12/06/2012 02:40 pm ET Updated Feb 05, 2013

Why the Traditional Career Fair Is on Its Last Leg

We work with many of the country's biggest employers who are looking to recruit our nation's finest every day. To assist them, we have developed a fully interactive, always available virtual recruitment center (career fair). Many of the employers we work with also utilize traditional career fairs, but this week while sitting on a panel discussing best practices for recruiting veterans, I saw a real change in the dynamic as it pertains to traditional career fairs, and I thought I would shed a little light on this here.

Personally, I think old-fashioned career fairs will soon be a thing of the past, and not only because we deliver virtual career fairs, but more for the inefficiency, and time waste most traditional events for recruiting seem to be. Job seekers hate them because employers tell them to go back home and apply online (after giving them a stress ball) Employers for the most part don't enjoy them because it means standing behind a table all day, handing out pamphlets, and instructing folks how they can go back and apply for their jobs. So if the employer doesn't see value, and the job seeker doesn't get much out of them, what is really being accomplished? At best they are a resume exchange and branding opportunity and nothing more.

It used to be that you could attend a career fair in your best suit or dress, have resumes in hand, meet with hiring managers, and perhaps leave with an interview, or in some cases a job offer, but for a wide range of reasons, that simply is no longer the case. Employers now need to do thorough background, education, employment, and oftentimes drug checks before ever providing an offer letter.

I will be the first to say that nothing replaces the face-to-face or personal contact you can have with an actual hiring manager, but the reality is, that is not who you are meeting at career fairs.

Virtual career fairs will soon be the standard for employers and job seekers to meet and interact in real time for the following reasons in my opinion.

  1. Employers can greatly reduce the time, cost and resources needed to recruit talent nationwide by relying on virtual career fairs.
  2. Job seekers can participate from anywhere in the world with an internet connection
  3. The job seeker is already online so they can apply for the jobs, and chat with the recruiters in real time
  4. More and more job seekers are relying on the internet to source jobs and network, and the virtual career fair meets them there.
  5. The virtual career fair provides equal access to those who may have a disability, or inability to travel to and from a physical location.

What I think that will happen, or should I say hope that will happen, is that the traditional career fair will turn into more of an interview fair rather than the initial exchange between employer and job seeker. Employers will look for ways to connect with job seekers prior to attending interview fairs, and the virtual career fair is a perfect match for just that. We are already seeing signs of this with some career fair organizers such as the U.S Chamber of Commerce Hiring our Heroes Career Fairs They ask the employers who attend their career fairs to be prepared to interview, and even give contingency offers on the spot -- however they are the exception not the norm, but perhaps that will soon change.

We have had the pleasure of working with a great organization Military Officers Association of America who hosts two of the largest and best traditional career fairs for the military in Washington, D.C, and what we have been able to offer is a virtual complement to their physical career fair beforehand to get the ball rolling.

An example of the success of virtual career fairs is the events we host for active, guard/reservists, veterans, and military spouses each month. The events we have run for this community have resulted in more than 15,000 jobs, 180,000 attendees in less than two years, and in 2013, we are shooting for 15,000 hires. This is possible with the support of great employers who recognize and value the skills, work ethic, training, and education our veterans and their spouses bring to the workforce. Employers such as Convergys, DaVita, Exelon, Graybar, IHG, PepsiCo, Progressive, Travelers, TSA, Waste Management are already embracing this virtual approach to recruiting veterans with great success.

So the next time you are thinking about attending a career fair, ask yourself if it is really the best use of your time, money, and energy, or if you could achieve the same and more virtually.