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Students meet prospective employers online at virtual job fairs

by Sherry Fisher - February 13, 2006

Meeting face-to-face with prospective employers at a traditional career fair is just one way for students to make job connections. Now, students can also find jobs and talk to employers without ever leaving their rooms – via virtual career fairs.

UConn’s Department of Career Services has offered these interactive opportunities in addition to traditional fairs for the past two years.

During a virtual career fair, which lasts a week, employers such as engineering firms post positions for which they are recruiting, says Cynthia Jones, assistant vice president of student affairs. Students go to the website, www.vcf.uconn.edu, to check out the employers and job opportunities. They may submit resumes and get immediate feedback in a real-time chat room. Employers may invite specific students to chat, or a student may go into a chat room and ask questions. Students may submit resumes at any time during the week, but live chats are offered only for a few hours during the day.

“Many students have trepidation at job fairs,” says Al Monti, a career consultant at Career Services. “A chat room is more student-friendly, particularly for an introvert. It’s a nice way to break the ice and meet an employer. And you can have career fairs with employers from all over the world.”

Students fill out a profile, upload their resumes, go to job listing pages, and retrieve detailed job descriptions. There are usually about 20 employers at each fair.

According to Jones, software for virtual career fairs is expensive, so Marc Jones, a network administrator for Student Affairs Information Technology, wrote the software package.

“When we did our first test run, 300 students logged in during the first half hour,” says Cynthia Jones. “It was amazing.”

Jones says virtual career fairs offer convenience and flexibility for both students and employers.

“I asked the programmer to give the program the feel of a real fair,” she says.

“It’s another venue to bring students and employers together to use the technology at minimum inconvenience to employers, and maximum attractiveness for students. Since we own our own software, there are no limits.

“We like it because we can do very specialized fairs,” she says. “They’re cost-effective and don’t require a lot of staff resources to run them. If we want to have one for a particular industry where it is not possible to bring 15 employers to campus, this works perfectly.”

Jones says employers are enthusiastic about virtual fairs.

“It’s mainly a cost savings for them,” she says. “Rather than sending a representative out to UConn, who has to take an an entire day away from the office, they can stay put, devote a couple of hours to being online with us, and still have a great deal of interaction with students.”

Several virtual career fairs are offered during the academic year. A regional campus business and technology virtual career fair was offered earlier this month, and one in engineering is scheduled for Feb. 27 through March 3.

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