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The Ultimate Guide to Navigating Virtual Career Fairs

Career fairs whether online or in person are one of the most effective and time-worthy ways to find a job.

A career fair (also known as a job fair, hiring event or recruiting fair) is an event where candidates and job-seekers meet with companies and recruiters or hiring managers to learn about job opportunities and possibly interview for open positions.

In-person career fairs may be hosted by schools, employers, or community and professional organizations. Typically, the location of these events are large public venues such as auditoriums, sports buildings, community centres and hotel meeting rooms. Generally, these fairs are open to the public but sometimes require participants to be signed up prior to entering.

Online career fairs have been around for a while but the pandemic accelerated their presence as a tool for workplaces. Many employers have chosen to keep job fairs online because they are:

  • Cost effective
  • Easier to set up then in person
  • Able to break down barriers which could prevent applicants from applying.

Virtual careers fairs help to break down barriers and most importantly get students and graduates like YOU jobs.

The key to getting the most out of virtual career fairs understanding what exactly they are. So here it is the ultimate guide to virtual career fairs and how to get your dream job out from them!

Here we go!

What is a virtual career fair?

Virtual career fairs are are like what the name implies career fairs but online! Essentially, a virtual career fair is a virtual opportunity to meet with employers looking to hire job-seekers with the intention of hiring if things goes well.

How does a virtual career fair work?

Virtual career fairs feel similar to instant messaging platform like Discord. After you log in, you can choose to “enter” various rooms (booths) for specific employers and talk with them. You can even send instant messages via a chat box or through video calling. Sometimes hiring managers will host presentations about the company where you can drop in and listen about available positions and ask questions.

Depending on the style of the conference you can even set up online interviews with the employer.

However, virtual career fairs will look different depending on what conference platform the companies are using. Sometimes virtual careers are industry specific only focusing on a specific field. Alternatively, some are location based in the way that they are only looking for potential employees that are within a specific geographical region.

For example, FoodGrads has partnered with CareersNow! to create an intimate career fair which has been curated to help students find jobs in the Food and Beverage Industry within Ontario.

How to prepare for a virtual career fair

Preparing for the virtual career fair is the key to success in getting that dream co-op placement or full time job. Let’s run down the list on how you should be preparing for the fair.

What to do before a virtual career fair

  1. Sign up for the fair ahead of time

Signing up for a career fair ahead of time prevents last minute scrambling. Fill out the forms as per website requirements (make sure you use a professional email) and you’re ready to go. If the fair requires you to set up a profile make sure it is up-to date with information like where you are attending school and any relevant work experience.

  1. Find out which employers are attending and research them

Every career fair publishes a list of companies in attendance. Do research on the type of positions the companies at the fair are interviewing for.

Researching a company involves checking out employer’s websites, recent news and any other relevant information. These findings are valuable as they can be used for talking points with the employer, demonstrating that you have genuine interest in the company.

Preliminary research also allows YOU to figure out companies you might want to work for. By eliminating companies at this stage that you know you don’t want to work for you can better prioritize your time come for the companies you actually want to talk with the show.
If a company doesn’t align with your values or their location wouldn’t work for you than cut them from your list.

Remember: An unprepared student walks up to the booth and asks, “What does your company do?” “What kind of jobs do you have?” You should already know these pieces of information prior to the date of the fair!

  1. Create questions to ask employers

Many career fairs allow you to book time slots to either talk with employers or even interview for a position. Use this discussion period with employers to figure out if a company is a good fit for you. One way to figure this out is by asking questions. Therefore, create questions you genuinely want to know about the company. Examples include:

  • What is the best part of working for the company?
  • What traits do I need to succeed in this position?
  • What does the career path look like for someone in this role?

Overall, creating questions ahead of time benefits you in two ways. First by having thoughts and questions to review before “approaching” a booth will help you have a good conversation starter. Being prepared can help ease any nervous energy that you may have prior to the conversation. Having confidence will stand-out to employers

Related: How to prepare for an interview in the food industry

  1. Update your resume

Try your best to tailor your resume to each employer. If a career fair only allows you have one resume during the fair determine during your research stage which position you would like to get the most. Pick experiences which compliment it and try incorporate skills you might have that make you unique. Make sure you have included all your education, skill development and work experience.

One of the advantages of going to virtual career fairs in that employers see a smaller pool of applicants rather than the hundreds that might apply for a job. Use this to your advantage.

Related: A Step by Step Video Guide: How to Build Your Resume Students & New Grads

  1. Create an elevator pitch about yourself

An elevator pitch is a 30-second introduction of yourself, including your major, years of study and the position your are interested in. This is an opportunity to sell yourself to a company and decrease any nervous energy. By having a solid well rehearsed pitch you don’t have to have an awkward start with employers. It sets up off the right footing. Practice with a friend or family member so you’re ready when it’s time to introduce yourself to a recruiter.

  1. Prepare your answers

If you are signed up for a virtual interview than you need to prepare yourself as though you are interviewing online. Interviewers are going to ask you about your skills and experience. So make sure you can talk about them extensively and not be caught off guard. Check out our article on How to prepare for an interview in the food industry.

  1. Plan where you are going to do the interview

Don’t leave it until the day of the fair to figure out where you want to be. If you are unable to find a location that is quiet in your home consider booking a room at a local community center or your university/college. Many post-secondary locations have places where you can book rooms for intervals.

