Friday 20 June 2008

Virtual Careers Fair

Following my last post on the use of web 2.0 for recruitment, and one reader's comment on the low take-up of other recruitment technologies, I thought it would be fun to explore the use of virtual careers fairs.

So I've just been visiting Top Consultant's fair for management consulting candidates (not that I'm seriously looking for a job - but never say never).

And I have to say I found it a bit flat, perhaps because I had a virtual conference I participated in last year at the back of my mind as a comparison - and because I had found this one so much fun. But there's a lot of differences between the two events - firstly for me, I was speaking at the last one, which always raises my adrenalin, whereas this time I was lurking in the background (not having got the opportunity to attend as a recruiter).

And more importantly, the conference was largely about networking so there was loads of interaction with exhibitors, speakers and attendees. In contrast, Top-Consultant note that whole idea of a virtual careers fair is that:

"Going virtual addresses one of the biggest concerns that candidates have about attending a physical fair - that they'll be spotted by the current employer."

So by design, it's quite hush hush. But I did think there could have been more to give it a bit more focus and energy - perhaps some seminars providing tips on CV writing, interviewing etc, rather than just cheesy recruitment videos.

But even then, I'm not sure that I'd have found it that useful - or whether it would have provided that much more value than other sources of information on employment opportunities eg Top Consultant's existing jobs board.

Also see posts about virtual careers fairs on Fortify your Oasis and McArthur's Rant (this one didn't use virtual world technology eg Second Life, but I think this would have been good - even if just as an option to chat with the recruiters on the exhibition stands).


  1. Jon - interested to read your thoughts on the fair and some good ideas here for us to incorporate into the next event (scheduled for November).

    I was surprised by your comments that the event didn't provide much more value than other sources of information on employment opportunities eg Top-Consultant's existing jobs board. Would I be right in assuming that you didn't participate in the live conversations with recruiters at their stands (I note you said you were "lurking in the background")?

    There were several thousand conversations took place between recruiters and candidates during the course of the day, it's just that these conversations weren't visible unless you were actually one of the candidates initiating such a conversation. The chance to actually talk through career opportunities with consulting firms is the main reason candidates attend our London careers fair each year - so the fact that so many conversations took place in the virtual consulting fair is a sign of this being much more valuable than simply perusing a jobs board. I could certainly imagine that if you didn't participate in these interactions the rest of the event might seem a bit flat. That's not been the feedback from the hundreds of consulting candidates who have since written back to me thanking us for organising the event. Would you care to publish a few of these to counteract the view you've presented above?

    Tony Restell

  2. Hi Tony,

    I am sure virtual careers fairs can be useful for serious candidates and this particular one was very professionally produced.

    However, I still don't believe they have as bright a future as virtual learning events. And the key difference for me is interaction. Virtual learning enables people to connect with each other as much as, if not more than, in physical events.

    Virtual careers fairs can't do this, and one to one interaction with recruiters doesn't make up for the lack of community interaction.

    OK, you don't get this sense of community at real life careers fairs either, but there is at least a background level of chatter going on. This 'noise' was simulated on your virtual event, but it doesn't provide the same 'social feel'. This is why I think, to me, the event felt flat.

    Now I understand that serious candidates don't attend careers fairs, real or virtual, to experience 'social feel'!, but I do believe the lack of this reduces the attractiveness of the event.

    Again, this isn't a point about your event, it's a comment on what to me seems like an inherent wekaness is the format.

    But if you would like to send me your perspectives on this, I would of course be happy to post them for you.

  3. Thanks for allowing me to put the alternative view above Jon, much appreciated.

    Interestingly, the technology platform does support greater interaction between candidates - we could have had a "Lounge" area in the fair where candidates could network and speak freely amongst themselves. iCongo recommended to us, based on their experience of hosting another such careers fair recently, that we deactivate this functionality as it detracts from the core aim of the fair - namely to put candidates and recruiters in direct contact with one another. We followed this advice and as a result it was very successful in kicking off career discussions between candidates and would-be employers; but obviously fell down on the networking side as a result.

    As with most internet developments, I think what this shows us is that there are many many different ways of working with the available technology and one of the keys to success is actually going to be figuring out which combinations of technology and functionality actually provide the desired outcome and leave users delighted rather than disappointed with the experience.

  4. Jon - thought you might be interested in a series of unsolicited testimonials we've had back from the candidates who attended the virtual fair. My experience with recruitment technologies and recruitment events over the years is that where candidates choose to go, recruiters soon follow. I'll leave the candidates' comments to speak for themselves:

    “I just wanted to congratulate you and the Top-Consultant team on the wonderful job you've done in organizing the virtual Careers Fair. It's been an excellent experience which provided unfettered access to many principals in consulting firms who would not normally be present in a live careers fair. Thanks for a great job!”
    (INSEAD alumnus)

    “Just want to congratulate you and your team for hosting such a wonderful web event. This was my first virtual job fair experience and I really liked the idea of realtime interaction with the company representatives. I also admired the IT infrastructure for this event - it was so near to reality and offered a very effective user interface.”
    (Analyst, technology consulting firm)

    “Just a brief note to thank you for organising the virtual career fair. I attended and am following up several interesting opportunities.”
    (Director, Big 4 consulting firm)

    “Allow me to congratulate to you and your team for doing a truly wonderful job to conceptualise, design, implement and run the first Virtual Career Fair. I truly enjoyed the whole event - so much so I was glued to my laptop the whole day!!!”
    (Senior Manager, technology consulting firm)

    “I am very impressed with this novel and borderless way of recruiting. Overall it was a very positive experience. The site layout was realistic, appealing and easy to navigate and I liked the fact that there weren't too many steps (clicks) to get to the key pieces of info such as company info, jobs, etc.”
    (Senior Consultant, Big 4 consulting firm)

    “Yesterday I attended the Virtual Careers Fair and I must say it was a fantastic experience. It surpassed all my expectations and I was absolutely amazed by this innovation.”
    (Senior Lead, BPO firm)

    “Thanks a lot for organizing such a great event… a unique experience which gave me the chance to get in touch with very useful contacts and also to have some interesting discussions about career options. Many thanks for having invited me to this highly innovative careers fair.”
    (Senior Auditor, Big 4 accounting firm)

    “Congratulations on the event today. I thought it was near perfect. I ran out of time trying to talk to people but I think I visited at least 20 booths. Please give my deepest appreciation to your entire team for putting together this event.”
    (Former Manager, major global consulting firm)

    “It was an absolutely fantastic experience. I loved this concept, feeling that you are actually in an exhibitor hall. The most interesting part was the "Chat" - I immediately got access to all the recruiters and didn’t have to wait too long to speak to anyone. Thank you!”
    (SAP consultant)

    “Just wanted to congratulate you on the fair. I have been in and out for about the last 3 hours. It is easy to use, looks great and I have met some very interesting people. Thanks for all the work you and your team put into it.”
    (Director, market research & consulting firm)

    Tony Restell


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