School-sponsored career fairs are an excellent way to find a job or internship. Due to the pandemic, almost all career and job fairs have been moved to a virtual format. This means that instead of being able to mingle and just walk up to whichever companies you find interesting, you will need to plan out and schedule meetings with the specific companies you are interested in.
One of the positive aspects of a virtual job fair is that it is easier than ever to attend because you don’t even have to leave your house. It is also a great idea to attend because many students tend to overlook career fairs, so you will definitely stand out just by being in attendance and getting to know the recruiters. Here are some tips to help you prepare for a virtual career fair.
What college students should do BEFORE a career fair
1. Check your school’s career center website
Research to see if any events are coming up such as job fairs, career fairs, or workshops from employers that you are interested in. Mark your calendar for the date of any events you are interested in and mark the date that the registration opens. Also, research the format that events at the career fair will be in, such as if it is small group meetings, individual meetings, or large meetings with more of a lecture format than actually meeting the recruiters.
2. Research the companies that will be in attendance
Go through and make a list of which companies you are interested in potentially working for. Once you have your list, sign up for either a group or individual session for each of these companies. Make sure to write down your schedule for the day in your calendar. Next, it is important to research each of these companies and their product or service, and culture/values. Take a look at each company website and take notes on the key points, such as the mission statement, values, and take a look if they have any recent media articles posted on their website.
3. Make sure all of your online profiles are up to date
Update or create your LinkedIn and Handshake profiles. Make sure that these profiles include any relevant job or internship positions you have had, leadership positions, your major, and your skills. Also, make sure that if your other social media accounts are public with your full name that they look professional. Don’t have photos of you partying all over social media, because if recruiters see this, they will most likely not want to hire you.
4. Prepare your resume
The next step to prepare for a virtual career fair is to update or create your resume. Do research online for templates or create your own. Make sure your resume is up to date and have a parent or friend read it over to check for typos. Some of the key things to be sure to include in your resume are your school, major, graduation date, internships, jobs, leadership positions, extracurricular activities, and skills.
5. Prepare a list of questions to ask
Having questions prepared is crucial in the event that there is silence during the meeting, or if there is extra time at the end. Asking questions about the company shows that you are interested in working there. Here are some sample questions to ask:
- What do you like about working for __________?
- What are the three most important skills for someone in this role?
- What is a typical day like for someone who has this position?
- What is your hiring process like for college hires?
- What is the culture like at ________?
- What is the best way to stay in touch with you?
6. Prepare your “elevator pitch”
This should be a short summary of yourself. Some of the things you can include in your elevator pitch are your year in college, your major, any internships you have had and your position, relevant work experience, leadership experience, and club involvement.
You can also include your goals for the future and the types of jobs you are interested in. A good way to bring up your elevator pitch is to say, “Would you like me to tell you a little bit about myself?” It is important to practice saying this elevator pitch aloud as well so that you do not forget any information. Also, before the career fair, film yourself saying your elevator pitch a few times and watch it to see how you look and sound.
7. Test your camera and microphone
If the meeting will be via Zoom or a platform you often use for classes or have experience using, this should not be an issue. However, if you are using a platform you have never used before for a video meeting, be sure to check to make sure your microphone and camera work on that platform. Sometimes, even if your camera and microphone work on one video call platform, it won’t work on a new platform.
What college students can do the day of the job fair
1. Dress professionally
Dress in a business casual shirt and make sure your hair is in place. Wear something that you feel confident in!
2. Do the meetings in a quiet space with a neutral background
Make sure you are attending the meetings at a desk or table and not in your bed. Also, double-check to make sure your wifi is working properly. Make sure that the background of your video call is clean and organized. A wall as a background is also a good option. Ask your roommate or housemates to be quiet and not interrupt you during the career fair.
3. Have your resume in front of you (either printed or on your computer)
It is always a good idea to have your resume out during the career fair so if you draw a blank or forget what you were saying you can reference it. However, you do not want to be reading off of your resume. The resume should only be there as a reference, not as a script.
4. Join the meeting early
Joining early is a great way to show that you are punctual. It is a good idea to join around 2 minutes before the meeting is scheduled. Do not join more than 4 minutes before, because you could be interrupting a previous meeting.
5. Make eye contact
This shows that you are professional and are interested in the conversation. Make sure to keep the conversation going and ask questions if there is a period of silence.
6. Use clear, professional language
If possible, try to avoid saying “like” or “um.” It sounds unprofessional if you keep saying these in-between words that do not have a purpose. This can be difficult for some people, so don’t feel bad if you accidentally say it.
7. Ask about the next steps or contact information
At the end of each meeting, ask the person you are talking to if you can add them on LinkedIn. This is a great way to stay in touch with people who could be hiring you in the future.
8. Afterward, send a thank-you note
After talking to each recruiter, if you were able to connect with them on LinkedIn, send them a thank you note saying that you enjoyed talking to them and learning about their company.