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Event marketing, Data-driven recruiting

Going back on campus? Here’s how much it really costs.

Whether in-person or virtual, you’re making an investment into recruiting events. To maximize your budget, use this framework to assess how these four major recruiting costs may differ across formats.

In-person career fairs and events are on the rise again after years of nearly exclusive virtual recruiting. Eager to build their brand and relationships by connecting with candidates face-to-face, many employers are returning to and ramping up their recruiting efforts on campus.

However, virtual recruiting will continue to be essential for your early talent strategy. Even with the return of in-person activities, virtual events are here to stay.

After falling to an all-time low in 2020, in-person career fairs have made a comeback.

Virtual events remain a popular format even with in-person events on the rise. And while hybrid events are less common, they’re a format that employers are retaining or adding to their strategies to reach more talent.

You can use this data to inform how you should build your career fairs and events recruiting playbook going forward.

Which costs should you consider when building your events strategy?

Whether in-person or virtual, you’re making an investment into recruiting events. To maximize your budget, use this framework to assess how these four major recruiting costs may differ across formats.

1. People time costs

Although having the right people come to campus can have an outsized impact on your success, this expense is also one of the largest line items in a campus recruiting budget. Based on average salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Handshake estimates the cost of a recruiting team’s time can average anywhere from $456 per virtual event to $3,491 per in-person event.

2. Travel costs

Based on inflation data, Handshake estimates travel costs (including airfare, ground transport, hotel, and food) could average $3,017 per in-person fair, and go up to an average of $5,046 per in-person event depending on how many are represented from the business. Reduced travel costs are an obvious advantage of holding virtual events and career fairs. When opting to head to campus, you’ll need to travel strategically.

You can use this framework to plan your strategic campus travel budget.

What is strategic campus travel? Here are some examples:
  • Where you are looking to build a stronger campus brand
  • Where you already have a cohort of applicants you're looking to “close”
  • Where there are schools that are part of your DEI strategy

3. Registration costs

While minimal in comparison to people's time and travel costs, career fair registration costs can also add up. Handshake data, averaged across all schools on the platform, found fees for in-person fairs are slightly higher than for virtual fairs.

4. Ancillary costs

Variable costs can also compound the total event expense. These costs include food and beverage, activity fees, swag/giveaways, event space, and brand materials that candidates have come to expect at in-person fairs and events.

Combining all these costs, Handshake estimates events and career fairs can total as little as $1,000 per virtual event to upwards of $10,000 per in-person event, on average.

How can you maximize your campus fairs and events budget?

Developing a savvy fairs and events strategy isn’t a straightforward task, even after bucketing your major recruiting costs. A hybrid fairs and events strategy that incorporates both virtual and in-person formats will maximize your budget, keep up with campus recruiting trends and what students want, and help your team stay nimble.

To make your campus recruiting budget go the furthest:

  • Only spend where it matters. Double down on attending or hosting in-person fairs and events where there is a high level of competition or where you’ve historically seen the most RSVPs and attendees.
  • Save money that you can reinvest into other recruiting initiatives. You know recruiting dollars are scarce. Forego in-person fairs and events where you are seeing little traction with RSVPs and attendees.
  • Use virtual to augment and expand reach. Prioritize virtual formats when possible to keep costs low—among other benefits for students such as flexibility, accessibility, and equity—while also continuing to build brand awareness and presence.

All costs considered, you’ll be most successful if you meet candidates where they are—whether that’s in-person or virtually.

Get a custom analysis of your events and career fairs strategy benchmarked to your peers and your industry.


In this publication, T&E costs are primarily based on data from Consumer or Producer Price Index values from the Federal Reserve. People-time costs are based on estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. Handshake platform data, averaged across all schools, helped inform registration costs. Actual registration costs may vary depending on fair size or industry. Platform data also informed career fair and event attendance assumptions. Those assumptions are as follows:

  • Virtual events and career fairs: 1 recruiter FTE-day and 0.5 FTE-days from the business
  • In-person fairs: 4 recruiter FTE-days and 2 FTE-days from the business
  • In-person events: 4 recruiter FTE-days and 6 FTE-days from the business

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