Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The making of a successful virtual job fair

This article attempts to address some of the questions that have been coming up among those interested in virtual job fairs and virtual career fairs. has deployed several successful virtual fairs including job fairs since 1999, in academia and Corporate America. In this article the writer highlights factors that make these early adopters want to come back and do the virtual job fairs over and over again.

The relevance of a virtual job fair today

With the widespread use of the Internet for job searches, recruiters and hiring managers have a larger pool of accessible job candidates. The consequent information overload is inevitable. A typical search within a job board gives a recruiter thousands of choices and not enough time in the day to review all of them. A virtual job fair serves as a levee to arrest the information deluge, capture a relevant, interested and manageable part of the database, invite them to a job fair, and fish for the best candidates. From the candidates’ perspective, they enjoy the ability to fish for the best opportunities. By creating manageable capsules of time, (web) space, and information, a virtual job fair creates a sheltered environment without the noise and clutter of the Internet for a recruiter or hiring manager to directly connect with a potential job candidate.

The other reason that a virtual job fair has become relevant is that hiring companies are trying their best to make their brand stand out amongst their competitors to attract the best talent that is out there. Many organizations are able to receive résumés of interested job candidates at their own career websites. Some even have a .jobs domain name to go with their overall web presence. With such elements they are trying to create an exclusive corner for their hiring needs and thus build some branding. To create an element of brand-loyalty even before they have become an employee of the company, many organizations prefer to have their own online event to invite and engage candidates who have expressed interest in working for that specific organization. The virtual job fair is an ideal way to maintain a pipeline of future employees that care about an organization’s brand

Three ‘C’s for a successful virtual job fair

There are several factors that make for a successful virtual job fair, but in our experience the most critical ones are making them Convenient, Crisp and Current.

  1. Convenient: If a job fair can be wrapped around the needs of the job candidate, it has a better chance of success. We conducted a job fair where the recruiters ‘staffed’ their virtual booth on a Sunday morning (from the comfort of their home via the Internet) just to make it convenient to working professionals who may not have time during the work week for a serious job search. Candidates were able to attend online, connect instantly via chat with the recruiter, schedule an interview or even have an initial phone interview with the recruiter that Sunday morning. Since the internet does not have any boundaries of time, it stands a better chance of success if it creates spells of interactivity aligned with the convenience of the job candidates in mind. Convenience is also important to the hiring manager. Should a hiring manager wish to involve an engineer in the hiring process, it can be accomplished without the engineer leaving her or his desk, and still be able to address technical questions and concerns of a job candidate instantaneously. Making it convenient is the biggest hallmark of the success of a virtual job fair. Taking this a little further, it also means that the virtual job fair must be easy to participate from behind firewalls in case a working professional chooses to attend from the office. It goes without saying that the virtual job fair then must enjoy timely customer support during any hour that has been chosen by the fair organizers. It is all about making it convenient for the job candidate and the recruiter in terms of getting the required customer support for an easy and seamless experience. Respecting the time of all participants is paramount. To assume that the job candidate, hiring managers or recruiters have a lot of time to spend on the Internet is a fallacy. That leads us to the next C – Crisp.
  2. Crisp: Time is a scarce resource. Let us not forget that the hiring manager, recruiter and the job candidate, each have a specific need – to be able to find one another, to find the right fit, and to connect as quickly as possible armed with as much information as possible. Virtual job fairs work best when they are used to facilitate and swiftly arrange for a phone conversation or an email follow-up leading to a phone conversation. Throwing too much technology at the users is inconsiderate and counter-productive. The second most important hallmark of a successful virtual job fair is to keep it simple and crisp, serving as a tool to establish an instant connection between the job giver and the job seeker. Anything else that interferes with this ultimate objective is a waste of time and therefore money. Keeping all the content in the virtual job fair concise, keeping the navigation consistent and predictable is very important. Of course, all of the convenience and conciseness you offer in a virtual job fair is meaningless if the content is not current, taking us to the next C -Current.
  3. Current: Even if your virtual job fair is being created out of an existing database of job candidates or an existing job listing pool, and even if it is easy to simply pull all of that data into a virtual job fair venue, I would urge to resist the temptation to serve old wine in a new bottle. My recommendation would be to leave certain pieces of information out of any automated data transfers, and mandate that the job fair participants – both employers and job candidates demonstrate their commitment by making current their job listings and résumés respectively, as well as their contact information. Employers will tell you how frustrating it is to find interesting résumés that are outdated, emails that bounce back and phones numbers that never ring. In the same vein, job candidates will tell you how exasperating it is to go through job listings, fill out an application form, click on the ‘apply’ button only to find that the job posting has ‘expired’ or is ‘not available any longer’. Keep all content in the virtual job fair current, and you will have a winner.

    The first steps towards building a brand

    To keep all content in a virtual job fair current, it is also important that the job fair has a specific start and an end. A virtual job fair with a defined time-frame is successful for the following few reasons. It is not reasonable to expect hiring managers to be online ‘staffing’ virtual booths for more than a few hours. Hiring processes have a life-cycle, and matters have to move beyond the initial screening that the virtual job fair painlessly allows. When a virtual job fair is closed, it is best to open pre-registration and pre-announce the next virtual job fair. A pre-announced calendar of job fairs helps sustain the momentum of the first fair. It gives job candidates something to look forward to. It gives recruiters a breather. Most of all, it helps the job fair organizer build a brand for the job fair. Based on our experience, if you deliver virtual job fairs in brief spells of time, and also use it in conjunction with face-to-face job fairs, you will experience measurable success. One must remember that the Internet works best when used as a tool to enhance human interaction.

The author, Ramesh Sambasivan is the co-founder of, Inc. Thanks to Grant Hartman, a virtual event manager and social networking evangelist at for valuable edits to this article.

P.S.: This article is getting picked up by many blogs so I figured, why not by this one :-)