Eight tips to stand out at a virtual career fair

Making meaningful connections requires planning and research requires a little extra planning and preparation when it comes to a virtual career fair and a slightly different mindset.

By Becca Harrison September 16, 2020

As many college career fairs are going virtual, the goal of connecting students and employers to create mutually beneficial career opportunities together remains the same. Whether in-person or virtual, highlighting your skills, presenting your authentic self, and making meaningful connections requires planning and research. But, standing out among a sea of students virtually requires a little extra preparation. These tips will help you stand out, ace your virtual interviews, and make lasting connections to kick start your career journey.

1. Prepare your documents and profile

Have your resume prepared — it should be informative, comprehensive, and error-free — so you can easily pass it along (virtually) to recruiters. Once prepared and polished, make sure your resume is ready to be uploaded, meaning it should be easily accessible on your computer and properly named to avoid uploading the wrong file.

Make sure all of your career profiles have the most up-to-date information by reviewing your LinkedIn profile and your school’s career portal profile for accuracy.

Additionally, consider having a pre-drafted, saved message that you can use as an elevator pitch when using the chat feature during the fair.

Pro tip: Save your resume as both a Word document and a PDF to avoid uploading issues or formatting errors.

2. Test your technology

One of the most common issues during a virtual career fair interview is a technology problem. Make sure your audio and video features are functioning and you understand how they work within the video conferencing platform. Consider doing an ‘IT rehearsal’ prior to the event to make sure your camera and microphone are optimally working so you can spend your time having meaningful conversations with potential employers instead of troubleshooting.

Pro tip: To avoid connectivity issues, disconnect any unnecessary devices (e.g., phones, smart TVs, gaming consoles, tablets, etc.) from your Wi-Fi network to improve your video quality.

3. Dress to impress

A great first impression can leave a lasting memory with a recruiter so be sure to show them how serious you are by dressing to impress while also staying true to yourself. Dressing the part also helps you feel more prepared and confident during your interview.

Pro tip: When choosing your attire for a virtual career fair, avoid clothing with patterns to mitigate distractions and camera distortion issues. Oftentimes, a classic look is the safest look while on video and appears best.

4. Stage your background

In a world full of easy distractions, make yourself the center of attention during your virtual career fair by prepping your video background. Remember to minimize clutter and noise, use bright lighting, and mute your computer and phone notifications. Consider setting up in a spot with a blank wall in a different color than your attire to present a clean, professional appearance. Plus, make sure your location is free of foot traffic.

Pro tip: Many device cameras have blurred background capabilities. Even if you have the tidiest space, consider blurring your background to ensure that you are the only thing the recruiter is focusing on. Remember to avoid using any fun-themed or distracting video backgrounds.

5. Do your research

Doing in-depth research on potential employers and companies shows you are interested in a variety of opportunities and that you are well prepared. While you might fully understand a position you’re interested in, understanding what a company does and their company culture will give you a greater idea on whether you’re a good fit for the company. Additionally, doing your research shows recruiters that you are taking this event seriously.

Pro tip: Look up more than just a company’s products and services and dive deeper to understand their history, employee culture, social media presence, and even their competitors.

6. Prepare thoughtful questions

Show off the research you’ve done by creating a list of questions for each employer you plan on speaking with. Tailor your questions around your interest about the company to gather more information about their services, growth plans, and work environment. Don’t be afraid to ask about career experiences, continued learning, and the overall company culture.

Pro Tip: Take some time to learn more about your network and any connections you have with potential employers. You might be surprised to see that you have more mutual contacts or connections than you thought that can help make conversations with recruiters more memorable.

7. Be authentic

One of the hardest things about attending a career fair — virtual or in-person — is not letting your nerves get in the way of letting your personality shine. Hiring decisions are most often not made during career fairs, but recruiters will note candidates who appeared genuine and could be successful team members. Remember to be true to yourself, communicate with confidence, and maintain professionalism.

Pro tip: Make a list prior to the career fair of why you would be a successful and contributing team member to companies you are interested in. Having these items handy will be a confidence booster and will help you keep your cool if you’re asked an unanticipated question.

8. Be ready to close

At the end of your conversations, ask to be considered and apply for the positions you are genuinely interested in. Remember to show enthusiasm for why you’re interested in a company and share your appreciation with the recruiter who took the time to connect with you.

Don’t forget to ask about next steps, be sure to reach out to new contacts, and stay informed about job postings. Additionally, send a thank you note or email to recruiters. This can speak volumes about your interest in an organization as well as your character and such notes are often passed along to hiring managers.

Pro Tip: Let recruiters know when you apply to positions and be sure to follow the company on social media to stay on top of current events and job postings.

Navigating career fairs can seem nerve-wracking in the beginning, but with the right preparation, you can make meaningful connections to help jumpstart your career.

This article originally appeared on Southland’s blog, In the Big RoomSouthland is a CFE Media content partner. 

Original content can be found at inthebigroom.com.

Author Bio: Becca Harrison, talent acquisition business partner, Southland