by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Thinking of attending an online job or career fair? Virtual job fairs are great opportunities for job-seekers to connect one-on-one with recruiters from employers with real job openings, but they can also be a bit intimidating for job-seekers who are inexperienced with these types of events.
While this article focuses on how to succeed in a virtual job fair, you may also want to gain some general knowledge on career fairs by visiting our Career and Job Fair Content Index, which contains all our critical career fair advice for students and job-seekers.
The focus of this article is to provide job-seekers with the five most important tips for succeeding in virtual job fairs.
5 Tips for Succeeding in Virtual Job and Career Fairs
Test Your Equipment. At least a few days before the fair, test your connection speed, camera, and microphone. You might also want to make certain you have the most recent Java and Flash. Some virtual career fair sites even go as far as to have a testing link on their site -- so do NOT skip this feature. If you do not have a computer with a high-speed connection, find a place that does (such as a library of Worksource location).
Find Employers and Job Openings that Fit. It's extremely important -- just as in an actual job fair -- that you research employers that will be attending the virtual job fair. Many employers will also list the openings they are hoping to fill. But don't stop there; go deeper and develop a list of keywords and phrases from each employer and job listing that you can use to help you succeed.
Develop Tailored Resumes for Each Employer/Job Opening. You may be able to upload a version of your resume before the career fair, and if you can do so, make certain that the resume is laser-focused for the job you seek. Even better, for those employers you wish to target, develop a customized resume (for each employer) using the keywords you found in the previous tip. [If you need help creating that resume, find resume articles, samples, and more here.]
Prepare Responses to Interview Questions. Your goal with an online job fair is to chat one-on-one with recruiters -- and by chat, we mean participate in a screening interview. You should prepare short accomplishment stories and responses to typical screening interview questions. Practice your responses - even write out an outline of what you want to say -- but do not memorize responses. Keep responses concise. Again, you may want to sprinkle your responses with a few of the keywords you found in the second tip. [If you need additional help with interviewing, go to our interviewing resources for job-seekers.]
Don't forget to prepare a few questions to ask of recruiters; asking questions not only helps you better understand the situation, but is taken as a sign of strong interest by many recruiters. Learn more in our article, Questions to Ask at Career and Job Fairs.
Dress for Success on the Day. While not all virtual career fairs offer video chats with recruiters, you'll want to be dressed well for those that do. Additionally, even for those virtual career fairs that only offer text chat, dressing professionally will help keep you in the job-hunting mindset. Remember that dress is not the only thing you should keep professional; when in text chat, write in full sentences, avoid slang and emoticons, and watch your spelling!
Final Thoughts on How to Have Virtual Job Fair Success
One of the great advantages to a virtual career fair is that you can keep some notes nearby to help you focus on what you want to say to recruiters; and, you can also take detailed notes during your chats.
Remember to get contact information from each recruiter -- and then use your notes to help write each one a detailed thank-you note/email.
If you have not heard anything from the recruiters a week or so after the career fair, send a polite (and professional) follow-up note thanking the recruiter again and asking about next steps in the process.
Finally, when you are at the career fair and meet a recruiter from an organization you respect and want to work for, but the recruiter specializes in an area outside your expertise, do not be afraid to ask for the contact information for the person in that organization who recruits new hires within your field.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.