What you need to do on the day of the career fair

  1. Set-up your space

Before you log into the career fair take a breath and make sure you are in a suitable environment. Your environment should have suitable lighting, minimal interruptions and a space where you can ‘plug in’ if your device needs charging.

Sometimes it is impossible to eliminate all interruptions during a session. If it isn’t possible to move to a quiet space mention this at the beginning so the interviewer doesn’t perceive this as being uninterested or ill prepared. HR managers are aware that everyone had to move their offices to home and had kids running around and dogs barking-they’ll understand so don’t worry.

  1. Dress appropriately

Just like an in-person career fair make sure that you dress appropriately. It might be hard to figure out what to wear to a virtual career fair but it is best that you dress conservatively, business-casual or smart-casual . Remember that it is always better to be a little over-dress than under-dressed. We recommend business-casual or smart-casual. See Interview Attire for inspiration.

Though a word of advice make sure your entire outfit matches. Although employers may only see your upper body don’t take the risk that you will have to get up and they could see you only in your underwear. That would be embarrassing!

  1. Check out the platform

Employers extensively test career fair platforms ahead of time but don’t rely on them. Log into the platform ahead of time and if you experience a problem contact the fair platform team. Log in early, take a few minutes to review the virtual career fair dashboard. Before the event, test your internet connection to ensure that it is stable. Check your camera and microphone to ensure that employers will be able to see and hear you clearly.

4. Get your bearings

Log in early, take a few minutes to review the virtual career fair dashboard. Before the event, test your internet connection to ensure that it is stable. Check your camera and microphone to ensure that employers will be able to see and hear you clearly.

We included this part twice because of how important it is to do!

Have your resume handy. Even better is if you print it off and have it in front of you. You could even put stick notes behind your computer so you can use then as reference. They can be a great prompt for giving great responses for certain questions. It is a great feeling when you can answer a questions confidentially. Use every tool you can at your disposal!

What to do during your virtual interview

  1. Arrive on time

Prior to the show you should have booked a time to conduct your interview. Show up on time and unlike in-person interviews don’t show up 15 minutes ahead. The manager might still be with another candidate so just be present at your computer ready to go and join the room at the correct time. Being on time shows the recruiter or employee ambassador that you’re and respectful of their time as well.

  1. Maintain eye contact and practice active listening

It can be difficult to look at a screen and feel the same level of connection compared to an in-person interview. Try gentle smiling and nodding occasionally as you would during an in-person conversation. Demonstrate strong body language, don’t hunch over and keep your back straight. When the other person is speaking, look at your screen (and ideally their eyes). If this is difficult try looking at a space slightly above like their forehead as it could be difficult.

Avoid looking things up while they are talking, Your entire focus should be with the interviewer. Only have up on your computer things relevant to the interview so you don’t get distracted.

  1. Ask Questions

Because you are prepared you should already know what you plan to ask. Don’t forget to have a pen and paper with you so you jot down new questions that you think of during the conversation.

  1. Ask the employer how they would like you to followed up

Ask for the recruiter for their contact information so you can follow-up. Some options employers might choose you to follow up by are:

  • Writing an email
  • Connecting with them on LinkedIn
  • Applying for a job opening directly through their system.

Knowing how your dream companies wants to hear from you will increase the chance that you can get a response from them.

5. Thank them

At the end of the interview always take a few seconds to thank the employer for spending time with you. It leaves a good impression and is respectful.

What to do AFTER a virtual career fair

Just because the virtual career fair is done doesn’t mean that your work is done as well. Make sure that you round out your experience with these steps:

  1. Follow-up with the employer

Within 24-48 hours, send them a note or email, thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest. Follow-up via the method that the employer stated they would like to be connected by. Compose a professional message that reminds them of who you are and why you’re reaching out. This is a great way to stand out as a candidate and show an employer how personable you are.

  1. Keep a record of jobs your have submitted an application

Keep track of any jobs and/or organizations you applied for so you can follow up and track any potential jobs. It is always good to include any details from the interview as it could help you in the future. Create a document that keeps track of all the employers and the person you specifically talked with. Keep this information save so you can easily find it in the future. If you didn’t write any notes during the career fair than do it now especially key points during the conversation.

3. Reflect on your career fair experience

The hard part is over. Perhaps the experience was bad but don’t let it get you down and use the time as a learning experience. Reflect on what happened and if you can write down the experiences in a journal or somewhere in the future where you can reference the information. Some questions you can ask yourself:

  • How could I have improved the way I scheduled my sessions (e.g., scheduling more or fewer sessions or building in more or less time between sessions)?
  • What can I do better to eliminate distractions?
  • Was I prepared enough?

4. Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile is polished

If you received a resume critique at the career fair, make the necessary changes. Having actual advice from an employer is really useful because you can apply this knowledge to get you closer to your next job. Although you should have done this step prior to the career fair ensure your LinkedIn profile is refined and up to date. You can also use this as an avenue to maintain the connection after the fair.

5. Practice you interviewing skills

The more you practice the better you will become. Now that you have data (from your interview) you can improve on areas that didn’t go well. The added benefit is you will actually know what questions are asking. Write them down so you don’t forget and practice, practice, practice!

Related: Real Interview Questions from 4 Food Jobs

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