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Exclusive Supply Chain Career Fair Goes Virtual

By Samantha Beavers

For most, career fairs are synonymous with a shuffle of students exploring a wide range of careers and employment opportunities. For supply chain students at the Poole College of Management, however, the Supply Chain Career Fair is a different experience entirely.

The only concentration-specific career fair at the college, the Supply Chain Career Fair is held each semester on the Thursday prior to the collegewide Poole College Career Fair and allows students to focus on supply chain-related opportunities. This semester’s event, held virtually on September 30, had 164 students and representatives from 45 companies in attendance, including IBM, Deloitte, Peter Millar, BMW Manufacturing, Lowe’s and Martin Marietta.

“This event is an opportunity to do more for our supply chain students. It allows them to connect directly with companies hiring supply chain roles, and in that sense it is much more beneficial than fielding emails,” explains Brian Newton, director of the Poole College Career Center for undergraduate programs.

Having a specialized career fair also benefits recruiters by saving time and helping them identify supply chain talent within the college.

“For the past two years, we have chosen to participate only in the Supply Chain Career Fair because we know that the students who attend are likely to understand the specific roles that we are recruiting for and they may even have prior experience from internships,” says Kenny Maloney, resource deployment manager for IBM Procurement Services.

“We have also found that it allows us to save a few minutes at the start of the conversation by preventing the student from outlining what their major is and what types of roles they are interested in pursuing. In the past, if students interested in non-procurement roles approached our table, we would have to share a general IBM jobs overview that directs them to the website – so having this separate event is helpful for us and for students,” he continues.

Growth Spurts

Founded in 2008 by Donavon Favre, lecturer in operations and supply chain management, the inaugural Supply Chain Career Fair was hosted in Port City Java in Nelson Hall. Tracy Freeman, former professor of practice in supply chain management, joined forces with Favre in 2010 to help organize and scale the event.

It took off and before long, students and recruiters were piling into the halls of Nelson – until Newton suggested relocating the career fair to a space where it could grow even further. The event was moved to a room in the McKimmon Center, but by 2019, it had outgrown this space as well.

During the pandemic, the college pivoted to a virtual format for its career fairs – and found that this, too, has opened doors to grow in the future. “I think that companies have discovered that they need to learn to recruit in this virtual space to thrive in the future,” Newton says. 

A Foot in the Door

Ivy Herring, a supply chain student in the class of 2023, first heard about the event in the Supply Chain and Operations Club and decided to attend it in addition to the collegewide career fair to get in front of more employers.

“I wanted to find an internship for the summer and was looking for connections and networking experience. I was also hoping to have some ‘seat time’ where I could practice my interviewing skills. I really enjoyed it, as it gave me an idea of what to expect in an actual interview and what recruiters and companies are looking for in a candidate.”

“Having a career fair separate from the collegewide one also allowed for many more opportunities to speak with a variety of employers. I was able to speak with 11 different companies,” Herring continues.

It paid off.

“I scored a second interview and a great internship for next summer, so I am glad I went. It was intimidating at first, but it helped me to improve my networking and interviewing skills and pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and speak with employers,” Herring says.

Virtually Seamless

Through the event’s Career Fair Plus platform, students can book 10-minute interviews with recruiters – which, according to Newton, many students really appreciate.

“You have 10 minutes all to yourself, whereas in person, you may only get five minutes. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a long line of students behind you or the hundreds of other students in the room,” Newton says.

In addition to these one-on-one meetings, companies can also schedule virtual information sessions. Particularly beneficial for first-year students who are still determining what is next, these sessions serve as early talent identification opportunities.

Despite a few bumps along the way, Newton notes that the virtual format has served the college well and that participants have found the platform easy to navigate and well-organized. Within the platform, recruiters can view student resumes, make ratings and keep notes. There is also a 10-minute buffer between meetings, which keeps students from over-booking themselves. 

Looking Ahead

As Poole College Career Center prepares for next year’s career fairs, it is exploring several in-person and virtual hybrid options. “Several companies thrive off of in-person interaction, and so it is really important to us to make space for face-to-face conversations,” Newton says.

For Maloney, this is good news. Despite his positive experience at the virtual event this year, he looks forward to having an opportunity to recruit in-person again. “Speaking with students in-person and getting to listen to their experiences makes such a greater impact on both participants. And this format will also allow us to speak with all interested students rather than a set number of slots,” he explains.

Still, Newton notes that keeping a virtual option is important for the event’s future growth – especially given NC State’s top ranking for supply chain management.

“Many companies benefit from the flexibility of the virtual format because it allows them to maximize their recruiting efforts at a low expense,” Newton says. “For companies that aren’t local to Raleigh, this is extremely helpful. Without having to worry about travel costs, they can participate in the event and recruit supply chain talent at NC State.”

This post was originally published in Supply Chain Resource Cooperative.