By Kaila Kea-Lewis | The Muse
It’s no surprise that virtual career fairs, which add a whole new format to the mix, might have you feeling nervous—especially if you’ve never attended one before. These online events aren’t new; they gained traction in the 2010s but really took hold when the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person networking impossible. These kinds of events might be unfamiliar, and therefore a bit daunting, but once you learn how they work and try them out, they can be a great tool to help you find and land your next job.
12 Tips for Virtual Career Fairs
Just as you would for an in-person event, you should plan ahead to maximize your time at a virtual career fair. Here are some tips you can use before, during, and after the fair to make the most of it.
Pre-registration is increasingly becoming mandatory for virtual fairs. You may also be required to indicate whether you’re interested in a one-on-one session or a group session. A good rule of thumb is to select a group session for employers you are casually interested in and a one-on-one session for employers you actively want to pursue.
2. Attend the Pre-Event Webinar, if There Is One
Some virtual career fairs will include a webinar to brief attendees on the event. During the webinar, you can learn more about how the event will be structured, what types of opportunities will be offered (internships, part-time jobs, or full-time work, for example), and how everything will work on the day of. You can also find out more about which employers will be attending.
3. Do Your Homework
Just because you’re not meeting people in person doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be equally as prepared. Doing your homework goes beyond knowing what the company does. Understand what product or service the organization provides and review recent announcements and headlines. Also, think about how you fit into all of that. “Know what excites you about potentially working there. Know why you would be a good fit,” Dudley says. Check out current job openings and note any specific roles that match your skills and interests.
4. Check Your Tech
If possible, use a desktop computer or laptop instead of a mobile device to access the fair. Test all of your technology beforehand, including your computer, microphone, and webcam. Spencer suggests familiarizing yourself with the platform being used for the fair as well. If the event is being hosted on Zoom or Microsoft Teams, you can use the free version to test it out on your own. For other platforms, try searching for a free demo on the website or on YouTube.
5. Update Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile
Prepare and polish your materials ahead of time so that if an employer asks you to provide them, you’ll be ready to take action. Check your resume and LinkedIn profile for typos, and make sure they are clear and accurate. If you have a website you plan to share, update this as well.
6. Look Into the Camera
During a virtual career fair, your facial expressions will stand out the most—after all, it’s the main thing employers will see. Maintain good eye contact, sit up straight, and smile when it feels natural for you. All of these cues will show the employer that you’re present and interested. Avoid turning your body away from the camera, slouching, or making negative facial expressions, such as furrowing your brows or grimacing.
7. Brush Off the Unexpected
Sure, you should eliminate distractions as best you can, but things happen! With virtual career fairs, you may experience a few hiccups, such as your screen freezing, your dog barking, or your doorbell ringing. Whatever happens, do your best to bounce back. “Most employers are pretty understanding and know that things happen,” Spencer says. “I think it’s important to laugh it off. Try not to be flustered or frustrated. This gives employers a glimpse into how you deal with the unexpected. It also tells the employer how you do under pressure.”
8. Don’t Forget to Interview Them, Too
“Often, candidates are so focused on making sure they’re the right fit for the company,” Dudley says. “Use these fairs to empower you to shift your mindset. Find out if the company is a good fit for you.” That means not only sharing how your background matches what the employer is looking for, but also asking targeted questions that will help you determine whether what the employer is offering matches what you’re looking for. (Read more about how to gauge company culture during remote hiring processes, and start using the tips at the virtual fair!)
9. Ask How They’d Like You to Follow Up
Some employers will want you to follow up by writing an email, connecting with them on LinkedIn, or applying for a job opening directly through their system. Knowing how your dream companies want to hear from you will increase the chance that you can get a response from them.
10. And Then Do It!
Now that you know how your target employers want to hear from you, go for it! Compose a professional message that reminds them of who you are and why you’re reaching out. Send it no more than 24 hours after the event. For example, you might write in an email or LinkedIn connection request.