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Are Virtual Career Fairs Really Worth Attending?

Are Virtual Career Fairs Really Worth Attending?

Necessity remains the mother of invention as employees and job seekers alike look for innovative ways to meet their needs. New on the horizon are virtual career fairs, which offer employers an opportunity to match skilled workers with needed positions. Job seekers have a chance to explore job openings without getting dressed up and paying parking fees.

Typically, virtual career fairs work by having job seekers register to attend the career fair online. They can upload their resumes and browse the different virtual booths that employers host. In some situations, these “booths” are different linked pages that are part of a central page.

In other situations, booths are setup with icons that are more elaborate and links that resemble tables and curtains used in face-to-face career fairs. Once job seekers enter the booths, they can view current job openings and/or video introductions to the company.

There are other types of online career fairs that have webinars and teleseminars offering job search tips. Professional job search strategists are available to help job seekers advance in their career search.

With virtual career fairs mirroring many of the offerings found at onsite fairs, will they soon become the replacement? The short answer is no. While virtual career fairs seemingly provide more convenience for job seekers and employers, they may not replace traditional fairs entirely. Until technology invents a way, virtual career fairs cannot replace the person-to-person contact that many employers prefer.

Drawbacks to Virtual Career Fairs

Virtual career fairs have other potential drawbacks that could make this less exciting for employers and job seekers.

Distractions

Usually, hiring managers can operate a virtual career fair booth from the comfort of their computers. This also means that some managers might become distracted by office work and will forget to sign in for live hours. For the job seeker expecting some type of human interaction, this is the equivalent to approaching an empty booth at an onsite fair.

One way to overcome this potential distraction is for hiring managers to block the time on their schedules. They should treat that time as if they are away from the office.

Overly Objective

Another drawback from the employer's perspective is the lack of physical connection where both employers and job seekers can make first impressions. Body language and eye contact is lost in the virtual world and is considered the biggest objective to participating in a virtual career fair.

Both sides should keep in mind that a virtual connection is really a pre-screening mechanism and not an interview tool. Hiring managers can instantly connect with potential candidates from anywhere in the world before scheduling an interview.

Apathy Towards New Technologies

Although some are not Luddites, some hiring managers might have some apprehension about using a new recruiting tool. Even if it is simple to master, the human reaction to change may kick in. It might help if the career fair organizers have a technology that allows hiring managers to manage their own content. Repeated use might alleviate hesitation with trying a new way to find top talent.

Virtual Career Fair Advantages

One of the advantages to participating in virtual career fairs is the convenience of looking for a job or job candidate. Generally, it takes an hour to set up a virtual career booth. Planning the content to include may take a little longer. However, once hiring managers decide on the content, all it takes is a few point and click motions to participate. In many cases, it is a matter of using information that would be included in onsite career fairs.

Other advantages to virtual career fairs include:

• A forgiving timeline that could last for one week; traditional fairs are usually for one or two days
• Availability 24/7 for job seekers to “attend” the fair and receive information at convenient times
• Real-time access to current job openings with links to company websites
• Job seekers can view archived webinars that were held during an inconvenient time
• Job seekers can connect to various opportunities in a new town if they have relocation plans
• No travel required – military personnel returning to civilian duty, expatriates returning to the states can connect with hiring managers from remote locations

Some Pointers for Job Seekers Who Participate in Virtual Career Fairs

One of the primary complaints from employers who participate in virtual career fairs is the generic resumes they receive. Job seekers should review postings before submitting resumes.
Just like applying to individual job postings, candidates should tailor their resumes to specific job openings. This is something that job seekers cannot do at an onsite career fair. Vague or broad resumes receive very little attention.

Even though the fair is in a virtual environment, job seekers should consider wearing nice clothes. Most people are comfortable with attending the fair in pajamas and a messy office. However, a conversation with a hiring manager could lead to an instant talk via Skype. Being prepared can help job seekers maintain momentum in their quest for a new job.

Another consideration for job seekers is checking the content on their social media sites. Things can happen quickly in a virtual atmosphere when hiring managers are looking to narrow the selection of job applicants. Some managers might look at social media profiles during the virtual career fair. Job seekers should make sure their professional details are current and any embarrassing details are hidden from public view.

Virtual career fairs are a convenient way for job seekers to explore different employment opportunities from the comfort of home. While this might be a time to relax, job seekers should not get too comfortable and forget that looking for a job requires professional behaviors.

Yes, they can avoid the intimidating feelings of anxiety that often occur during face-to-face interviews. However, being too candid in a virtual environment can overshadow the intended projection of confidence. Job seekers should maintain the same level of professionalism that they would exhibit in person.

Setting clear goals before logging on to a virtual career fair can help job seekers and hiring managers. Both can be prepared for potential questions, jot down flexible answers and be ready to communicate. It is easier for job seekers to refer to notes in the virtual environment than in person while chatting with potential employers.

Typically, hiring managers are interacting with hundreds or thousands of candidates. Therefore, it behooves job seekers to say and do everything that will improve their prospects for an interview – and job offer.

Virtual Career Fairs May Become the New Normal

Unemployment continues to lag behind the recovery of the Great Recession. Many companies are having difficulty finding the right candidates for open positions. Likewise, most job candidates are not making the right connections to find a job. Traditional forms of recruiting and job seeking has to give way for new opportunities.

Virtual career fairs present a fresh alternative that might work for some. Even the U.S. Department of Labor is joining the trend with a virtual career network for health care professionals. Employers can connect to a larger pool of talent that might not exist locally. Job seekers can look for more employment opportunities that could lead to permanent employment.

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