FORT KNOX, Ky. –
Things are Indeed busy on the virtual recruiting front. They are also Brazen, Facebook-friendly, and fillin’ up the Calendly.
Online platforms in the fast-growing world of virtual career fairs are plentiful, recruiters coast-to-coast are learning during a virtual recruiting campaign running through mid-December.
U.S. Army Recruiting Command shifted its focus to virtual recruiting efforts in March when the COVID-19 pandemic began and initially tested its capabilities in June and July during the first-ever Army National Hiring Days campaign.
The current campaign is more of a grass roots effort focused on developing the virtual career fair concept. Each battalion was able to select the dates and the platforms used for their local fairs.
The most common venue for the current campaign is Indeed.com. One virtual-fair size does not fit all, however, and battalions across USAREC are finding success across a variety of platforms.
Staff Sgt. Nathan Mueller likes the increasingly-popular Brazen because it’s “pretty user-friendly,” and he touts the newcomer Calendly because of its simple similarities to the well-known workings of the calendar in Microsoft Outlook. Mueller is assigned to USAREC’s Columbus Recruiting Battalion in Ohio as its virtual recruiting station commander.
USAREC leadership established virtual stations three years ago in response to the digital direction of things. Mueller joined the command around the same time, but he did not attend a virtual career fair until spring 2020 on an invite from Ohio State Jobs and Family Services. The Ohio agency hosts a fair every two weeks.
“We make it to almost every one,” Meuller said about his virtual team and the value recognized in the fairs, including the literal value in attending the Services fair at no cost to the Army.
USAREC’s current campaign includes three virtual fairs hosted by Texas Workforce Commission, the Lone Star State’s equivalent of the Ohio fair Mueller’s team regularly attends. Staff Sgt. Andrea Yarbrough, a virtual recruiter assigned to the command’s Houston Battalion, likes the Workforce fair value too.
“It’s free,” she said, “and it’s the one I do the best on.”
Yarbrough was an information technology specialist for the Army before she joined its recruiting efforts in 2017. She attended five or six in-person fairs in her first year as an “on-the-street” recruiter before she was assigned to her battalion’s virtual station. The in-person fairs were organized by a national company and were expensive to attend.
“I never got a contract out of one,” the Perris, California, native said, “and I couldn’t figure out why.”
Sgt. 1st Class Gary Smith, Yarbrough’s supervisor, made it his mission to answer that type of question and ended up leading the top-producing virtual team in all of USAREC. Smith decided to learn everything he could about recruiting virtually, taking classes during his off time and investing himself 100 percent. “He is the pioneer,” Yarbrough said.
One thing Smith learned was to avoid national-based platforms. “The more local ones have proven to do the best,” he said.
Under Smith’s leadership, Yarbrough learned to concentrate her efforts and match up careers the Army needs filled with specific fair types. She looks for STEM-themed fairs, for example, to help fill science and technology-related jobs. Also important for having success at a virtual fair, she said, is understanding the opportunity seekers who visit them.
“They don’t look at the military as a primary career path,” she said, noting how prospects often don’t realize the Army has jobs in their field of interest until they happen upon the virtual booths virtual recruiters build for the online fairs. That’s why Yarbrough goes out of her way to help virtual prospects see the Army “at the same level” as other employers.
“I make it very civilian friendly,” she said about the virtual experience she creates. “There’s no military jargon in there.”
Though the platforms and look of a fair can vary greatly, Yarbrough and Mueller agree they tend to follow certain patterns. Video interface can be valuable, especially for convincing people they are speaking to actual human recruiters and not bots, Muller said, but video contact has not proved common.
Dialogue is often text messaging based and some who set up virtual appointments through Indeed or other platforms don’t show up for a conversation at all. “I’m satisfied if I conduct 25 to 30 conversations,” Mueller said about what he generally believes to be a highly productive fair.
Recruiters are trained in the importance of establishing dialogue when recruiting, Yarbrough said. But in the virtual world, a fair with little to no dialogue can still provide another very valuable asset to a recruiter: leads. More specifically, the name and contact information of someone considering what the Army offers.
Meuller obtained more than 160 leads from what he estimated to be his most successful virtual fair to date. That one fair resulted in a very “large amount” of appointments, he said, and showed that virtual fair recruiting has all kinds of potential, indeed.