No matter what stage in your career you are at, job fairs can help you get hired faster and move forward on your career path.
Attending a virtual job fair can make the process even easier. You have the opportunity to meet recruiters, share your resume with a large number of employers that are looking to hire, network, and improve your communication skills – without even leaving your house.
Whether you’re looking for your first job after graduation, pursuing new career opportunities, or simply need a better job, here are the tips you need to make the most out of a virtual job fair.
How Are Virtual Job Fairs Different?
Unlike traditional face-to-face job fairs, attending a virtual job fair is much more convenient. You can log in between classes, while your children are napping, or even during your lunch break at work.
It is also more discreet, which is beneficial if you don’t want to tip off your manager or co-workers that you are looking for another job.
Because you don’t have to drive anywhere, you are no longer limited to attending only those job and career fairs that are nearby. This opens up significantly more opportunities for all job seekers, but that could also be a drawback. If there are too many other attendees, you may not get the chance to connect with the employers you had hoped to meet.
How the actual fair will run depends on the hosts’ platform. Some are more intuitive and interactive than others. Typically, you will join the main lobby and then have options to meet privately with recruiters or join group sessions.
Why You Should Attend a Job Fair
While the main goal for most attendees is to find and secure a new job opportunity, there are many benefits of participating in a job fair. These include:
- Discovering and exploring new career paths
- Learning about different companies and their work cultures and environments
- Meeting employers directly, so you’re no longer just a name to them
- Building relationships and growing your network
- Learning what employers look for when they are reviewing resumes and hiring new employees
- Determining what skills and qualifications you should emphasize
- Developing professional communication, networking, and career development skills
How to Prepare for a Virtual Job Fair
If you want to stand out from the other candidates and leave a strong impression, follow these expert tips to prepare yourself before attending the fair.
Research the Companies That Are Attending
Take some time to review the list of the companies that will be attending and research the ones that interest you. Find out more about their history, mission statement, vision, products and services, customers or client base, current projects and initiatives, industry trends, and other relevant information.
Look at their career page to see what job openings they have. What positions sound appealing? What qualifications and skills are they looking to recruit? What else about these jobs do you want to learn?
Tip: You can still benefit from attending a job fair if the participating companies aren’t of particular interest to you. For example, if you’ve never participated in a job fair online before, it’s a great way to get a feel for how it works so that you’re more comfortable navigating the next one.
Register for the Job Fair
If you decide you want to attend, there are advantages if you register for the job fair. It gives you the chance to set up your profile and upload your resume for employers to look at beforehand.
For a virtual career fair, it’s also helpful to become familiar with the platform or software before the event. Registering ahead of time gives you the chance to acquaint yourself and test it out.
Most importantly, when you register, you will have the option to book times for one-on-one meetings with the company’s recruiters. While you don’t have to sign up in advance, doing so secures you a spot and means you are not wasting time waiting in the queue for your turn.
Tip: Giveaways and door prizes are common at job fairs. Be sure to enter by registering!
Clarify Your Goals
Figure out what you hope to achieve by participating. For example, a student looking for an internship will approach the fair a lot differently than an experienced professional making a career change would.
Are you attending because you need a job as soon as possible? Do you want to learn more about a specific company or industry? Are you expanding your network?
Tip: You should be optimistic, but make sure your expectations and goals are realistic. It’s unlikely you will leave the fair with a job offer in hand.
Strategize & Prioritize
Once you’ve defined your goals, make a list of the top employers you must meet and a secondary list of those that would be nice to meet (if time permits).
As mentioned, you can plan your schedule ahead of time by registering for one-on-one and group sessions.
Tip: If you have never attended a job fair before (online or in-person) and feel nervous, start with an employer from your secondary list. This gives you the chance to practice what you want to say and feel more confident before introducing yourself to your top choices.
Prepare Your Questions
To succeed at a job fair, you need to engage with company representatives. How this works in a virtual environment will depend on the setup and platform they use. Some virtual jobs fairs will be text-based chatting only, but most use video.
From your research, come up with a few focused questions to ask that will help you learn more about the company and its employment opportunities.
What Should I Ask At A Virtual Job Fair?
You’ll want to ask open-ended questions that keep the conversation going. Doing so shows the potential employers that you are interested, enthusiastic, and prepared.
Some good questions to ask include:
- What skills and experience do you look for in your candidates?
- What is the company culture like?
- What do employees find rewarding about working for your company?
- How has your career progressed since you were first hired?
- How did you get started working with this company?
- What training and professional opportunities does the company offer?
- Can you tell me more about the [open positions]?
- Do you have any tips for how I could get hired and succeed in this field?
Tip: Avoid asking questions that you can easily find the answers to by searching online. It makes you look unprepared and lazy.
Prepare To Answer Common Questions
Job fairs are essentially job interviews, so you will want to spend some time practicing answering common interview questions. These may include:
- What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
- What is your educational background and experience level?
- Why are you interested in working for our company?
- Why do you feel you would be an asset to the team?
- Why are you considering leaving your current job?
Update & Review Your Resume
Having an up-to-date resume is a must. Before the fair, update your resume so that it focuses on the role you’re most interested in. If you do your research, you’ll have some sense of what the company needs.
