Written by Robin Reshwan, as seen on USNEWS.com
VIRTUAL CAREER FAIRS, also known as virtual hiring events and online career fairs, are the new normal based on the need for social distancing and proliferation in remote work. These next-gen events, however, have been on the rise for years due to their ease of use with minimal expense or wasted commute time for participants. Offering hiring events online gives attendees and hiring professionals wider access with fewer obstacles than in-person events. Here are some tips to help you get more from a virtual career fair.
How to Find a Virtual Career Fair
Many companies will promote their event on their career page online, but that is only one of the many ways to locate a virtual career fair. They might be promoted on sites like Reddit if targeting the tech community, through industry associations for some professions like nursing, via college and alumni networks, and even direct email or social marketing. The channels for promotion are many, with employers thinking about where their ideal talent is likely to see the event.
Is there a peak season for virtual career fairs? Not really, except for companies trying to recruit college students or new grads; these may correlate with the academic calendar and some holiday or seasonal hiring. For most others, employers may host an event at planned intervals throughout the year or they may set up an event specifically in response to an increased demand for talent. In general, if you are looking for a job, you will find options year-round.
Once you have identified a fair that you want to attend, you can sign up via the provided website link or through the vendor's career fair app. The vendor is the company that is providing the online site or platform, while the employer is the organization interviewing candidates for open positions.
There are many vendors that host virtual events. Some of the most frequently used platforms include Brazen, Hire Talent and Zoom. Handshake is often used for collegiate-level hiring. Registration for job seekers is typically free—the employers, however, pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to participate in group hiring events or to host an event of their own.
You will be prompted to create a user profile and/or use your LinkedIn profile as a default. Be sure to take enough time to fill in all the required queries thoughtfully and completely. The great news is that once you have a profile for a specific platform, you can reuse registration information at additional events.
As part of the registration process, you may be asked to upload a resume and other supporting documents like a cover letter, a picture or relevant training and/or education credentials. Make sure to follow the document formatting required and that document titles are professional and customized for the event.
Well before your virtual career fair session, confirm that your video and microphone are working and fit the appropriate requirements. Make a troubleshooting contact list, ensure access to chat features and confirm your security permissions are appropriate for the preferred browser or app. The vendor may offer access to tech support, so test everything out at least one day before the event whenever possible.
There are four primary ways in which virtual career fair interviews may take place. Employers may offer group information sessions where they describe a role or their company with multiple attendees per session. Companies may also offer one-on-one video or phone interview sessions; these may be similar to in-person meetings and can usually last around 10 to 15 minutes. A third type is a text-based/chat session that gives both parties a chance to explore roles and qualifications. Lastly, there may be an option of participating in a resume database where employers can review applicants and choose to reach out to candidates based on their match criteria. Based on the available option, you will be able to sign up for a session or a preferred time as well as submit your resume if requested.
During the Interview
Use a clear voice with thoughtful responses and eye contact whenever possible. Confirm that the interviewer can hear you easily before you get started. It is always better to reconnect to the session if the audiovisual quality is bad or distracting. Sessions are usually short, so restate questions and check for clarification as needed so you don't waste precious time going down the wrong path. It is OK to have the job description printed out along with your notes and proposed questions on your desktop or on a wall behind computer. Depending on the format, you may not have time to address all the questions you have, but still have some prepared just in case.
After the Session
Always follow up with a thank-you email and a LinkedIn connection request. Also, be sure to complete any "assignments" such as submitting applications or transcripts quickly and without errors. Look for emails from the company or the vendor in your inbox as well as in your spam and junk folders just in case they were routed there.
Every step of a virtual career fair can be an opportunity for you to learn more about how the employer represents their brand but also for the employer to assess your professionalism, sense of urgency, communication style and attention to detail. The extra time and effort you reflect during the process goes a long way to make you stand out as an impressive candidate. Good luck!