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Make virtual career fairs work for you

Jul. 2, 2012 - 12:03PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 2, 2012 - 12:03PM  |  
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Find a job fair

Check the calendar at www.veteranscareerfair.com for Milicruit’s upcoming virtual job fairs.

Employers are more likely to hire someone who is currently employed, so waiting until your military service is over before you start job-hunting can put you at a disadvantage. Virtual job fairs can help you get started while you're still in uniform — even if you're deployed.

"We've brought the career fair — the entire experience — online," says Kevin O'Brien, founder of Milicruit, a provider of virtual job fairs exclusively for service members, veterans and military spouses.

What is a virtual job fair? Imagine a low-budget video game with big-time impact.

You log on, set up an account and are directed to a Web page designed to look like a convention hall. Images of booths with company logos appear on the screen. You scroll in either direction to navigate through them. Pick those you'd like to learn more about and send a message to each company's recruiter.

In addition to the virtual job fairs, which can be accessed at any time, Milicruit has live events at which recruiters are standing by.

Some tips for making virtual job fairs work for you:

Complete your profile

The first thing a recruiter does after an applicant sends a message is to pull up the applicant's user profile, O'Brien says. If an applicant does not have a complete profile, the recruiter may not even respond to the message.

Make sure your user profile includes a résumé and a picture. Even in a virtual environment, recruiters want to be able to put a face with a name and have an applicant's complete background.

And your user name matters. It should reflect your real name so employers know what to call you. A handle like "aintwurkdin2yrs" or "allaboutdatmoney" (both actually used, O'Brien says) doesn't leave the best first impression.

Study up

"The more homework you do, the more memorable of a candidate you will be," advises a virtual guide who greets applicants as they enter the convention hall on Milicruit's website.

Because the booths are always accessible, applicants should research companies ahead of time.

Retired Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Rosser, founder of The Value of a Veteran — a company that helps employers develop military recruitment and retention strategies — says it's important for applicants to know exactly what jobs companies are offering.

Companies on Milicruit's website link to open positions. It's the biggest advantage of a virtual job fair, O'Brien says.

Ask the right questions

Don't ask questions whose answers are available on the company's website. Specific questions about the company and its open positions are best.

If you're preparing to leave the military, ask the recruiter if it's a good time to apply for the job.

Cyberspace is public space

If you're typing it, recruiters can see it.

Do not use a site's chat or networking features as a forum for personal — or nonprofessional — discussions. Grammar and professionalism are just as crucial in the virtual world as they are anywhere else.

Be patient

During a scheduled event, recruiters may meet anywhere from 500 to 1,200 applicants, Rosser says.

But because it's virtual, you won't know how many people are waiting in line.

O'Brien urges applicants to remember that just because the job fair is online, you can't expect an immediate response. Recruiters will get to you as soon as they can. If there is a long wait, visit another booth or send a message.

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