Fall is here and we all know what that means… No, we’re not talking about Pumpkin Spice Lattes and trips to the apple orchard (though we love those too!). The start of fall means career fairs are just around the corner.
Of course, like most things in 2020, career fairs are going to look a little different this year. Instead of on campus fairs held at colleges and universities across the country, career fairs are going virtual.
For those used to in-person career events like employer Q&A sessions and networking opportunities, you’re probably wondering, what is a virtual career fair? While the format can vary depending on the size and audience, most virtual career fairs take place at a specified time, similar to a webinar. They usually include online info sessions with employers and the opportunity to meet via video in chat rooms or during scheduled one-on-one interviews.
There are some big benefits to online career fairs, including no geographic limits, access to more employers, increased networking opportunities, and in some cases accelerated hiring. On the other hand, for those who prefer to highlight their skills and impress employers in person, the shift to virtual formats might not be ideal. There’s also the potential for technical issues and communication challenges that don’t exist at in-person fairs.
Due to the ongoing pandemic and limits on in-person gatherings, virtual career fairs are likely for the foreseeable future. That’s why we’re here to help you prepare for this new reality with our Virtual Career Fair Guide. Follow along as we review what you need to do to put your best (virtual) foot forward.
1 – 2 Weeks Before the Career Fair
You’ve signed up for your school’s virtual career fair. Now what? It’s time to start preparing. Waiting until the last minute to get your materials together is a recipe for a poor experience and missed opportunities. Instead, start preparing one to two weeks ahead of time so you know you have the most important items ready to go.
Do the Research
- This should be a familiar step in the career fair prep process. Start by reviewing the list of companies and organizations that will be attending.
- Make a list of the companies you’re interested in and start doing the research. Check out the company’s website, social media presence, and other materials.
- Look into the company’s culture, mission, and values, then cross-reference this information with reviews on platforms like Handshake and Glassdoor.
Prepare Your Questions
- Create a list of questions to ask each employer or organization you plan to speak with at the virtual fair.
- Be sure to go beyond surface level questions and avoid asking anything you could find out on your own with a quick online search.
- Formulate questions that allow you to get a deeper understanding of the organization and what they’re looking for in candidates. Questions about the specific positions they’re hiring for are also helpful and can clarify whether or not the opportunity is a good fit for you.
Update Your Resume
- It’s hard to overstate just how important your resume is, especially at a career fair where you’ll compared with hundreds of your fellow students and young professionals. What can you do to set yourself apart? We’ve got a few ideas that might help.
- Make sure you have a digital PDF copy ready to share and submit online during the fair as needed. Using a PDF instead of a Word document will help to avoid any digital reformatting or submission errors that might occur.
Clean Up Your Communication
- In a virtual format, you’re likely to be writing and communicating via chat or other online methods, so it’s important to communicate professionally at all times. Don’t write to a company representative like you’re texting a friend.
- Use good grammar and proper spelling and avoid abbreviations and emojis. Those have their place, and a career event isn’t it.
1 – 2 Days Before the Fair
With those big tasks like company research and resume rewrites out of the way, the day or two before your virtual career fair should be dedicated to the technical details. These are still crucial to your overall experience and success at the event but taking care of them closer to the fair date will give you the best results.
Test Your Tech
- Can you log in to the career platform you’ll be using during the fair? Does your computer camera and microphone work well? How’s your internet connection?
- Before the fair, make sure everything is working properly. Technical glitches might still happen, but you can avoid most issues by testing your technology ahead of time and making sure your systems are all ready to go.
Check Your Setup
- Where will you be set up during the fair? Ideally, you’ll want a quiet place with a professional looking background.
- Do you have noisy roommates or limited space to work with? Grab a good pair of earbuds and make sure your mic is on mute so you aren’t that person interrupting presentations with noisy chatter.
- Get a virtual background online to help hide the chaotic scene behind you. Tempting as it may be to pick that funny photo with the cast from The Office or a pic of your dog, try to stick with something more professional and less distracting. Employers should be focusing on you, not what’s happening behind you.
Practice Your Intro
- In person or in a virtual setting, you’ll need a good elevator pitch to introduce yourself and engage with employers and company representatives.
- Make sure you’ve included the basics like your name, year in school, area of study, and any other relevant details or experience you want to highlight.
- Keep it short and concise, and don’t forget to practice!
The Day of the Fair
Your virtual career fair is finally happening! Here’s what you need to do the day of to make sure you stand out from the crowd in the best way possible.
Dress to Impress
- Yes, it can be tempting to wear sweatpants with your suit jacket and tie, but you’re better off dressing like you would for an in-person event. Not only will you take the virtual fair more seriously, your confidence and professional appearance will leave a good impression with potential employers.
Put Yourself Out There
- In a virtual fair setting, the equivalent of an employer’s booth is their info session or group video chat. Similar to walking up to a booth at an in-person fair, you should allow a moment for conversations in progress to wrap up before introducing yourself or jumping into the conversation.
- When you aren’t talking, make sure you remain engaged and attentive. Don’t be jumping around to other screens or checking Twitter in the background.
- Don’t sit silently the whole time. While it might take a few tries to get used to the virtual format, you’ll still need to put yourself out there to get noticed and connect with companies you’re interested in.
As soon as the fair has wrapped up, it’s a good idea to start making your follow-up plans.
- Connect with the companies you met with on LinkedIn.
- Email the recruiters you talked to and thank them for their time.
- Send your resume or complete job applications for the positions you’re interested in.
Capitalize on the excitement and momentum the fair inspired and keep going. The more proactive you are post-fair, the more likely you are to be remembered by potential employers and the better your chances of landing that first job after college that will change your life.