Since the COVID pandemic the opportunity to participate in virtual career fairs has grown exponentially. As an early adapter of using this technology to connect employers with talent from the disability community, we have been receiving feedback for several years about what makes a candidate stand out in a crowd of thousands in both positive and negative ways. The following tips will help you make a good impression and build your network during these events.
Build a robust and searchable profile.
Too often candidates take the stance that all the information requested in a profile is duplicated on their resume and therefore not necessary. So, they only fill in those profile fields that are strictly required to register. This is a mistake.
Frequently, virtual career fair platforms allow employers access to candidate profiles and resumes for a period of time leading up to and following the fair. This means that employers looking to get the most out of the event are likely to conduct research to identify talent they may not have spoken directly to during the fair. How is this research conducted?
You guessed it; by using profile fields to sort through and filter data. If your profile fields are blank or filled in incorrectly it impacts the searchability of your resume, limiting the amount of opportunity you may be connected with.
Additionally, make sure an up-to-date resume is attached if the platform permits. If you are not 100% sure your resume has successfully been uploaded to the event, contact the platform administrators for assistance and confirm the resume is showing for employers.
Many times, the host company or agency organizing the fair are not the technical administrators of the virtual platform used to conduct the fair. For example, Bender’s fairs are hosted in partnership with CareerEco who administers the platform we use for our fairs. If you have a technical question about your successful registration, CareerEco would support you with this matter.
Create a plan.
Do research on the fair you are participating in to identify the best course of action for you to connect with the most opportunities.
Begin with understanding the parameters of the fair. In the case of Bender’s fairs, they are national events with employers who typically fill positions across a variety of locations and career paths. However, not all employers offer all types of jobs in all locations. Reading information posted by the participating employers may take a bit of time, but it will allow you to prioritize those employers who best match your career aspirations.
As a part of this research, ensure you review the employer’s participation hours. When hosting all day virtual career fairs, some employers may only have resources available to chat during certain hours of fair day.
In addition to having a plan for which employers are most important for you to connect with, have a plan for what you will share with employers about your background, qualifications, and career interests. Just like when you are at an in-person fair, you will likely only have a few minutes to impress a potential employer. Prepare your virtual introduction or elevator speech in advance of the fair. Practice making small adjustments to be able to fluidly respond in a meaningful way to employer questions.
Mind your manners.
It should go without saying that professional conduct is expected by employers at career fairs, regardless of the mode in which those fairs are being delivered, whether through a virtual platform or a conference hall. However, with so many people viewing the web as a place where they can anonymously leave social norms behind and behave in less thoughtful and polite ways, sometimes candidates transpose these behaviors to virtual career events.
Imagine if you would be at an in-person career fair with over a thousand hopeful candidates walking through rows of employer booths, standing in line to meet a representative. Some booths may have lines of over 50 candidates waiting patiently for their opportunity to make a connection with a company of interest.
Now imagine all of a sudden someone standing in the middle of that fair and screaming at the top of their lungs that they have been at the fair for fifteen minutes and nobody has come over to them to talk to them about their resume. The employers stop what they are doing and look at this person. The candidates, who have all been standing in their selected lines, turn to look at this person.
What are they all thinking about this candidate?
The honest answer is that no employer is thinking that this is the candidate they want to hire and no candidate is thinking that this is a candidate that is serious competition for the job they want to be hired for. Why? Professionalism always matters, and good manners including politeness and patience are a key part of behaving professionally. With so many companies becoming more open to remote work, virtual meetings and connections are increasingly used as a way to conduct business. Employers need to be able to trust their employees to conduct themselves professionally with a virtual work environment.
Posting rude and impatient comments to message boards does not demonstrate professionalism and does not inspire trust.
When entering a booth, always take a moment to check for any instructions posted by the employer for how to engage. Remember, different companies will have different plans for how to interact with visiting candidates. One way of doing this is not necessarily better than another. Be respectful of the employers’ instructions and know they usually have a reason for handling things in the method they are engaging.
At Bender, we typically receive a high volume of visiting candidates. As such, we instruct candidates to wait for a member of our team to connect with them via a private chat and that we will be reaching out in the order in which candidates have entered the booth. We use this method to ensure that everyone gets an opportunity to connect with a representative from our recruitment team and to afford privacy for our one-to-one conversations with visiting candidates. It can be very disruptive for our team members and candidates when people enter the booth and do not follow instructions for how to engage. We want to ensure that everyone has a favorable experience when visiting our booth and these disruptions can impact that experience.
Keep in mind that professionalism is always important at these events. The ability to follow directions is one way a candidate can demonstrate professionalism and their ability to be a productive team member to a potential employer.
Take notes and follow-up with kindness.
Prepare a method that is simple and will work for you to take notes about the employers you visit on career fair day. Whether that is through taking screen shots you save in a document, taking notes with pen and paper, or organizing information in an Excel spreadsheet, you want a method that is quick and easy to decipher when you refer back at a later date.
Some employers may instruct you to apply online, others may suggest you follow them on social media, or even schedule you for an interview with a member of their team. It is up to you to remember which employers gave you what instructions. Career fair hosts will not be able to provide you with this information post-fair as these conversations happen only with you and the employer representative.
Taking notes is the best way to ensure you take all follow-up steps. When doing so, ensure you clearly document the name of the company, the name of the representative who gave you instructions, and the specific steps you need to take along with any links, contact information, or deadlines you need to meet.
When following-up, whether you are sending a thank you note to a representative, connecting via a social media platform, or sending an inquiry about a position you applied for online, remember that kindness matters. It is a good practice to provide context for the representative about how you met, be appreciative of their assistance, and avoid communicating with a frustrated tone.
It comes back to demonstrating professionalism that lets them know if you are selected you will positively represent their brand and be someone they can see themselves working with every day.