How to: Prepare for Virtual Career Fairs in the Fall

This fall, hosting career fairs virtually is going to become the desired way to meet, interact, and connect with employers from different organizations, be it for internship opportunities or job opportunities after graduation. Isn’t it going to be interesting? Yes, or maybe a little different from what we have been used to in the past. But as it is said, there is always one thing that never changes during evolutions. In this context, it is making the most out of the opportunity through preparing for career fairs, interacting with employers, having your resume and other necessary materials ready, and building connections. 

Identify and Research Organizations:

Looking up organizations and enterprises can allow one to find out what they are recruiting for by reviewing their websites and applying for open positions. Places to look could include simply a Google search for the organization you are interested in knowing more about, Glassdoor for general information, salaries, and reviews, and most well-known to us college students, Handshake. Doing a bit of research can help one in getting to know the organization a bit more before they meet with a representative at the fair. One can find out about the company mission, diversity statement, and service. Exploring these areas can provide an initial overview of the firm that can allow us to see if we are interested in the firm in terms of what they do, their work culture, and philosophies. Moreover, if you are an international student, you might get to find out at this stage if they accept work authorization in the form of CPT and OPT. Hence, this is the first step toward your search and provides a foundation for questions you may have for employers.

Develop Questions for Employers:

It is important to ask appropriate questions that make one more enthusiastic about the organization and open positions. Questions can be based on the characteristics of an ideal candidate and what could be some skills and values they are looking for in candidates or any expectations they have. Secondly, it can be a great idea to ask about their philosophies and culture as those can provide an insight into how they work as an organization. I am sure you would appreciate an organization that believes in diversity, inclusion, equity, and ethics!

Dress Code:

Although going virtual means that you might not see the employer if it is a live chat, it is still essential to adhere to the attire we have always adopted for career fairs. This includes collared shirts, ties, trousers, skirts, dresses, blazers, and other business casual items. There is a likelihood that it can start showing your camera like in a video chat! If it is a video chat, your upper body is only likely to be seen, making it the reason to wear your collar shirt, tie, and blazer and wearing a pajama below! 

As far as your location is concerned, it is recommendable to confirm your location and choose a place at home or on campus which is quiet and where there are limited distractions, apart from your cell phones, that have to be silenced for the session. 

Communicating with employers:

Before the fair, it is really helpful to prepare and update your resume as you can share it with the employer to get to know you and see your experiences and skills presented. Cover Letters are not necessary; however, it doesn’t hurt to have a copy of your cover letter too! When you meet an employer and greet them, introduce yourself. A good way to introduce yourself would be mentioning the school you are pursuing your degree in, your major and minor, if applicable, and your background in terms of what made you choose your major, your career path, and any volunteering, part-time job, and internship experiences you have had. For an international student, it can be great to talk about what made you choose to move to the U.S for your studies and how have you been liking your studies and time so far, and even how has meeting people from other countries enriched your perceptions about cultures and made you more open-minded.  Moreover, you can also express your interest in an internship or job as a great opportunity to experience and adapt to the American working environment and expectations in the workspace in relation to your field of study. 

After the career fair:

Before taking their leave, you should have an idea about the next steps you would take moving forward. It is a good practice to ask them politely about contacting them for further information and staying in touch as it helps you not only to follow up but also build connections and know more people in your chosen field. You could even ask them if they would like to connect on LinkedIn!

Do send a thank you email after a few days to thank them for meeting and express how you enjoyed talking with them wherein you could mention what you liked finding about. Finally, this is when you can send an electronic copy of your resume and other application materials. 

While the format for career fairs has changed, the process and connecting with employers will continue to be the same!