Virtual Job Fairs: How Workforce Boards Innovate and Adapt During COVID

Just when they need them the most, Workforce Boards have lost one of their greatest employment tools: Job Fairs. As they safely respond to COVID-19, Boards and Employment Centers are turning away from traditional in-person gatherings and developing new, creative solutions.

After realizing the local 2-week shelter-in-place order would extend much longer, a Workforce Development Board in San Jose, California, work2future, quickly pulled together several technology resources to develop and host a virtual job fair that far surpassed their expectations.

Nakisa Hupman, Project Manager at work2future, shared that her group has “…seen a real uptick in the number of essential employers that are reaching out to us saying ‘we know these people are not working – we want to hire them’.” work2future partnered with San Jose City College to host and market the event, drawing 500+ job seekers to hear from 38 employers. The virtual job fair was a day-long event, with each new hour dedicated to a key industry sector in the region. Using an online video conferencing platform, employers made presentations about their companies and the available positions and attendees had the chance to ask questions and learn more about each opportunity.

At the end of the day, employers described the job fair as their “most productive recruiting event” of the year, and post-event surveys revealed that 14 attendees had job offers in-hand and 32 interviews were scheduled immediately following the meetings.

After three successful events, work2future compiled these survey results:

Participant Responses:

  • 93% said the event exceeded or met expectations
  • 85% said the content was extremely or very helpful
  • 100% said they would join another virtual job fair event
  • Healthcare, Business, and General Positions were the sectors that consistently had the most attendees at each of the 3 virtual job fairs.

Employer Responses:

  • 100% said the event exceeded or met expectations
  • 100% said they would join another virtual career fair event
  • Employers received an average of 8 qualified resumes after each event
  • 70% expressed confidence they would be able to fill their open positions as a result of participating in the event

As employers across the country grapple with ‘the new normal’, Workforce Development Boards are challenged to offer creative, innovative solutions to meet ongoing employment and recruiting challenges. work2future’s quick application of virtual meeting technology is a ‘new best practice’, and they continue to adapt their approach with new virtual events targeting the ever-changing list of essential industries and businesses.

Nakisa also observed that “as restrictions are eased, we’re seeing a pickup on the hiring side.” This means that inviting precisely the right employers was essential to the event’s success – not only targeting key industries with higher-demand employment needs, but also pinpointing financially strong and operationally growing employers. She explained: “We wanted to focus on our priority sectors. . . we [used] the D&B data in EconoVue™ to look for employer businesses in our target sectors.”

Using the D&B employer data found in EconoVue to focus on key employment sectors or regions and then applying refined employer risk filters* and business growth indicators* the event team was able to ensure they were sending job seekers to essential businesses that were remaining steady (and perhaps even thriving!) in the current economic crisis.

*Employer Failure Risk is determined using Dun & Bradstreet’s Financial Stress Score and Potential for Growth is determined using Dun & Bradstreet’s Material Change Score.

Part of being an innovator is finding out what works, and what doesn’t. Innovators and early adopters are great sources of lessons learned. Some key findings that Workforce Boards have shared about hosting a Virtual Job Fair include:

  • Target the right employers in your priority industries and seek employers who are growing and actively hiring.
  • Partner to get the message out: use your ecosystem of public, academic and corporate partners to spread the word to the workforce community using every digital resource you have available. For example, work within your state’s systems to contact folks that have recently filed for unemployment insurance.
  • For job fairs featuring remote work, expand your target audience outside of you regular client base and service area.
  • If possible, set aside follow up rooms or one-to-one chat rooms where job seekers can immediately connect with employer representatives.
  • Control your media: use Zoom Webinar or Webex to fully control audio and video activity, minimize disruptive noise and optimize bandwidth.
  • Plan for no-shows on the day of the event and set your registration targets accordingly to ensure enough job seekers are online to satisfy the employers.

As the current crisis drags on, the already-present workforce uncertainty will be amplified by an anticipated “rubberbanding” of quarantine restrictions as COVID cases continue to ebb and flow. Businesses are increasingly concerned about if, not when, they’ll be able to reopen. As one WFB Business Services Specialist put it “…the thing we’ve been having to manage most is dealing with the uncertainty…[but] once we know how many businesses are impacted, we can start building career paths for those employers that will be hiring post-epidemic.”

Adversity inspires innovation and resilience, and at EconoVue we will continue to support and share the creative uses of employer, industry and workforce data by Workforce Boards across the country. To share your own story, or for more information about Workforce data solutions, please contact us.

Designed for and with workforce/economic development practitioners, EconoVue™ is the most intuitive data visualization and business outreach platform for dissecting and understanding the economy at the neighborhood, city, regional and national levels. It combines GIS, visualization tools for regional industry sector trend analysis, business research tools, CRM employer outreach components and a layoff aversion module featuring filters for finding companies by financial health. For more information please visit us at