14 Virtual Career Fair Tips and Strategies to Stand Out
by Haley Lyles
Career fairs are some of the best networking opportunities that a job seeker can utilize. However, due to social distancing measures brought on by the coronavirus, traditional career fairs have transformed. In place of these events, many organizations have opted to host virtual career fairs. These online job-seeking opportunities are great ways to showcase your experience during these strange times.
Virtual career fairs are hosted in many different formats. Some offer virtual rooms that have booths to interact with, some have organized chat rooms and others offer on-the-spot video interviews. This new medium provides equal opportunity to those with disabilities, access for job seekers around the world and a safe place for those who have anxiety or nerves in traditional job fair settings. Though mastering virtual career fairs can be a learning curve, with a little preparation you can be ready to chat and interview from the comfort of your home.
If you are prepping for a virtual career fair use these tips and strategies to help you stand out online.
Before the Fair
1. Complete the Registration Process
Depending on the virtual career fair, space may be limited. Once you find an event that you're interested in, complete an application and submit all required documentation. Every career fair is different so be sure to read instructions carefully. Some events require candidates to complete a user profile with a photo, field of interest, past experience and contact information, and others just require an uploaded resume. Be sure to complete all requirements before the event starts to ensure that you can participate.
2. Set Measurable Expectations
Virtual career fairs are great opportunities to find jobs but there are many other reasons to attend one of these events. You may want to build your network, get a better idea of what skills and experience are required in your field or just want to see how a virtual career fair is different from a traditional event. Nailing down your expectations will help you stay on track during the fair and use your time efficiently. To identify your expectations, think about these questions and write down the answers.
- Why did I sign up for this event?
- Who do I want to talk to?
- What would my ideal conversation at the event be like?
- After the event, what would I like to happen?
- If I have an extra 30 minutes, how am I going to spend it?
3. Conduct Employer Research
Before any career fair, you research the companies in attendance. Look for any open positions, seek out corporate social responsibility initiatives that you're interested in and note any questions you have about work culture. One of the benefits of a virtual career fair is that you can have detailed notes in front of you during every interaction so be sure to take advantage of that. When conducting your research, use these resources to find relevant information:
- Annual Reports
- Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
- Better Business Bureau
- Google News
4. Apply to Open Positions
A common complaint of career fair attendees is that most recruiters say "go apply online" and offer no extra value to the job seeker. Recruiters do this so that all applications are run through their Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which over 98% of Fortune 500 companies use to screen candidates. Before you attend the career fair, apply to all of the job opportunities you are interested in and prepare a few questions about each posting. At the event, you will be able to ask those questions to a recruiter and engage in a more productive conversation.
5. Build a Schedule
Once the event staff releases the schedule for each company, create an agenda for yourself. For your first step, place the companies in order from least interested to most interested. Allow yourself to chat with some of the least interesting companies first so you can get the hang of the virtual fair and work out any nerves you have. From there, give yourself time to bounce from recruiter to recruiter. Pro tip: Set some silent alarms on your phone to remind yourself when to move on. Finally, give yourself an extra 30–60 minutes to explore the fair. You can use this time to discover companies, chat with recruiters and learn more about the industry.
6. Prepare Your Pitch
The idea behind the traditional elevator pitch is that a job seeker should be ready to explain who they are, what they do, why they do it and how it's valuable in 75 seconds or less. This technique is important for speaking with recruiters at traditional career fairs and is even more so for virtual career fair participants. Not only will attendees speak with dozens of recruiters, most of the conversation will be in a chat format so a copy and paste pitch is necessary. When writing your story you can use your resume summary statement as a guide. To craft the perfect pitch, aim to:
- Tailor your pitch for the job.
- Highlight your unique value proposition.
- Leave room for questions.
- Be bold with your ask.
- Keep it brief.
7. Compile a List of Questions
Under the notes that you gathered for each company, spend a few minutes formulating a list of questions about the company or position. Try to avoid common or obvious questions that the recruiter has likely answered many times that day and opt for something unique. Ask them what a morning in the office looks like or how the company gives back to the community. These questions will show your interest in participating in company culture.
8. Test Your Technology
As with any remote interview or video call, testing your technology beforehand is crucial. Virtual career fairs require constant internet access so any hiccups can cause a major disruption in the event. Before you log on, check these things:
- Internet connection: Ensure that you have a bandwidth speed of one megabit per second or more.
- Video and audio enabled: Complete a video call with a friend to make sure you sound and look clear.
- Close all background programs: Other software can slow your computer down which can cause disruptions in chats and interviews.
During the Fair
9. Be Respectful of Others
In many virtual career fair formats, there will be live group discussions with recruiters. This allows companies to disseminate information efficiently to a larger audience. These interactions are great opportunities to stand out with thoughtful questions but can be a challenge for some. If you find yourself in a group discussion, ask your questions but be sure to allow others to add input as well. When others speak, be sure to read and listen, you may learn something new.
10. Prepare to be Interviewed
Many companies conduct interviews during career fairs and it is best to be prepared. To ensure that you are ready, dress in professional attire and have your resume and the original job posting handy. It can also be helpful to practice video interviewing with a friend to nail down your body language and camera angles. Finally, if you are not prepared, let the recruiter know that you are very interested in interviewing and ask to schedule for a later time. It is better to reschedule than to enter the interview without preparation.
11. Practice Professionalism
In a chat room, it can be tempting to resort to abbreviated text or thoughts without punctuation. While this may be acceptable amongst peers, it is not an appropriate way to communicate at a job fair. When chatting with a recruiter, form full sentences that have correct grammar and spelling to show your professionalism and your mastery of language.
- Bad example: Hi janet my name sarah thx for taking the time chat with me this afternoon
- Good example: Hi Will, my name is Jasmine and it is a pleasure to speak with you today.
12. Focus On Next Steps
Whether you are attending a virtual career fair to network or to get a job, focusing on the next steps is crucial. While attending the event be sure to collect the name and contact information of every person you would like to follow up with. How and when you follow up with your new connections can determine the success of the event.
After the Fair
13. Get Organized
Immediately after your sign off, use the next 30–60 minutes to organize your thoughts and contacts. If you don't have time to send follow up emails, schedule a time slot in your calendar to sit down and send them. While it is fresh on your mind, it can be helpful to jot down a few connection points for each person you talked to so that your follow-up emails will be personalized and memorable.
14. Follow Up
One of the most important virtual career fair tips is to promptly follow up with connections within 24 hours. Though virtual career fairs are useful job-seeking tools, the lack of face-to-face interaction makes it difficult for recruiters to remember the candidates they spoke with. When you send your follow up, briefly re-introduce yourself and try to include a connection point in your email. This can be something formal such as a unique fact that you highlighted about your past experience, or something casual such as your mutual love for GoldenDoodles. Once you have re-established a connection, thank the recruiter and kindly state your ask.
Virtual career fairs are unique opportunities to reach companies that you may never interact with otherwise. Whether you would like to network, learn more about your industry or just want to see how a virtual career fair is conducted, use these tips to get your resume in the hands of recruiters at the next virtual career fair.