Virtual Career Fairs: How to Stand Out While You Network Online

You got the experience. You had your resume reviewed. You practiced your elevator pitch, and you are so totally ready to rock the career fair. But one hiccup…. 

The career fair is virtual, and you’ve never done one of those before.  

You are not alone. Many in-person career fairs have been moved to a virtual platform, and college students are finding themselves having to adapt to this new format. The Walter Center recognizes this, and we have created this guide with you in mind.  

HOW DO VIRTUAL FAIRS WORK?

Every virtual fair is unique, but many follow a similar format. Typically, the fair is scheduled for a specific date and time and attendees register beforehand. The fair is hosted on a website, and at the scheduled time, this fair website becomes active. Attendees log in and are taken to the main page that serves as the “exhibition floor.” From there, attendees can see a list of employers and information. If attendees want to speak with a recruiter or representative, they can enter an employer chatroom. Often, the chatroom has several other attendees in it, with a shared chat thread where recruiters answer questions. From there, recruiters and attendees can choose to enter a private chat together, sometimes with a video chat option. At the end of the fair, the fair webpage becomes inactive.  

BEFORE THE FAIR 

Remember the Basics!
Although virtual career fairs differ from in-person fairs, many conventions of the professional world still hold true. Recruiters will still expect attendees to come prepared, and most will be dressed professionally in suits or attire appropriate to the industry. So, lean on the skills you already know. Practice your pitches and answers to questions. Prepare your resume. Be ready to network. 

Register ahead of Time
Many virtual fairs have a limit to the number of participants, so register before to save your spot. Registering can also add you to an email list that will send important updates about the fair. 

Add a Profile Picture
Many fair websites will give you the option to create an account and complete a profile. It will help you stand out if you add information and add a profile picture.  

Reach Out Fair Organizers with Questions
Every virtual fair is different, so if you are not sure how something will run, or want to know about a specific software you might need, you may send the fair organizers a concise, polite email. 

Make your Resume a PDF
Instead of handing out paper resumes, you will have the option to digitally send your resume to employers. Make sure it is in PDF form, saved with an appropriate title, and in a folder that is easy to access. Tailor your resume to different employers or industries, and create a system so you know which resume is which. Check out our resources on writing resumes, and take advantage of our resume critique service.  

Test your Technology
Find a location with strong wi-fi and make sure you have appropriate software downloaded. Test your video and microphone beforehand.  

Clear any Distractions 
If possible, find a space where you won’t be interrupted. Silence your cell phone. If you will be on video, prepare a space for it. Recruiters understand that not everybody has access to a picture-perfect office, but make an effort to clean your space and remove unprofessional items that will be in your video background. 

Do your Research
Just like an in-person fair, research what organizations will attend and which positions they have open. Check out company websites, mission statements, and LinkedIn pages to stay updated. Make a list of those you would like to speak with. Be on the lookout for recruiters who might be IU Alums. 

DURING THE FAIR 

Be Ready for Conversation 
Not only is this an opportunity for employers to learn about you, but this is also a chance for you to learn about employers. When you enter a chat room with an employer, they might expect you to lead much of the conversation. And since you can’t talk about the free swag they are giving out, have specific questions ready.

For more guidance, view our guide to informational interviewing.  

Review Messages for Errors
Read chat messages carefully before sending them. Enable a spell check feature that highlights misspelled text, and be sure you spell the names of companies and recruiters correctly. When chatting, remember common grammar conventions. Use full sentences, avoiding acronyms, abbreviations, and emojis.  

Dress Professionally 
Wear a suit or blazer, or an outfit that is considered professional for that industry.  

Be an Active Listener 
If you are on video chat, make sure to look at the camera and try to make eye contact. Nod your head or use other body language to show that you are listening and interested. If you are in a chat room, respond to messages in a timely matter. 

Keep a Conversation Log
One advantage of virtual fairs is that you have downtime between talking with employers. Use this time to record who you talked to, what their names are, and what they had to share. A spreadsheet can be helpful for this. If you were offered an interview slot, write the time and logistics down and add it to your calendar. 

AFTER THE FAIR

Send Thank-you Notes
Using the names of recruiters that you have saved, send thank you notes via mail or email. It is best to send this as soon as possible after the fair.  

Practice for Interviews 
If you were offered an interview, be sure to prepare for it. Read our guide to interviewing and make a virtual career coaching appointment with a Walter Center Career Coach.  

Be Patient
It is good to connect with recruiters afterward, but remember that many companies have slowed their hiring process. Be patient while you wait to hear back, and in the meantime take advantage of the career search resources provided by the Walter Center. View our guide for reaching out to employers to check the status of a job.  

And Remember
You have valuable skills! College of Arts + Sciences students spend years honing skills that employers want: critical reasoning, creative problem solving, clear communication, and so much more. So, stay confident, and good luck at your next virtual career fair!

By Hillary Nienhouse
Hillary Nienhouse Assistant Director, Employer Relations Hillary Nienhouse