It isn’t easy to stand out at in-person job fairs, and leaving a lasting impression with employers at virtual job fairs can be just as challenging. However, if you follow the eight tips below, you’ll have no difficulty making meaningful professional connections and differentiating yourself from other candidates.
1. Update your profile and resume
Your resume and professional profiles, especially your LinkedIn profile, need to be up to date. Ensure that your resume is as comprehensive as possible. Don’t skimp on information—and certainly make sure to include key words and quantifiable achievements. Also, make sure your polished, error-free resume is available in both PDF and Word files, and available on your desktop so you can access it and upload it easily. All of this is important during fairs because employers use the information on your resume and profile to see if you match their requirements.
2. Do your research
For employers you’re interested in, go the extra mile while researching them. Find out about the opportunities they offer and their cultures. This allows you to better determine if they might be good fits for you, and to customize your resume and profile to their requirements. In addition, doing your research shows recruiters at the career fair that you did your homework and are interested in working for them. The more you know about a company’s products, employee culture, social media presence, standing in the market, etc., the more topics you’ll have to talk about—and the more likely you are to make a lasting impression.
3. Prepare to ask questions
Answering questions is so passé. To stand out from the competition, you need to ask questions—and you have every right to do so. Show off the research you’ve done and prepare a list of questions for recruiters. You might ask about company culture, retention rate, growth plans, how a company is managing in these difficult times, and how a company’s work environment has changed in the wake of Covid-19. Also, with everyone working from home, you might have legitimate concerns about starting a job remotely. So, ask about the communication tools the company uses to facilitate work from home, and whether they prefer Glip, Discord, or another collaboration software app.
4. Plan your day
You don’t want your lack of planning and organization getting in the way of making strong connections at virtual fairs. So, if you have trouble getting organized, there are many online productivity tools that can help. It also helps if you proceed step by step through each virtual fair. So, decide head of time which virtual stands you’d like to stop at, and decide the questions you’ll be asking at each stop. In addition, familiarize yourself with the platform hosting the fair so you know how to go about it.
It’s extremely important to spend your time efficiently. You want to attend the career clinics and webinars but also make time for meeting with recruiters on a one-to-one basis. You don’t want to have all the information and knowledge on how to land a job but not get enough time to talk to the people actually offering one.
5. Draft an elevator pitch
It’s important to prepare an elevator pitch you can give to recruiters you meet at fairs. Time is of the essence, as there are typically hundreds of other candidates vying for recruiters’ attention. Making an impression with few words isn’t something most people can do on the spot and off the top of their heads. So, ahead of each fair, draft an elevator pitch thoughtfully, considering how you’ll approach each employer and what would you’d like to say.
It’s probable that instead of talking, you’ll have to text your pitch, so have your pitch ready to be copied and pasted. A little knowledge of the principles of copywriting wouldn’t go amiss to make an immediate impression and be able to sell yourself. And think short and sharp—briefly outline your academic and work background, and mention why you’d like to be part of an employer’s team.
6. Be professional
Even when you’re attending a virtual fair, you should dress to impress. Recruiters will be able see you. Be as sharply dressed as you would for an in-person interview. This shows seriousness and will create a great first impression. Avoid clothing with patterns, and keep your background plain, simple, and clutter-free.
Of course, don’t be late for the fair. Show up on time so you have a better chance of doing everything you want to do during the fair. If you’ve set prior appointments for personal meetings with recruiters, be there before they are. Doing so will make you come off as eager, well prepared, and someone who respects others’ busy schedules.
In addition, be professional in all your communication. A joke or two can be acceptable during conversations to lighten the mood, but too many jokes can make you seem not very serious and create the wrong impression. While it’s good to have things to talk about, limit your conversation to the company, the job, and the matter at hand.
7. Be real
To come off as your authentic self, especially on a virtual platform, isn’t easy. However, the best advice is to be yourself. Let your personality shine through, and don’t let your nerves get in the way. There’s no need to be nervous or worried that one single job fair will make or break your career—there will be many other fairs. Also, remember that genuine candidates stand out—they’re the recruiters will remember.
So, if you’re authentic as possible while also acting confidently and professionally, you’ll create a great first impression. Give honest answers to questions, relating answers to your personal life and struggles to give employers a quick idea of who you are. Of course, be cool-headed at all times, especially in response to tricky interview questions you didn’t anticipate.
8. Close thoughtfully
If you want to make a truly lasting impression, you need to connect with employers after career fairs. So, make sure you ask for their contact information during the fair, and send them a formal email immediately afterward. You could also send them a LinkedIn request with a personalized message, thanking them for their time and summarizing the conversation you had. Mention the position you’re interested in, and remind them again why you’re a good fit. Keep it short, and ask to be informed of the next steps in the hiring process.
Victorio Duran III US is the Associate SEO Director at RingCentral, a global leader in cloud-based communications and internet phone service provider. He has over 13 years of extensive involvement in web and digital operations, with diverse experience as a web engineer, product manager, and digital marketing strategist.