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‘Virtual’ job fairs save money, click with candidates

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

When tax firm KPMG wanted to fill hundreds of positions worldwide, it held an enormous job fair that attracted 20,000 candidates. But nobody showed up in person. The two-day, round-the-clock fair was entirely online.

More organizations are tapping the global reach of the Internet to recruit employees who otherwise might not come to a convention center event in, say, New York or Beijing, but can easily log on after work from their home computers.

KPMG’s “virtual” job fair in September involved a web site that welcomed candidates with videotaped messages from organization execs and allowed them to “visit” various “booths” by clicking on icons. At the booths, the visitors could read job postings, submit their résumés and “chat” live—via instant messaging—with KPMG recruiters who staffed the fair.

“We definitely got our money out of it for the amount of folks we had come and visit us,” said Lisa Rolston, a KPMG associate director of electronic strategy and branding, who stayed online for 12 hours on each of the fair’s two days.

The firm Unisfair supplied the technology for the fair. The company estimates that such virtual conventions cost about half as much as physical gatherings that involve travel and convention center fees.

Unisfair VP Brent Arslaner says virtual job fairs are quickly catching on because they allow organizations to spend less to recruit more people during a tight economy.

If the virtual job fair sounds like something that would work for your organization, consider these tips from KPMG and Unisfair:

  • Plan about three months ahead so you’ll have time to train employees to participate. You’ll need that time to market the fair to job-seekers, too.
  • Advertise on networking sites like Facebook, and make registration as simple as clicking on a link.
  • Keep the registration form brief. Collect just the basics, like name, job interests and contact info.
  • Expect about half of the registrants to actually attend the fair.
  • As part of your staff training, have employees log on to online retail sites and ask questions of live operators to get a sense of the customer experience.
  • Enlist enough staff to monitor the fair full-time so attendees don’t have to “wait in line” for responses.
  • Have staff online and ready to respond at the beginning of the workday in each time zone you hope to recruit from. Ensure full staffing at least until 8 p.m. local time.
  • Prepare as thoroughly as you would for a physical job fair. You’ll get the same kinds of questions—but more of them—at a virtual gathering.
  • Stay professional. Don’t behave more casually just because you’re typing responses instead of meeting candidates in person.

Arslaner says global, decentralized and budget-conscious organizations get the most out of virtual job fairs.

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