Getting Real in a Virtual Career Fair

So what’s the deal with all these virtual career fairs? What are they like? And how can you make a good impression at a hiring event when you aren’t in the same room?

If you’re anything like me, when I first heard the term “virtual career fair”, I imagined webcam interviews on a mass scale – and was a bit freaked out. However, once I realized what virtual career fairs are actually like, I could see how beneficial and easy it would be to participate.

What is a Virtual Career Fair?

At a virtual career fair, job seekers and employers meet online through a virtual meeting or online chat. Similar to a phone interview, companies can use virtual career fairs as a prescreening tool prior to an IRL interview. Companies set up virtual booths so candidates can find them, create online marketing brochures and accept applications online. Candidates interact with employers by exchanging information real-time.

Here are some tips for participating in a virtual career fair:

Your Personality Must Shine

Be aware that communicating through instant messaging can minimize your verbal charisma. So if you’re a naturally well-spoken person, you may need to focus extra hard on ensuring your text demonstrates this skill. Similarly, if you have trouble with your writing being overly direct or verbose, take time to re-read what you typed before hitting enter. Your goal here is to by unique and concise at the same time – and create a positive first impression!

Solid Research is Required

A cool feature about a virtual career fair is that you don’t have to memorize talking points or questions for each company; you can have a window open on your screen to help you stay on track and focused.  So just like you would for an IRL career event, make a list of the companies you want to talk to – and do your research on them ahead of time so the employer knows you came ready to impress. And, to impress the recruiter, don’t be afraid to say, “You are a company on my radar today, so I’ve done my research!”

Prepare Your Answers in Advance

Remember, this is a prescreening opportunity for the employer. Think about what questions the companies could ask you in an effort to accomplish their goals, including “Tell me about you?” and the proverbial “greatest weakness” question. Then, prepare your answers prior to the event. You may need to tailor the answers when replying to the specific companies, of course, but having this preparation will give you a huge head start on your answers – and allow you to answer with confidence.

Remember to Upload Your Resume 

When you register for the virtual career fair you will likely be asked to upload a resume. Don’t pass on this opportunity. It’s to your advantage to enable companies to refer to your resume before, during and after the fair.

Be Formal in Your Conversation

Don’t use text talk! This is a professional event where you are being measured on your communication skills and ability to articulate, not just any old online chat room. Saying, “I wuld luv 2 wrk 4 u,” is NOT going to convey your professionalism, or get you the interview!

Request a Follow-up Interview

During the fair, the companies may have a limited amount of time to talk to you. You may not gain all the information you need about the company or the position. So if you’re really interested in a company proactively request a follow-up meeting in the next few days. This action alone will make you stand above most of your competition.

Properly prepared, virtual career fairs are virtually painless – and are terrific opportunities for gaining interview skills and networking. Jump in – and create a great first impression, digitally.


About the Author: Angela Petrie is a student at Purdue University studying Communication with a focus in Public Relations and Advertising, expected to graduate in May 2014. Along with YouTern, she currently interns at the Center for Career Opportunities at Purdue and volunteers as a Team Supervisor for Boiler Gold Rush (one of the country’s top new-student orientation programs). Connect with Angela on Twitter, LinkedIn, or view her online professional portfolio.



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