Internet puts new spin on traditional career fair

Virtual events cost-effective, far-reaching
By Robert Waghorn
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/22/2011

The traditional career fair — complete with portable exhibitor booths, corporate presentations and face-to-face meetings between employers and jobseekers — is going online, thanks mainly to advancing Internet capabilities and tools that offer instant connections, unlimited reach and far greater efficiency in terms of time and cost.

In April 2011, Monster hosted a fair that drew 20 employers representing a wide range of industries — including finance, oil and gas, insurance, retail, IT and consulting — and attracted more than 18,000 jobseekers from across the country.

Like any job fair, it takes a venue, employers and jobseekers to make a virtual career fair successful. And employers have a variety of options when it comes to how to present themselves. While they create their own back-end content, such as job ads and employee stories, exhibitor ebooths can be built from scratch or chosen from pre-existing designs.

For jobseekers, taking part is easy. The fairs are open to anyone with a resumé and an Internet connection, no matter where they live or when they log on.

How it all works

Once a fair has opened, it’s important for employers to remain available at least some of the time to put a face to their company and connect with good prospects. Exhibitors should consider having a variety of means at their disposal to get to know job hunters better, including customized online surveys and live video chat.

There’s no need to man the booths around the clock, since jobseekers can drop off resumés at any time. Employers can sort candidates by factors such as job title, education or location, and rank resumés or export them to other platforms. They can even start interviewing candidates via Skype or set up in-person interviews for later.

Throughout the process, exhibitors are in complete control of their image, by editing content, uploading or deleting videos and testimonials or changing the look of their ebooth at any time.

A virtual career fair should be a colourful, entertaining, easy-to-navigate event for everyone involved. At the event in April, visitors were encouraged to stop by Monster.ca’s information stand to receive tips on making the most of the fair and to fill out a survey to help identify their most promising employer matches. Afterwards, they were free to roam around and check out exhibitors’ booths for as long as they liked.

Every employer’s stand features a number of modules offering different information and resources. Most of the action goes on at the reception modules, where job hunters can bone up on company profiles, visit corporate career sites for detailed job descriptions and leave behind resumés. Rounding out the offerings are complementary content such as surveys, interview tips and videos describing what it’s like to work for the organization.

The whole experience is designed to be fun and personable. And allowing jobseekers to chat with employers or each other at any time, whether to exchange hot tips or connect socially, reinforces the friendly feel.

Employer benefits

For employers, some of the biggest payoffs of virtual career fairs are their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Recruiters can remain at their desks and even continue with their regular work when not conducting interviews or chatting with jobseekers online.

Another big advantage: Virtual career fairs aren’t limited to a single region — they can draw candidates from across the country. And employers can generate a large pool of candidates. Century 21 Real Estate, for example, received more than 230 resumés and more than 2,100 visitors during the week of the virtual job fair.

Of particular interest to exhibitors is the power to promote the employer brand. Through banner ads, corporate videos, links to company websites and interactive communications with job hunters, exhibitors can position themselves as employers of choice. What’s more, jobseekers can get in on the game by linking to social media sites and spreading the word about a promising employer or job opening.

Jobseekers win too

Virtual fairs offer plenty of benefits for jobseekers as well and significant time savings is top on the list. No longer do candidates have to wait in line at each booth, only to find an employer doesn’t have any opportunities in their field. Now, by simply browsing, they can pinpoint in advance who has the right jobs for their skills and interests.

And because virtual fairs usually extend over several days, job hunters have the time to research opportunities before making their pitch. The more familiar they are with each company’s needs and corporate culture, the better they’re able to position themselves as problem-solvers who understand what employers want.

The virtual approach also appeals to passive jobseekers — workers who may be interested in switching employers and wouldn’t want to be seen at a traditional job fair. As every employer knows, those individuals are often some of the most interesting prospects.

For both employers and jobseekers, virtual career fairs can be an effective, affordable and user-friendly way to match job hunters with employment opportunities.

Robert Waghorn is senior digital communications manager at Monster Canada and is based in Montreal.

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