The Value of Virtual Career Fairs

It seems like everything we do in the real world can also be done electronically. We can send a letter, or we can email, We can call each other, or we can Skype. We can print photos to paste into albums, or we can post them on Facebook.

Like everything else, job searching has gone to bits and bytes. Now you can print resumes on nice paper and hand them to recruiters, or you fill out a form on the company’s web site and enter yourself into their database. The latest addition to the electronic world is virtual job fairs – expositions held entirely on the internet. Virtual career fairs eliminate the costs and hassles of travel, and allow participation on your own schedule.

At a typical job fair, candidates will peruse a list of openings, submit resumes for consideration, and request interviews with companies of interest. Employers will post a list of open positions, create agents to search a database of submitted resumes, and schedule interviews with promising candidates.

Virtual interviews can be handled a number of different ways. They can be conducted synchronously, with both parties using webcams to talk to each other in real time. Alternatively, they can be conducted asynchronously, where the company submits a list of questions, to which the candidate records answers, and the company then views them at a later time. Each method has its own advantages – synchronous interviews are more like live interviews, and tend to give a better picture of the individual’s personality. Asynchronous interviews can be more convenient, since everyone can do them on their own time.

After hosting 122 career fairs since 1948, the American Chemical Society (ACS) is hosting their first virtual career fair June 8-12, from 9 am to 5 pm Eastern time. Free to candidates, this event is a great way to find out what’s out there, practice your interview skills, and maybe even learn something at one of the workshops. Even if you’re not currently looking for a new position, career fairs can give you some insight into who is hiring.

A wide variety of companies will participate, so you can use this as an opportunity to stretch your horizons, and learn about new fields. Perhaps this can be a pointer to a new field you hadn’t considered before.

Just like with a traditional career fair, doing your homework is critical. Make sure you know which company’s values and scientific focus match your own, and determine how your skills and knowledge can add to their assets.

While you can do research and set up appointments in your pajamas and bunny slippers, you may not want to appear that way for interviews. Even if it’s only a telephone interview, dressing professionally and taking the call in a quiet office will go a long way towards making you feel professional, which will result in you making a professional impression on the company representative.

Even if you do not see immediate job offerings from a career fair, it can still be a good long-term investment and valuable learning experience. Continue to follow-up with companies of interest on a regular (but not too frequent) basis, so you will be uppermost in their mind when the right opening does come along. Practice answers to interview questions that surprised you. Refine your elevator speech, and work on ways to tailor it to various companies.

This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants. Lisa is a scientific communication consultant and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006).

10 Responses to The Value of Virtual Career Fairs

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