Military veteran Lakeisha Bonner stands in line at a job fair in Detroit in 2012. Thousands of veterans are in Detroit this week for job fair, open house, and small business conference. (Paul Sancya / The Associated Press)
Hiring Our Heroes wants to take its veterans job fairs beyond major cities to small towns across the country.
And cities overseas.
And veterans’ living rooms.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation program on Tuesday will launch its first online job fair, in conjunction with its massive Fort Bragg, North Carolina, job events this week. Organizers said the move comes not only at the request of job seekers but from their employers as well, many of whom run small businesses and can’t afford to travel long distances to fill a position or two.
The new Virtual Job Scout — available at www.virtualjobscout.org — is designed to bring the meet-and-greet experience of the live event to veterans and spouses on their computers.
During active online events, candidates and hiring managers will be able to chat in real time. After hours, the site will function as a veterans-specific jobs board, where the parties can trade résumés and open positions.
“One thing we’ve learned over the years is that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to hiring veterans,” said Eric Eversole, executive director of Hiring Our Heroes. “This is a tool that helps us explore other opportunities, and tailor offerings to both our veterans’ and employers’ needs.”
The program isn’t the first to offer virtual jobs fairs, but organizers are hopeful that the Chamber’s membership will help give it broader reach than any other existing options.
Virtual Job Scout requires registration with Hiring Our Heroes but is free. Chamber officials said many small- and medium-size businesses have not been able to afford similar tools in the past to specifically target veterans, making it difficult to recruit that population.
Eversole said he has seen a growing awareness among hiring managers of the value of employing veterans, but not always a consistent way to target them outside of military-specific job fairs.
The site is also open to military spouses and troops on active duty looking at an upcoming separation.
To date, Hiring Our Heroes has hosted more than 750 jobs fairs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. More than 24,000 veterans and spouses have been hired by more than 1,500 businesses through the events.