Tech Career Fairs Are Adapting to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Face-to-face networking is an important part of the job-hunting process, but the social-distancing measures of the COVID-19 pandemic have halted many in-person events. Instead, virtual career fairs are gaining steam. Universities, tech companies and industry organizations are turning to virtual career fairs to connect job seekers and employers. 

Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, which plans a career fair for Sept. 16, uses a platform called Career Fair Plus that lets recruiters set up video sessions with candidates. Companies are sent an invite to set up a profile, and they can then fill out their schedule with appointments. Meanwhile, KC Tech Council, a nonprofit focused on growing the tech community in Kansas City, held a virtual career fair on June 24.

Recruiting for Tech Jobs in Kansas City

Produced by the company Premier Virtual, the KC Tech Council event promoted jobs for software developers, engineers and networking professionals. Many of the open roles were coding-related. Kansas City-based companies such as wearable technology vendor Garmin and electronic medical record (EMR) company Cerner joined the virtual event to recruit for software engineering positions. After candidates and employers met in virtual booths, candidates submitted their résumés in digital format. 

During the online recruiting process, software algorithms and the volume of applications leave many job seekers’ submissions lost in the pile, noted Ryan Weber, president and CEO of the KC Tech Council. Virtual career fairs for job seekers provide a way to make connections with potential employers while also offering an opportunity to stand out. They also help job seekers communicate when they may be otherwise hesitant to approach employers during in-person events.

“I think doing this online does decrease that intimidation for candidates to put themselves out there and show interest in an employment opportunity,” Weber said, adding that the virtual “window shopping” of company booths is easier than at in-person events. A physical booth may lack the ability to showcase a company’s culture and explain the problem the company’s technology can solve, Weber explained.

Weber would like to see the virtual career fairs continue after the pandemic with additional tailoring to individual roles, such as one event for software development and another for cybersecurity.

Virtual Career Fairs Aid Software Developers During COVID-19

Although virtual career fairs already existed prior to COVID-19, the pandemic has advanced plans to hold them. With new college graduates leaving their campuses earlier this year because of the pandemic, they need help networking for job opportunities. In fact, they may have had offers for their first jobs rescinded due to the economic slowdown, according to Vivek Ravisankar, co-founder and CEO of developer skills company HackerRank.

“Unfortunately, this is the impact that COVID has had,” Ravisankar said. “What we are going to offer in the virtual career fair are a set of companies where the business has been fortunate enough to be resilient to these market changes.”

HackerRank’s virtual career fairs connect students with job opportunities in software development. Companies such as Comcast, PayPal and GoDaddy will participate in HackerRank’s virtual career fair, scheduled for Sept. 21-23. Ravisankar noted that more gaming companies such as Riot Games are also looking to recruit software developers at the event. 

The Virtual Career Fair will let students search for jobs, access company presentations and meet recruiters in the Virtual Expo Hall. Students can register in the HackerRank Community to complete skills assessments, practice skills and earn badges. Companies make presentations about their culture, and candidates can ask questions in a Ask Me Anything-type format. Students then submit applications to employers. 

As for the future of physical career fairs after the pandemic, companies may resume them if they have a special relationship with a school, he predicted. 

Despite the economic challenges of some sectors such as transportation and hospitality during COVID-19, Ravisankar sees unlimited job prospects for skilled software developers participating in the virtual career fairs. And he makes a bold statement to participants:

“If you’re a skilled developer, I would guarantee you a job,” Ravisankar said. “If you’re a skilled developer. That’s the caveat.”