Virtual career fairs have grown in popularity and 84 percent of participants would recommend the experience to others

Imagine discussing internship and research opportunities with world-renowned scientists from your laptop or mobile device, in the comfort of your living room while wearing pajamas.

Virtual career fairs allow applicants to do exactly that, which reduces anxiety for applicants looking for opportunities and saves money for organizations looking to place candidates.

“Virtual events create a low-pressure environment where applicants can feel comfortable to ask questions of their potential mentor, begin building their networks with other applicants, and even start engaging with their recruiter,” said Amanda Hurley, section manager in workforce development at the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).

Over the last few years, virtual career fairs have grown in popularity and 84 percent of virtual event participants would recommend the experience to others, according to a recent article in Hypergrid Business, ORISE offered its first virtual event in 2017, focused on reaching diverse candidates for the Department of Energy’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. More recently, career fairs with a broader reach have included up to 14 exhibitors with over 1,000 registered attendees.

“A virtual career fair works a lot like an in-person career fair except that you don’t have to take time out of your day to drive or fly to an event,” said Cassandra Mitchell, social media and digital analyst.

Virtual career fairs have many of the amenities you would see at an in-person event, Mitchell said.

There is a lobby where you can see people moving around and chatting with each other, and there is an exhibit hall with booths that attendees van visit.

There are many benefits to virtual career fairs for attendees, Mitchell added. Attendees upload a resume that can be downloaded by all of the participating recruiters, have private chats with recruiters to discuss possible opportunities and ask for resume reviews, and even meet potential mentors who will be involved in their research experiences. They can even have group chats with other applicants and meet other participants with whom they may be interning.

And candidates can continue to visit the virtual event long after the official “event” is over.

“One of the really cool things we saw at the last event was that some participants who had already been selected for programs attended to learn more about what they were going to be doing when they actually started their program,” Mitchell said.

There are benefits for recruiters, too.

“We can reach candidates that we might not see while we’re out on the road and broaden our candidate pool,” Hurley said. “We can also reach back out to candidates and have a good conversation immediately after the event closes.”

Scientists and mentors love virtual events because they are featured in public chats, and those chats are often the most popular part of the event, Hurley added.