For decades, job fairs and salons have been renowned as a major connecting point for employers and motivated job seekers. Today, these popular events don’t necessarily have to take place in the physical world, thanks to the virtual job fair.
Virtual job fairs have been popular in Europe for some time, but have only recently become more common in North America. These virtual events allow job seekers to ‘visit’ a job fair from the comfort of their own home and to hand out CVs to employers, who are also able to answer candidates’ questions. As an added bonus, candidates don’t need to buy new clothes for these events!
For employers and recruiters, virtual events generate time and resource savings and require no material setup. With no kiosk to setup and no brochure to print, employees aren’t overburdened with off-hours work: with a couple employees online available to answer questions and ‘meet’ virtual candidates, everything is ready!
There are other benefits to virtual job fairs as well. The carbon footprint of these events is low because visitors don’t need to drive to attend the event. Even more importantly, by eliminating the geographic limitations associated with a real-world job fair, no one (except those without an internet connection) is shut out of the event. No matter where a candidate is based, they still have a chance to present themselves to employers!
Humanizing the Process
“Our job is to determine if we have the right person in front of us,” says Denis Arseneau, CRHA, recruitment director for the Groupe Perspective Montréal. “It can be hard to get a sense of a candidate’s authenticity without meeting them in person.”
Arseneau makes an important point: can an online chat replicate the crucial relational aspect of recruiting? Depending on the number of candidates, it’s normal that the recruitment process becomes expedited in the context of a job fair, whether the event is taking place in the real world or online. But in either case, candidates enjoy the advantage of having a conversation with a recruiter, rather than sending a CV to an email inbox!
Cutting-edge technology has also helped to remedy many of the inconveniences associated with virtual events. Today it’s possible for employers and candidates to conduct live video interviews direct from the salon, enabling a more genuine encounter that incorporates body language and other non-verbal communication. A digital interview has a unique value and can be more useful than the rapid and transactional exchanges that happen at real-world job fairs.
Since employers can’t (yet!) judge someone by their handshake in the virtual realm, they can at least evaluate a candidate based on their communication skills, as demonstrated by their writing abilities, and their presence.
This is very important, says Arseneau, considering that many of the jobs typically advertised through job fairs involve working with people: “[At job fairs] there are often jobs being offered in customer service, or positions such as receptionist – as such, we need to be able to evaluate how candidates work with people!”
According to Isabelle Horvath, who conducted an online recruitment campaign using Facebook Live, the anonymizing aspect of virtual recruiting seems to have the effect of emboldening candidates to apply for jobs they may not be qualified for – a behavior made all the more easy when the applicant only has to do some typing from a distant computer.
To avoid wasting time conducting interviews with unqualified candidates, Horvath, who is a team leader in her position, stresses the importance of triaging applications using a simple first step: does the applicant have the required education for the job?
Jobseekers should be as well-prepared for a virtual job fair as they would for a real-world interview. They can ask themselves: What organizations am I interested in, and which positions align well with my profile? They also need to remember that with a single click, they will be connected with a recruiter and they need to be ready with what they want to say and how they will say it. After all, the goal of a virtual interview is always to arrange a second meeting in the real world!
Pioneers of virtual job fairs in Québec
Since 1999, l’Événement Carrières has been one of the leading job fairs in Québec. Their new online platform complements the event’s real-world experience: https://salonvirtuelemploipermanent.com
By Véronique Champagne