Handshake (both on their Career Services and Student profiles) and have their email, phone number, and virtual meeting room link on their profiles, as well, if you’d like attendees to communicate through these other channels instead. You can also create a Virtual Fair Support career services account with a shared login across your support staff and have employers and students message that account for help.

Slack and Other Direct Messaging 

We recommend utilizing Handshake Messaging or an existing messaging system your employers and students already have access to if possible. If your campus doesn’t have a direct messaging platform, you can create a Slack group for all your virtual fair attendees to crowdsource support, see all requests in one place, and respond in real time. Career services staff and/or student workers can create and monitor the group and send real time updates to all attendees. Another benefit of Slack is that participants can post in group channels or direct message career services staff or student workers. A key consideration in using Slack or any other system outside of Handshake or an existing system on campus is that employers and students will need to create accounts. Slack has several plans ranging from free to paid with varying features and controls and you can review and follow up here

Virtual Meeting Rooms 

If you’d like to offer the ability for employers or students to connect with you over video and share screens, you could use a video conferencing tool to have career services staff and/or student workers create personal meeting rooms, and link off to those rooms in their profiles. You’ll also want to promote staff and their meeting room links in your communication outreach. 

Let Us Know Your Thoughts

More than ever, I am honored, proud, and humbled to support you and our community. I’d love to get in touch and hear your thoughts on how we can make this fall (and beyond) a success.

Together, we are transforming how students discover and access opportunities that can change the trajectory of their lives and families, building new ways to connect the Handshake community by opening up more meaningful connections than ever possible before. Our team is here to ensure you feel confident in making these shifts, serve as thought and operational partners in realizing our shared mission, and continue advocating for the hub and heart of Handshake—our higher ed partners.

Warmly,

Jordan Pedraza, Director of Global Support, Handshake

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