How to Navigate an Online Job Fair Successfully
August 21, 2020
It may come as no surprise to college students that internship and job hunting may look a little different this year. As the world sees a growing shift to converting in-person activities to online and virtual formats, the hunt for finding employment and work experience is no exception.
As the opportunities around us continue to adapt, It’s important that you are ready to meet those adaptations. Preparing for an online job fair may have some similarities to an in-person job fair, but there are a few tweaks you should make in your preparation to be as ready as possible.
Here we’ll cover the ins and outs of this new job fair format including what you might expect to find at these events, how to prepare, as well as tips for what to do during and after the fair:
What is an Online Job Fair?
An online job fair is similar to a traditional one, where employers gather at an online platform and meet with candidates to discuss possible employment opportunities. However, instead of face to face interaction as you’d normally encounter, the virtual fairs are over video chat or messaging.
When adjusting to a virtual, interactive platform, it is important to note that most of these online job fairs try to mirror a traditional job fair in their activities. Expect to be able to talk with an employer or recruiter in the same fashion you would in person; about your skills, experience, and education.
Although all virtual fairs will have their own distinct layout and will use different types of communication platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, you can expect for all of them to be set up with some kind of online video communication platform.
Depending on the fair’s structure, many of these will allow you to attend group presentations like panels and information sessions, as well as give you the opportunity to sign-up for one-on-one discussions with recruiters where you’ll be able to upload and share a resume before your interview.
How to Prepare:
1. Research Attending Companies
Be sure to know which companies are going to be there, which ones you plan on talking to, and brush up on what their business is all about. Job fairs typically list the companies that are attending on their website, so be sure to visit the fair’s site before the event date to help in your research efforts.
It’s a good idea to target between 2 to 4 companies that you want to make sure to meet with so that you’re not spreading yourself too thin. Good research takes time and trying to focus on too many companies can quickly get overwhelming.
Having 2-3 questions ready to ask each recruiter is key! Inevitably, at the end of your conversation a recruiter will ask if you have any questions for them, and the worst thing you can say is “no.” Posing well-thought out questions of your own will go a long way to demonstrate your interest and will show that you really did your homework.
2. Update Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile
Just like before any other career oriented event, make sure to update your resume. Be prepared to send your resume to recruiters, and make sure it is a great representation of your professional experience.
Along with your resume, be sure to give your LinkedIn profile a touch up, and update it with any accomplishments or projects you may have completed. Recruiters may come across your profile, or even ask for it, so it’s important that it represents you well. Don't have a LinkedIn? Learn some great tips on how to make yours stand out here.
3. Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
Your elevator pitch is a brief synopsis about you, your career interests, and your professional experience. Consider it a short, verbal resume. In a few sentences, describe yourself and explain why you would be a great fit for whatever role you’re applying for.
As an easy guide, focus on highlighting your top 3 selling points - are you a team player, skilled multi-tasker, or detail oriented? Give short examples of each and aim for it to be no longer than 30 seconds long (no longer than an elevator ride - hence the name!)
4. Register Ahead of Time
Before attending a virtual job fair, be sure to sign up for it! Add your email address to get updates before-hand, and be sure to set a reminder and add it to your calendar so you don't miss it.
After you sign-up for a fair, make sure to read all pre-fair communications sent to you and visit a fair’s website to research how their event will operate. Some may require pre-registration for individual events and interviews while others may just provide a schedule with links to online discussion rooms.
5. Make Sure Your Technology is Ready to Go
Charge your computer, ensure your wifi connection is strong, and that you are sitting in front of a plain, non-distracting background. Check to make sure your computer’s camera and microphone are working properly, and be sure that you find a quiet area where no one will interrupt you.
*Pro Tip: Log on 10-15 minutes ahead of time to make sure your sound, video and connection are working properly. This will give you plenty of time to troubleshoot in case you run into any unexpected problems.
During the Fair
1. Dress Professionally (from the waist up at least!)
No, you will not be in front of the recruiters in person, but during a video call, they will be able to see your top half. Oh, and don’t forget to turn your camera on!
Make sure you look just as presentable as you would for a traditional fair. Just remember to watch your camera angles, and if you’re unsure, it’s always a good decision to dress completely for interviews. Yep, tops AND bottoms.
For men, this could mean a neutral-colored button down dress shirt, tie, and even a suit for that added professional touch. For women, this could mean a business casual top with sleeves, a suit, and understated jewelry. The key is not to distract with fashion so that your dialogue, accomplishments and personality take center stage.
2. Use Professional Communication
During some virtual fairs communication may be done via a live chat feature. If this is the case, be sure to type as eloquently as you would in a professional email (read: watch your spelling and grammar!)
When on camera, be sure to speak loudly and clearly with good body language. Sit up straight, keep your hand gestures to a minimum, and don't forget to smile! You may forget about non-verbal communication while over camera, but it is just as important, if not more, than it is in person.
3. Put Yourself Out There!
Just like in a traditional job fair, get ready to flaunt your qualifications. Consider this an opportunity to expand your network, and get to know more about industries you're interested in. Even if nothing comes from a conversation, it is always good practice for the next one, so don't be afraid to put yourself out there.
After the Fair:
1. Reach Out to Recruiters!
Whether via LinkedIn message or email, be sure to reach back out to the recruiters and company representatives you spoke with to thank them for their time. A best practice is to send your thank you notes within 24 hours of your interview while you’re still fresh in the interviewer’s mind.
An effective thank you note is short and polite while still including personal elements. Be sure to address the note to your contact’s name (avoid “Dear hiring manager”) and include a detail or two about what you spoke about during the interview to help make it memorable (ie. “I really enjoyed our conversation about...”)
Taking the time to keep your connection going is a great way to keep you top-of-mind and helps to make an effective lasting impression.
2. Look for More Virtual Job Fairs!
Practice makes perfect. Once you’ve done one, you’ll know how to adjust and improve your preparation and efforts during a fair. Keep looking for more job fairs to attend to maximize your potential career opportunities!
Looking for a place to put these tips to the test? Look out for Business Horizons on September 10th, 2020, and Sales industry Day on September 9, 2020. Showcase what you have to offer at these incredible events that are now virtual.