To ensure your resume clearly shows how you would be an asset to their team, get your resume reviewed. There are several places you can get your resume reviewed for free, including asking friends or family, a trusted colleague, or through an employment or career center.
Experts suggest that you tailor your resume and cover letter to the job you want. This can be a little challenging when attending a job fair, as there are probably a few different opportunities that interest you. In that case, have a couple of different versions of your resume ready that target different positions or highlight particular skills.
Tip: Consider having other supporting documents ready to share with recruiters, such as reference letters, copies of your transcripts (for students), work samples, or your portfolio.
Polish Your Online Presence
Do a quick online search of your name and assess the results. If anything questionable comes up on your social media profiles, delete it or at least make the settings private.
Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, too.
Practice Your Elevator Pitch
Your elevator pitch is a 30-second introduction to employers that articulates your strengths, skills, career goals, and relevant experience and education. You might also include why you decided to attend the job fair.
You will need to practice your pitch so that it sounds natural and not memorized.
Even though you are behind a screen, your first impression matters. Dress nicely in professional attire, just as you would if you were attending in person. It’s always better to be a bit overdressed than it is to be under-dressed.
And don’t forget to smile!
Set Yourself Up for a Video Interview
With virtual job fairs, there are a few things you will need to do differently. The most significant difference is making sure you are set up for a video interview ahead of time.
- Downloading the necessary software
- Setting up a quiet space
- Testing your technology
- Ensuring proper lighting and sound
- Practicing how you appear and communicate on screen
Tip: Don’t practice interviewing virtually alone. Have a friend or family member do a mock video call with you so they can provide feedback on how you appear on camera.
What To Do During a Job Fair
Being prepared will make attending a virtual job fair easier and more productive, especially if you follow these tips and strategies.
If possible, plan to join in at the beginning of the job fair. It gives you the chance to navigate and familiarize yourself with the virtual platform before jumping in.
If you didn’t register ahead of time, sign up to speak privately with recruiters as soon as possible. These meetings are typically booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Being early reduces the chances of running out of time before getting your turn.
Use Your Time Wisely
Virtual hiring events can attract a lot more job seekers than an in-person event because geography barriers are eliminated, and attending is much more convenient.
If there is a long wait to meet with an employer, join an open group session or check out some of the other companies that interest you instead.
Meet Employers & Make Your Pitch
Don’t let the virtual platform hinder your success. Unlike in-person job fairs, it’s easy to blend into the background if you don’t speak up.
Be proactive and introduce yourself like you would if you were meeting in person. (Minus the handshake.)
Smile and make eye contact through the camera to show your confidence and enthusiasm while giving your elevator pitch. Be friendly and ask questions that keep the conversation flowing as you learn more about each other, but also be mindful of the time.
At the end of your meeting, verify that the company representative has a copy of your resume and offer it to them if not. Ask them for their contact information so that you can follow up after the fair.
Thank them for their time, and reiterate your interest in working together.
Tip: Keep a notebook and pen in front of you, and jot down any important information such as names, deadline dates, or links to useful resources. You should also have your calendar ready in case a recruiter wants to schedule an interview or follow-up meeting with you.
Job and career fairs are the perfect places to network. They will often include booths by associated organizations such as schools and education centers or employment agencies.
There are also other people attending who are looking for work, just like you. It can be tempting to see others as your competition, but it’s more beneficial if you see them as allies. If you are waiting in the virtual lobby or in a room with other job seekers, don’t be afraid to talk to each other. You can help each other by sharing job leads and information about different companies or recruiters. You never know who you might meet, so be friendly, approachable, and willing to talk to anyone.
Keep an Open Mind
You might be attending a job fair because you have no idea what direction you’d like your career to go in. If that’s the case, be flexible and don’t be afraid to speak to employers you might not have considered before. You never know what opportunities they have or how your skills or interests might fit the different career paths.
What To Do After a Job Fair
After attending a job fair, what you do next is just as important if you want your career to move forward.
Reflect on What You Learned
Think about the conversations and connections you had with the various recruiters and companies. What stood out? Can you see yourself working with them? What information did you learn that will help you succeed in your career?
What sort of feedback did you get? Do you need to modify your pitch or reorganize your resume?
You should also think about the job fair itself. How did it go? What do you wish you had done differently?
Follow Up & Say Thank You
Just like a job interview, a great way to make yourself stand out is to send recruiters a thank you card or email. It’s an easy way to follow up and keep yourself on their radar without being pushy.
Your thank-you note should be short and to the point. Reiterate your interest, remind them of what you discussed, show your appreciation, and mention anything that you might have forgotten or that needs clarification.
Tip: Add the recruiters you met to your LinkedIn within a few days of the job fair. If you wait too long, they might not remember who you are.
Next Steps: Applying for the Job
If a recruiter gave you advice or directions on what your next steps should be, make sure you follow them! This is especially true if they ask you to apply for the job on their website or ask you to send your resume or portfolio to a specific person.
Be sure to mention that you met a recruiter at the job fair, and include their name. This shows that you are proactive and particularly interested in their company.
Tip: Develop a tracking system for your job search so that you can keep the names, dates, details, and outcomes of your conversations organized.
Virtual job fairs are not that different from traditional ones. To make the most out of attending a job fair, you need to prepare ahead of time, have a strategy, and market yourself as best you can to potential employers. With this advice, you will be successful!
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.