Virtual Job Fairs Becoming More of a Reality

Article excerpt

After failing to find a supply-chain or purchasing-agent job through networking and career websites, Antonio Beasley turned to the Big East Virtual Career Fair last November.

The 30-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, resident was pleasantly surprised to find roughly 30 firms there, and he contacted all of the recruiters online by writing a pithy introductory letter. About 10 to 12 answered with automated e-mail respon-ses, and five recruiters even wrote a personal note. He obtained e-mail addresses from the recruiters and stayed in touch with several who said more supply-chain jobs could open up in the first quarter.

For job seekers, virtual career fairs are appealing because they're a way to get your foot in the door without having to walk out the door. Similarly, virtual fairs are growing in popularity with employers because they can significantly expand their reach nationally and internationally at minimal expense. The Virtual Edge Institute, an organization in Pleasanton, California, whose member firms build online platforms for job fairs, says the number of fairs jumped 31 percent from 2009 to 2010, and its members expect 40 percent growth in 2011. The group declined to release the total number of fairs.

Wes Reel, a military recruiter for Houston-based Waste Management Inc., tested out three virtual job fairs last year, including Milicruit, which targets former military personnel, and Unicruit, which is aimed at college students. He sought to fill about 1,000 positions, including management trainees, maintenance directors, mechanics and accountants.

Virtual fairs usually last about five hours, though recruiters can receive résumés online for as long as a week after the event. In its virtual "booth," Waste Management provided links to its online career site, obtained résumés from candidates and interacted with applicants in a live chat room. Reel prepared a brief written statement that he sent to applicants online, describing available jobs. After he reviewed résumés, he sent a personal note to promising applicants.

Reel and other recruiters have found that traditional job fairs don't always pay off. In addition to the time and expense of attending them in person, recruiters often find them inefficient because many people stop by their booth who don't possess the right skills.

What's more, Reel points out, transcribing e-mail addresses from lists after a job fair is time consuming. At virtual fairs on the other hand, recruiters pre-screen résumés, contact candidates who are a potential fit and store e-mail addresses automatically in their company's computer system. …