Many lab managers could ignore a rising tide of incoming résumés for the past two years or so since staffing levels were frozen or being reduced. However, as they begin to hire again they have to deal with this flood. This is a particular problem for managers of small laboratories with limited staff resources to help screen potential applicants in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner.

However, there are many sources of aid available.

While he is no longer in this business, I know of one employment consultant who would travel to American Chemical Society national meetings and use the onsite career fair to screen job hunters for potential clients. This service can be of particular benefit to small laboratories located a long distance from the meeting.

Online methods of recruiting and screening employees have been mentioned in an earlier blog post (https://www.labmanager.com/blogs/Lab-Management-Matters/index.cfm/2010/10/13/Screeening-Job-Applicants?adminview=true).

The American Chemical Society Virtual Career Fair was held at the beginning of October. Since this is a new option for screening and meeting job candidates, it seems timely to review the success of this new approach. Was it successful?

ACS Virtual Career Fair

According to Cheryl Mathews who managed the Virtual Career Fair, 2,644 [people attended. Twenty-six employers had virtual company booths staffed by 111 company representatives. These companies posted 200 job openings. The company representatives could screen résumés only to decide which job hunters they wanted to interview. In addition, job-hunters could request interviews. The environment was very interactive with both text and video options available for holding interviews. Interestingly, very few people chose the video option for interviews.

In addition, attendees could attend webinars on various job-related subjects and download employer and job-opening information.

The Virtual Career Fair was free to job hunters while employers paid a fee of approximately $4,000 for a booth. The Virtual Career Fair was also subsidized financially by the ACS.

Was the Virtual Career Fair successful? The final answer lies in the success of employers in filling the job openings with candidates from the job-hunting participants plus lab managers satisfaction with the performance of their new hires.

Future of the Virtual Career Fair

The Virtual Career Fair was an experiment. I asked Ms. Mathews if the ACS planned to do it again. Her one-word answer was, "Absolutely." A second edition of the Virtual Career Fair is tentatively scheduled for some time in June 2011.

ACS has sent survey forms to both employers and job hunters to collect feedback. In addition ACS plans to have focus groups discuss various aspects of the Virtual Career Fair. The results will be used to fine tune the second edition of the Virtual Career Fair.

Will other professional societies or industry trade associations adopt the concept of virtual career fairs? Ms. Mathews noted that the commercial software needed to support the virtual Career Fair was costly. Its use may be limited to organizations that can attract substantial numbers of employers to a virtual career fare. Meanwhile it appears to be full steam ahead for the ACS.