Host a job fair online

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Looking for a job? You might find one through the classifieds, but not in the way you think.

Instead of looking through the employment ads, you might see a house ad for a newspaper's "Virtual Career Fair." Or you might get an email reminding you of an upcoming job fair. Or you might see it in a Facebook post.

Click on the website link, and you'll find many companies posting their listings online, with extensive descriptions of each job and its requirements. Want to apply? Go right ahead; the day or time doesn't matter.

The Virtual Career Fair is far more efficient for both employers and job-seekers than so-called "brick-and-mortar," events where employers set up tables and people get in line, say classified advertising managers at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas and The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La.

"It's so easy," said Janet Quinn, classified advertising manager at the Star-Telegram.

It's also profitable for the newspaper handling the arrangements through its website and cross-promoting the event through print house ads.

The Star-Telegram began Virtual Career Fairs in 2007, using the vendor App Vault, a supplier of employment products. The paper did three a year and scheduled four this year: in January, March, June and October. The main fairs last for three weeks, and the paper also does week-long fairs in conjunction with National Nurses Week or National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, for example.

The last three events drew 41,000, 38,000 and 37,000 page views, respectively, Quinn said. The most profitable single event made $30,000 from 40 advertisers in 2011; the average is $15,000.

"Our biggest sales pitch is, you're not going to get 40,000 people walking through your hotel lobby between the hours of 10 and 2," Quinn said.

"We have no expenses. We're not renting out a hotel room, not supplying coffee and juice for the vendors. It's very cost affordable."

Quinn starts with a database of 400,000 email addresses from subscribers and non-subscribers. House ads, peel-back ads and "classified links all over," help drive job-seekers to the event.

Employers are placed in categories depending on who's hiring. In Fort Worth, for example, there might be an oil and gas category. The paper provides feedback such as individual page views and numbers of applicants.

Employers can review the applications at their convenience and screen them for numbers of years of experience or types of degrees, for example. "It's just more convenient all the way around for everybody," Quinn said.

Download promo sheet from The Advocate's Virtual Career Fair

Art de la Torre worked in Fort Worth before joining The Advocate three years ago. The Baton Rouge paper's second fair just ended in September.

"We've had pretty good success off of this," de la Torre said. "We looked at the brick-and-mortar job fairs, and looking at the expenses it just didn't make sense."

The Advocate has a database of some 16,000 resumes. The paper asks job seekers to pre-register, and in return they receive reminder emails. Once the fair begins, anyone can go to the website.

Employment categories for September were health care, transportation, industrial and professional/administrative. "Health care is always up there. And transportation; the trucking companies are always looking for new drivers," de la Torre said.

The Advocate also supplies statistical reports to employers, who can buy packages starting at $499.  One premium sponsorship sells for $1,599, which includes a premium banner on the fair's home page, a 10-inch print ad, a leader board online tile ad and a 30-day job posting.

The first fair drew more than 30 employers. "This job fair was more difficult for us," De La Torre said. "I think it's just the time of year. We had, I think, 15. But we still made money."

For more information, email Janet Quinn, jaquinn@star-telegram.com, or Art de la Torre, adelatorre@theadvocate.com.

Jane Nicholes is a freelance writer and editor based in Daphne, Ala., and a former editorial writer for the Press-Register in Mobile. Email her at jbnicholes@att.net.

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