Hiring event vs. job fair: What’s the difference?

by The Withe Team
June 11, 20247 min read
Woman sitting with a book open on her lap

Hiring events and job fairs are two sides of the same recruitment coin. Both are designed to attract groups of candidates to interview and network with a potential employer (or many potential employers). While these events are similar in a lot of ways, they also differ in many others.

In this article, we’ll be going through the ins and outs of hiring events and job fairs, narrowing in on their differences, and uncovering the secret behind their success.

Withe's platform powers both hiring events and job fairs — virtual and in-person.

What is a hiring event?

A hiring event is a recruitment initiative typically held by a single business. This type of event is typically held when a company is looking to hire multiple people for one or a variety of positions. As such, it’s a particularly effective mechanism for high-volume recruiting and hiring. Hiring events can be held in person, virtually, or in a hybrid mix of both approaches.

In-person hiring events

In-person hiring events have a fairly consistent structure that follows these four steps:

  1. Recruiters plan the event and promote it on various channels.
  2. Candidates register for the event and submit their details and a resume if needed.
  3. Candidates attend the event and interview with a recruiter.
  4. Recruiters determine whether or not the candidate moves on to the next stage.

In-person hiring events are typically run by teams that really prioritize in-person interactions with their candidates and employees, or by those running hybrid hiring approaches.

The benefits for in-person hiring events include the following:

  • They offer a chance for recruiters to meet candidates face-to-face and foster interpersonal relationships
  • They allow recruiters to confirm that the applicant is available locally and has the ability to commute to the location
  • They allow candidates to get a better sense of the workplace and its culture
  • They give recruiters a better sense of non-verbal cues that may impact their decision

This approach is particularly beneficial for hospitality and tourism companies that hire large numbers of people on a seasonal basis.

Virtual hiring events

A virtual hiring event is very similar to an in-person hiring event, but it’s held online. Virtual hiring events enable candidates and hiring managers to interact in real time via digital channels such as text, audio, or video. These events are typically powered by a virtual hiring event platform.

The best virtual hiring events are seamless and efficient in that they help reduce the impact of no-shows, offer streamlined experiences to both candidates and recruiters, and they are designed to meet any accommodation requests.

Virtual hiring events are particularly useful for teams that hire hybrid and remote positions, want to increase accessibility, and expand their reach to candidates in different jurisdictions. Plus, they also make it easier for recruiters to reduce costs, improve data tracking, and introduce efficiency into their hiring events.

Hybrid hiring events

As the name suggests, hybrid hiring events offer a blend of both in-person and virtual interactions. This way, teams can experience the benefits of virtual events while also giving candidates the opportunity to attend in person if they prefer. In practice, this could look like having both an in-person and a virtual hiring event on the same day, or within a day of each other. The goal here is to provide optionality to potential candidates.

The benefits of a hybrid approach include:

  • Access to a broader candidate pool
  • Increased accessibility of events
  • More speed and efficiency

What is a job fair?

Unlike a hiring event run by one employer, a job fair or career fair tends to be run by a third-party organizer that invites numerous employers to attend. For example, a university or post-secondary institution might host a job fair with a variety of hiring partners that are looking for new graduates or summer interns. Alternatively, a professional organization in a particular industry could also host a career fair and invite recruiters from the industry to host a booth.

Hosted either virtually or in person, career fairs are great places for employer brands to increase their visibility. For candidates, meanwhile, they offer a great way to get face-to-face access to multiple potential employers.

While there are benefits on both sides of the equation, career fairs also have some drawbacks:

  • Organizers have a hard time creating consistent experiences as each employer might have a different approach for speaking to candidates or promoting their brand.
  • The sheer volume of interactions can pose a challenge for both candidates and employers alike. Candidates may find it hard to stand out, and recruiters may find it difficult to keep track of all the conversations they’ve had.
  • Structure is also hard to achieve, as there’s no way to anticipate the flow of candidates at any point in the event.

These challenges can often be addressed with the right technology partner. Withe’s hiring event platform, for example, allows hiring fair organizers to offer "time slots" and a maximum number of candidates per time slot, creating structure and an anticipated flow to the event.

This is great for in-person events where the venue might have a capacity limit or for virtual events that have a set number of hiring managers available to speak with candidates at a given time.

5 ways hiring events and job fairs are different

To summarize, here are five ways that hiring events and job fairs differ:

  1. Number of hiring teams: Hiring events are typically run by a single hiring team, and job fairs are organized by a third party, with multiple hiring partners in attendance.
  2. Event structure: Hiring events are often run in a single location with multiple interviewers from the same company, whereas job fairs can feel like a conference setting where candidates can visit a different employer at each booth.
  3. Candidate experience: At hiring events, candidates are directly competing with other attendees for the same roles, while at job fairs there’s a bigger distribution of opportunities.
  4. Scheduling: Hiring events allow for interview scheduling with candidates, and job fairs tend to have a free registration that allows them to show up and choose who they speak to.
  5. Next steps: At hiring events, candidates are already part of the hiring process and can be given directions on whether they are proceeding or not. Career fairs, meanwhile, can be less definitive in terms of the candidate’s prospects with the company.
5 key differences between hiring events and job fairs

The secret behind successful hiring events and job fairs

While hiring events and job fairs are notably different, there are similarities in what makes them successful. Proactive planning, curated and seamless candidate experiences, and comprehensive promotion strategies are all key in making both hiring events and career fairs impactful.

The other ingredient in this not-so-secret sauce? The right technology.

With the right hiring event platform, hiring event and job fair organizers can:

  • Simplify their setup process.
  • Promote their event or fair across multiple channels.
  • Make it easier for candidates to register.
  • Reduce manual data entry.
  • Automatically share data and notes to their ATS.
  • Track candidate sources.

Choose the approach that makes the most sense for your team

Whether you choose to run hiring events or attend career fairs (or both) will depend on a number of factors including what you know about your target candidates, the type of roles you’re trying to fill, how recognizable your employer brand is, your recruitment team’s budget, and more.

Depending on your target candidate audience, it may be worth testing out which is most successful to you. If you are partnering with a career fair organizer, ask them how they measure the success of their event — and whether they will share data with you to upload into your ATS. This will ultimately help you understand which approach makes the most sense for your recruitment efforts. Or it will lead you to working with both.

Withe’s platform powers both hiring events and job fairs — virtual and in-person. Learn more about Withe today.

Share on social media:

Author Bio

Picture of The Withe Team

The Withe Team

Meet the team behind the revolutionary on-demand video interview software that connects great companies with top talent. Their user-friendly solution streamlines the hiring process and helps people find the right opportunities. With a customer-centric approach, this team of experts is dedicated to helping you find the perfect match.

Hire candidates faster using Withe's hiring event platform