On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the nation’s unemployment rate hit a 16-year high of 7.2%, with 11.1 million Americans out of work. Many of the unemployed are turning to sites like Yahoo HotJobs, Monster.com, Dice.com and Linkedin. With such a wide pool of available talent, companies looking to fill positions will receive no shortage of attention (and job submissions). While this is a good thing for the hiring companies, they’ll be challenged to efficiently filter through the submissions and find the right candidates for the jobs.
Let’s consider today’s dynamic for hiring companies:
- Large potential applicant base (11.1 million unemployed)
- Applicants are cash-strapped
- Hundreds (or thousands) of submissions generated for a given job posting
What’s a good solution to address this combination of factors? The virtual job fair. With the unemployed less likely to incur expense to attend a physical job fair, placing the event online means that you’ll attract a larger (and potentially global) audience. And while you won’t be face-to-face with potential hires, there are plenty of advantages of flooring such an event virtually.
First, let’s consider your job at the job fair. While your ultimate goal is to source attractive candidates, it’s just as important to sell your company (amd the benefits of working there) to these candidates. Some possibilities to consider for the virtual job fair:
- Place detailed information about the job (and your company) in your virtual booth – supplement with external links (back to your corporate site)
- Invite senior executives to the event (not just the hiring manager, but the hiring manager’s manager) – including your CEO! Your CEO’s participation is quite possible with a virtual event, but may not be practical at a physical event
- Invite employees who hold the same (or similar) position – and have them network with candidates
- Host presentations about your company (e.g. webinars)
- Include on-demand video in your booth – so that candidates can hear (and see) from your company representatives
- Host sesssions in the event that show candidates how your company operates. For instance, if you’re supplementing your software development team, stage a developer meeting for folks to observe. Virtual worlds like Second Life or web.alive can facilitate such a session.
As for filtering through the candidates, you’ll want to review the chat transcripts that they had with your company representatives and review activity reports (e.g. booth visits, documents downloaded) to gauge their interest level in your company. Additionally, work with your platform provider on applications you might leverage, such as surveys or quizzes to differentiate candidates.
On the attendee side, I recommend the following:
- Carefully select your avatar, since it’s a representation of you in the virtual world. You’re sending a signal to your potential employer. Picking an unsuitable avatar is equivalent to attending a physical job fair unshowered and in your pajamas
- Take care in all your touchpoints. Potential employers will be able to pick up on your writing abilities within text chat, for instance. Does your resume claim, “excellent written communication skills”? Well, be sure to demonstrate them!
- Bring useful and relevant resources to supplement your candidacy – e.g. writing samples, code excerpts, etc. Additionally, look up potential employers online (e.g. on Linkedin) for additional context.
TMP Worldwide (parent company of Monster.com) hosted a number of virtual job fairs in Second Life during 2007. EMC, Accenture, GE and U.S. Cellular exhibited, among other companies. You can still visit the Network in World site here.
On January 14, 2009, P&G is hosting a U.S. Diversity Virtual Career Fair (full disclosure: my employer [InXpo] is powering this event). I expect to see several more virtual job fairs in 2009, especially as job openings begin to pick up again from hiring companies. If you have plans to attend or exhibit at a virtual job fair this year, leave a comment below with some details!