Case Study

Virtual recruitment fairs

Learn how South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust moved its open days online.

12 May 2021

When COVID-19 hit, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust moved its open days, which had been running on-site since 2015/16, online. The virtual events, which took place over two days, attracted 1,200 visitors.

Key benefits and outcomes

  • 1,200 people attended over two days.
  • The trust showed itself to be an anchor institution within its community and a key part of the post-pandemic economic recovery.
  • Cost effective way of promoting opportunities.
  • Easier for people to attend and apply for roles on the day.

What the organisation faced

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Central Ambulance Service hosted annual recruitment days where people in the community would be invited to learn about the range of career opportunities the trust had to offer. Necessary restrictions to large gatherings and events during the pandemic forced the trust to rethink its approach.

The trust decided to run the event online, rather than face-to-face, and saw a more varied attendee list, which included people who could start right away, people completing schooling, people made redundant during the pandemic and people looking to change careers and inspired by the NHS' response to the crisis.

What the organisation did

The trust’s recruitment team led a multi-disciplined group, which included education colleagues and clinical and non-clinical colleagues, which design ed a virtual recruitment day that was replicated over multiple days to give people as much opportunity as possible to attend one of the sessions

The structure of the virtual events mirrored the face-to-face sessions and focused on careers in three groups: call centre staff, patient transport staff and operational staff.

Once the face-to-face sessions were mapped onto a presentation format to ta be place on MS Teams, the trust promoted the event via its website, social media channels and on radio Paid Facebook advertising was the most useful tool as half of the additional traffic 110,000 more hits/ to the trust’s specific job website ISCAS Jobs while promoting the event was driven through this route.

Details of the event were included on the SCAS Jobs website landing page where people could see the job roles available in advance of the event. Over 2000 people signed up to attend the two-day event of which 1200 attended - the face-to-face events would usually see around 300 people per day.

The events started with a welcome from the chief executive and chair who set out the context and outlined the challenges the pandemic had caused. They highlighted that while the trust was under enormous pressure, the organisation was still committed to providing employment opportunities for people in the community.

Colleagues already in the roles advertised spoke to delegates about their roles, responsibilities and experiences of working for the trust. Their passion shone through and helped generate further conversation and questions from the audience which in turn helped recreate some of the interaction that would take place at a face-to-face event.

The event was closed by the HR and OD director who chaired a further Q&A session with the audience. Such was the level of audience interaction, each event overran.

After the event, each of the delegates received an email with information about career opportunities, vacancies and links to the South Central Ambulance Service website and NHS Jobs. 175 delegates completed applications and particular interest was shown in frontline positions, entry level roles, emergency care assistants, call centre positions, 111 call handlers and more.

On average, successful applicants started their first day 8 12 weeks after attendance at the event.

Results and benefits

By moving the recruitment events online, the trust was able to maintain a workforce supply pipeline, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. The excellent conversion ratios of attendees to applicants combined with the cost effectiveness of the event means that the trust will continue to run its recruitment events online.

“The passion and commitment shown by staff was highly commendable and very positive for all new people to start a new career. Thank you all once again." -    Attendee

Overcoming obstacles

The trust had never run a virtual event on the same scale before, so there was an element of the unknown when taking this approach. Operational demands reduced the availability of colleagues, in one instance just 30 minutes before an event was due to start.

Having a back-up plan on stand by in such instances proved invaluable and, in the scenario described above, the trust were able to alter the running order of the presentation before the session started.

Key to success on the day is having a plan A, a plan B and time set aside to rehearse. South Central Ambulance service conducted several trial runs to detect any errors and build confidence before the events.

Takeaway Tips

  1. Arrange a run through session with everyone involved so everyone knows what their responsibilities are on the day.
  2. Be realistic with your timings for the sessions and allow plenty of time for Q&As.
  3. Don’t overload people with information, you can refer them to websites after the event.
  4. Be open and honest — our roles are tough, especially in the current climate.
  5. Be sure to follow up after the event so people have your contact details for further questions/queries.

Further information

For more information about the work in this case study, contact Laura Farrow, senior recruitment advisor, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust at