Going on a job interview without leaving the house or putting on a suit is possible.
Thousands of job seekers took advantage of Michigan's fourth Virtual Career Fair on Wednesday. It was the first time it was open to all different types of employers, rather than just one industy.
For people who might not have internet access at home, local venues made their computers available, and the job hunters were optimisitc.
"It's like having a conference with a whole bunch of employers," said Noe Hernandez. "It's kinda cool."
Hernandez chatted wtih six companies in the morning at Capital Area Michigan Works, and then came back for more in the afternoon. He did all of that wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and calls it "the modern job hunting experience."
Instead of rows of tables and long lines, job hunters click through a virtual showroom of booths. Nearly 30 Michigan-based companies were present.
"Once you click into an employers booth, you can get information about that company, watch videos about that company, and see job postings that the company has posted right there in the environment and job seekers are able to apply right in the environment," said Joe Quick, Manager of Talent Aquistion for Michigan's Workforce Development Agency.
Quick said these interactions are like pre-interviews for employers and potential employees. Using live forums and video chat is a cost and time effective way of doing business; companies see more applicants, and they avoid travel expense and time.
If all of this seems a little overwhelming, job hunters are not alone.
"For some people it's a whole new process, it's not how people might typically search for jobs, and so we have staff that's familiar," said Andrea Kerbuski, Chief Communication Officer at Capital Area Michigan Works. "Staff that can help job seekers utilitize this online format."
Michigan Works wasn't the only one lending a helping hand. The Capital Area District Library opened its doors, and no library card was required to use the quiet study room-turned-computer lab.
"If we can provide a couple of hours of access to help them in their job search, it's certainly worth our effort," said Reference Librarian Eunice Borrelli.
Borrelli's one-on-one time with Deborah Walker helped her register and apply to three jobs. Walker has been job searching for two years, and she said she likes face-to-face contact with companies, but being able to click through everything in one place was very helpful.
"I'm definitely going to do some following up," Walker said. "There was a couple of positions that I was extremely interested in, so I would like to hear more about that. Hopefully, I'm a match."
The Virtual Career Fair was open to any job hunter in the world, from Lansing to China. Those who participated are able to access the site for 30 days following the event to check up on jobs or talk more with employers.
There's another Virtual Career Fair in the works for January 2013.