Preparing for a career fair used to mean packing a bag, suiting up, and budgeting more time for travel. Now, preparational tasks include updating video backgrounds and Wi-Fi connections. Swapping in-person events for virtual events may sound like an outlandish idea, but it’s become the star of the show in 2020, as virtual networking events have become the safest meeting alternative amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether you’re seeking a new career or an internship, you’ll likely come across virtual career fairs as a way to talk to potential employers. This is a new experience for many, so we’ve compiled 10 tips to make the most out of a virtual career fair. From preparing your stage to showcasing your skills, here’s how to build your resume and salary potential. Landing a new job is the perfect time to enhance your budgeting skills as you allocate your new income.
What Is a Virtual Career Fair?
A virtual career fair is an event over video that pairs job seekers with employers. For people who want to advance their skills and income, finding a paid internship or new career path may be on this year’s agenda. These events bring together established companies looking to hire people just like you.
Virtual events may feel out of the ordinary compared to traditional in-person career fairs, but there are a few perks — like saving you travel time and expenses. Before signing up for a virtual networking experience, you probably have a few questions. Should you dress like you would for an in-person event? How will you stand out? Below, we share 10 tips to prepare for a virtual career fair and be seen by employers.
How to Prepare for a Virtual Career Fair
First things first, register! If you’re unaware of when or where these events may take place, contact your school’s career center or hosting company. Email, or call, to ask about future career events and opportunities. Keep reading to get the ball rolling with your new career by networking and interviewing from home.
1. Check Your Wi-Fi Connection
Wi-Fi has become more of a lifeline and it’s especially valuable for a virtual career fair. The last thing you want is to freeze or get kicked out due to an unstable connection. If your home has spotty Wi-Fi zones, make sure you set up in a reliable zone. Test your connection by calling a family member or friend with the video software you’ll be using. If your Wi-Fi passes the test, set up your meeting station. If not, reboot your Wi-Fi router and try again in a different area.
2. Set Up Your Meeting Environment
Set your computer up in a professional and distraction-free zone. Setting your computer on your kitchen table with your back up against a white wall may do the trick. Ensure you silence your phone, sit in a well-lit area, and rid your area of sounds or visuals that may steal your attention. Test your video background by turning on your computer camera before starting the event.
3. Research Companies You Would Like to Speak With
Before starting the meeting, make a strategic plan. Ask your career center for a list of employers that may be attending this event. Research each employer on Google, LinkedIn, or job sites like Glassdoor. Scope out which positions you’d be interested in and may excel at. Once you’ve created a list of top employers and positions, ensure you secure a meeting spot to chat with them. During the virtual career fair, emphasize your skills and how they may fit each company’s needs.
4. Dress Up as You Would for an In-Person Career Fair
To get in a professional mindset, dress as you would for an in-person career fair or interview. Thirty-seven percent of employers ranked appearance as one of their key differentiators when seeing if someone is fit for the job. While employers may only see you from the waist up, dress up from head to toe. Dressing the part may help you act the part as a professional goal-getter. A classic button-up shirt, slacks, polished hair, and simple accessories will make the perfect outfit.
5. Test Your Equipment and Log In Early
After doing your research and picking your outfit, test your equipment. Double-check your computer’s battery, microphone, camera, and Wi-Fi connection. Then, log into any accounts or video conferencing software you’ll be using for this event. If possible, ask a friend or family member to video chat beforehand to work through any technical difficulties. Have your notes, research, and a pen close by for the meeting ahead.
6. Practice Strong Communication and Body Language
When you’re on the call, present yourself with confidence and attention to detail. Look into the camera, sit up straight, and nod throughout conversations to show you’re engaged. When speaking up, avoid fidgeting or touching your face. When using hand gestures, consider sitting far away from the screen for attendees to see. Practice these skills by role-playing video conversations 30 minutes before the video call.
7. Be Patient and Listen
Technical difficulties and long conversations may happen. And that’s okay! Practice your patience and professionalism by patiently waiting for an employer to sift through candidates or technical issues. If you’re cut short on time, ask the employer for their contact information. After the event, if you want to learn more, ask to set up an additional meeting to continue the conversation.
8. Ask for Email Addresses to Stay in Touch
You may consider asking each employer you speak with for their contact information. In most cases, you’ll get an email address. After the event ends, compile your thoughts. Write a list of your top three employers and reach out directly. Send each an email thanking them for their time and kindly ask about next steps.
9. Practice Your Interview Skills
Sending in applications and speaking with employers may lead to an interview. And if so, congrats! To prepare for any short notice interviews, brush up on your skills early. Print out a list of commonly asked interview questions and topics specific to the industry. Consider curating responses to five interview questions each morning. Before you know it, you’ll be ready for any impromptu interviews that come your way.
10. Maintain Your Network
You may choose to work for one employer over the other, and employers may go with another candidate. To keep a pulse on future career opportunities, stay in touch. Down the line, these employers may want to hire you. Send each person in your network an email check-in every six months. To ensure you keep tabs on your network, create a spreadsheet with contact information and check-in notes.
Questions to Ask at a Virtual Career Fair
The key to standing out is to ask engaging questions. While 56 percent of recruiters may hire candidates that don’t ask questions during an interview, 44 percent wouldn’t. If you want to be seen by employers in video meetings, ask questions! Here are 10 questions to ask employers you’re interested in working with:
- What surprised you the most about [company/role]?
- On a typical day, what does someone in [role] do?
- Can you tell me about the different stages of the hiring process?
- What are the highlights and lowlights of this position/your role/company?
- I read an article about [event, role, candidate, campaign]. What was it like being a part of the team during that time?
- What opportunities for growth are there at [company name]?
- What’s the biggest challenge you and your team face?
- I see you don’t have any openings in [position]. Do you have a forecast on upcoming roles in this industry opening up?
- Who will this potential candidate report to in this role?
- How does your team measure performance?
Earning an internship or career opportunity could boost your resume and your budget. You may have the opportunity to grow your career while getting paid. To track these financial changes, regularly check in on your budget. You may be able to put more towards your savings, credit card debt, or investments. While building your career portfolio, you could build your financial portfolio along the way.