Career fairs, also known as job or recruitment fairs, are usually organised by universities in a large hall where potential employers can set up booths to attract – and probably hire – potential graduates. If you attend a career fair, you are free to ask any questions to prospective employers, take notes, and take any promotional materials employers offer. These are sources you can use to find a job and get hired in your dream company. But if you do not find your dream company in the career fairs, don’t lose heart. You can always apply to other potential employers as a stepping stone.
Since it is difficult for universities to hold a job fair in today’s pandemic situation, they are switching their physical job fairs to virtual ones. You can search these virtuals job fairs on platforms like eventbrite.com, indeed.com, jobfairsin.com, jobfairx.com, and many more.
Is attending physical job fairs different from virtual ones?
The only difference is that you should prepare a stable internet connection and be ready with some questions. At physical job fairs you can directly ask employers any questions and see demonstrations from them. At virtual job fairs, you can do pretty much the same. Employers will meet job seekers and discuss employment opportunities – but in order to not lose a chance, you need to prepare a stable internet connection.
Virtual job fairs will be like attending a webinar or online discussion posts. After logging in, you can “enter” various rooms within the virtual career fair website. Each room houses different employers participating in the job fairs. When you enter a room, employers will receive a notification and greet you via a chat function. If there are others in the virtual room, you are welcomed to join the chime or opt to chat privately with an employer. Employers might even want to video chat with you face to face if they find you are a potential candidate.
So the basics are similar, but what should you prepare before the career fairs?
Before attending a virtual career fair, you should be prepared like you are going to attend a job interview. Here is the list:
- Update your resume or cv. It will be better if you have a web-based portfolio so employers can check directly during one-on-one sessions.
- Update your LinkedIn profile. Most employers might refer to the LinkedIn platform for professional references.
- Register ahead of time and find information about the organisations that participate in the career fairs. Deepen your knowledge of the organisation(s) that interests you the most.
- Practice your pitch. How will you introduce yourself? Why are you interested in the company? What types of positions are you seeking? How is your work experience? What do you plan on asking the representatives at the virtual events?
- Make sure you have a stable connection and reliable tools, such as a speaker/headphones and camera.
You’ve prepared everything and are ready to join the crowd
Once you log in, you should know how to stand out from the crowd. A job fair is like a competition between you and other candidates. If you are not giving it the best, you will be set aside. Here’s some advice:
- Wear a professional outfit – just like how you will attend a job interview in a company. Virtual presence is no difference.
- Attend from a distraction-free environment. A quiet location is ideal and camera capabilities mean that you want to ensure it is distraction-free for employers. This could also tell employers, “I am ready”.
- Be ready to put yourself out there. Introduce yourself once an employer engages you in a chat. Ask questions about the organisation and open positions. As an attendee, you must present yourself to employers and feel confident doing so. But don’t be overconfident as it might make you look arrogant.
- Use clear, professional business communication. Grammar matters and fluency matters.
- Demonstrate strong body language to present yourself as a confident and competent job seeker.
- Ask for the next steps and contact information at the end of a conversation.
What kind of questions should you ask?
As mentioned earlier, “you are free to ask any questions to a prospective employer”. However, ‘any’ does not mean all the things you have in mind. You should not ask about the employer’s personal life. Asking general questions such as “what open position do you have right now?” shows that you are unprepared. Instead, you can start off by asking these questions as proposed by some experts:
- I noticed the job description for (open role) listed (some vague items) in the responsibilities. What do you mean by that?
- I don’t have a traditional background in (field or function) but have worked on (something relevant). Would that be a good fit for the position?
- Is the (open role) you currently have listed more focused on (some functions) or (some function)
- What does the hiring process for (open role) look like?
- How long have you been at the company?
- What are some of the challenges you have faced in your role or at the company?
- What do growth and development look like at (name of the company)?
- How does (name of the company) work to upskill and reskill its employees?
- What kind of person is most successful at (name of the company)?
- Do people hang out outside of work on a regular basis?
- What kind of culture is there around feedback at (name of the company)? How do people like to give and receive feedback?
- What is the best way to stay in touch with you?
- Who can I follow up with about (open role)?
Be enthusiastic and don’t forget to say thank you. If interested, soon you should apply for the position you discussed and notify the company representative you met with at the fair that you have done so. Include a headshot with your email to the representative to increase your chance of getting hired.