For the first time this year, the MA-HRIR program hosted a Virtual Graduate School Fair to reach prospective students from across the country. The Grad Fair allowed Admissions Coordinator Patti Blair and MA-HRIR Program Director Stacy Doepner-Hove to connect with prospective HR students outside Minnesota, all without leaving the office.

While Blair and Doepner-Hove have attended other virtual fairs, this was the first they hosted. Co-hosted by three additional schools which offer masters programs in HR, the schools launched what they believe is the first-ever HRIR-specific virtual Grad Fair.

“This was a very niche event, only for those with an interest in HRIR,” Blair says.

Potential students from across the country, from New York to Arizona, as well as an attendee from Lagos, participated. Many of the participants would have been unreachable for in-person recruiting.

“There is no way we could justify traveling that far,” Blair says about the candidate from Lagos. “But this was a way that we could connect and live chat with them to answer questions and provide further information.”

To attract attendees, Blair and Doepner-Hove advertised the virtual fair to people who had sent an inquiry via the MA-HRIR website or had attended an on-campus information session. They also used mailing lists of names from other sources, such as GRE test takers who had expressed an interest in HR.

“We wanted to know that everyone attending the fair had at least some interest in the field,” Blair said.

On the day of the fair, the school representatives logged into the program and waited in the chat rooms for participants to log in. Once participants were in the virtual room, the recruiter offered to answer questions, and the participants followed public chats, or requested a private chat.

Overall, Blair and Doepner-Hove, along with the other schools that co-hosted the event, felt the event was a success. Of the 77 people registered, 13 students were well-qualified prospective applicants, a figure that's comparable to in-person career fairs. Students said the virtual fair was a great way to speak with representatives from each program to to help them decide who would best fit their needs.

“We’re hoping the success of this event will bring in a few more programs to co-host with us next time,” said Blair.

With the technical competency of prospective students increasing, virtual career fairs could be here to stay. While the attendees aren’t able to speak with recruiters in person, they still have the ability to chat with them via webcams. And, the convenience is appealing to students: they can spend 20 minutes chatting online between classes instead of taking hours out of their day to attend a fair in person.

“With all the tech-savvy prospective students out there, these fairs are great,” Blair says. “From the school rep's perspective, it is a far more time and cost effective way to connect. It seems like a win for everyone!"