Students participate in job fair from anywhere

Thursday, February 14, 2008 | 6:14 p.m. CST; updated 2:40 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Almost a decade after American Eagle Outfitters’ “Shop in Your Underwear” ad campaign, the MU College of Business and the Southwest Alliance of MBA Programs are applying the idea to a job fair. Students don’t need to wear a suit or even leave the house.

“They have the luxury of doing it at home,” said Gina Mauller, director of MBA Career Services/Corporate Relations at MU. “All you need is a computer.”

Taking recruiting online makes the process easier and more efficient for students because they have 24-hour access to job postings and the ability to upload their resumes.

“Students can still do their full day of classes and projects and still apply at 2 a.m. if they want,” said Mark Peterson, director of Graduate Business Career Services at Iowa State University and Iowa State’s alliance representative.

The fair, open only to master’s of business administration students, started Feb. 4 and ends Friday at midnight.

The Southwest Alliance of MBA Programs is a consortium of programs at universities that are similar, namely in that they tend to be smaller programs at large schools, Peterson said. The organization started with five programs in Texas and Oklahoma and now includes 15 universities in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. Peterson said the group kept Southwest in the name for “brand recognition,” because employers were familiar with it.

At the virtual fair, potential employers post descriptions of their companies and job openings online; MBA students upload their resumes, which are then directly accessed by the company’s recruiter. The whole process is done online. Mauller said the method is easier and more efficient for prospective employers.

“It provides convenience for recruiters because they don’t have to worry about paying a registration fee or traveling,” Mauller said. “It’s very effective for recruiters looking for an easy, efficient method.”

Mauller said virtual fair participants do not lose the face-to-face interaction a traditional career fair offers because recruiters still interview job candidates.

“It is the responsibility of recruiters to come interview,” said Mauller.

The Virtual Career Fair is in its sixth year overall and its third year at MU; no one interviewed for this story was able to say how many students and companies participate. Peterson’s and Mauller’s sense, however, is that students do get jobs from it and it’s worth continuing.

The fair has been successful at other member schools. Ashley DeMond, MBA career counselor at the University of Kansas, said she has received enthusiastic feedback.

“The recruiting partners have been very receptive to it,” DeMond said.

Peter Beard, an MBA student at MU who participated in last year’s virtual fair, said it was effective because it offers a more expansive venue for students. He didn’t participate in this year’s fair because he had already secured a job.

“They gave you a broader page than just St. Louis or Kansas City,” Beard said. “It was definitely beneficial in that regard.”

Broader access to recruiters leads to increased opportunities. Beard received multiple responses from prospective employers. “I had several companies that were interested in me,” he said.

Peterson thinks Iowa State students have enjoyed the virtual career fair process because it offers an easy way for students at member schools to target specific companies and locations outside of the usual local employers.

“The students, I think, like it,” Peterson said. “It’s a great way to get resumes into the hands of companies in cities they’d like to relocate to.”

Beard said the Virtual Career Fair is a way for students to get a foot in the door with potential employers. “It’s a good way to get your name out there,” he said.

The College of Business will hold its own MBA Virtual Career Fair in March and April and the university will host a nonprofit and government virtual career fair starting Wednesday and ending Feb. 29.

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