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Virtual job fairs gaining popularity

In this week's Job Alert, during down economic times, career fairs often draw thousands of eager job seekers. Now, there is a way to get around those long lines and time consuming meet and greets.
In this week's Job Alert, during down economic times, career fairs often draw thousands of eager job seekers. Now, there is a way to get around those long lines and time consuming meet and greets.

For the past three years, Marybeth Gillespie has worked hard looking for work.

"I used recruitment agencies. I had done cold calling. I had answered classified ads," she says.

No jobs offers turned up, until she tried a career fair right from her own living room.

"I was able to study the companies that were offering local jobs, click through to their web sites, learn their culture," says Gillespie.

With the unemployment rate around 8-percent, and companies looking to broaden the applicant pool, the virtual career fair has exploded in popularity. One of the leading companies hosting virtual events says thousands attend.

"We have companies like Microsoft that we've done that with. We have 3M we've done it with P&G. Right now, we run probably a couple of hundred events every year," says Malcolm Lotzof with INXPO.

You don't need to be tech savvy to scout them out. Participants simply log on, upload their resume, and visit a variety of virtual "booths" organized by company or by field.

"They're given the opportunity to see job opportunities at the companies that are participating, and then actually apply, and in many cases interview via chat," says Tony Lee with CareerCast.com.

You can interview either through video or instant message.

"They can do it from their home, in front of their computer. Very efficient. Very time effective," adds Lee.

It's also effective because recruiters have the chance to pre-screen resumes and then target potential employees.

"The recruiter is able to seek out the attendee at the event and bring them into the booth, or connect with them, so it kind of turns the process on its head," says Lotzof.

Eventually, you may be contacted for a telephone or in-office interview. Still, experts say virtual career fairs may not be for every job seeker.

"You do not have the opportunity to look an employer in the eye, shake their hand, and try and make a good first impression," says Lee.

That didn't bother Gillespie, who felt she made a first impression with her work history. After a face-to-face interview, she got a job offer on the spot.

"I found that the job fair experience was simple, uncomplicated, most importantly, it got me a job!" she says.

Virtual career fairs are free. You can learn about them through the newspaper, a company's website, social networking services like Facebook and Twitter and even Google searches or word of mouth.
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