Have you ever been to a job fair? Are you shocked by the crowds and overwhelmed by the amount of competition out there? Many job seekers are concerned about the declining work opportunities, and yet still cling to the traditional job search methods.
An increasing number of job fairs are being held virtually, typically free of charge. For job seekers, virtual job fairs are greatly beneficial because they can connect with potential employers in the comfort of home, access to multiple employers during a short period, and participate in events in other regions that they normally would not be able to attend. For employers who normally would not have the time or budget to participate, these benefits are also attractive.
However, are virtual job fairs all that easy to navigate?
First, let’s understand what a virtual job fair is. Very similar to an in-person job fair, a virtual fair hosts employer representatives, agencies, and institutions at their designated “booths”. The organizations “decorate” their booths with digital marketing collaterals, positions, and other relevant information. Candidates can “stop by” at the booths and interact with the agents, through messaging/instant chat, one-on-one virtual meeting (by using camera and microphone), (recorded) webinar to learn corporate information, email follow up, etc. You can register for the event in advance, upload your resume and/or the required information for potential employers to view.
In my blog named “Job Fairs Are Not Where You Look for Work”, I shared Human Resource’s tips on how people can truly reap the benefits of attending an in-person job fair. I also advocate for a mindset shift of viewing such events as networking opportunities. In other words, they are chances to interact with targeted representatives / companies / industries that you otherwise be inaccessible to you.
Additionally, making the most of an online fair will require the following critical preparation:
1) Although online job fairs make it easier for employers to keep a record of attendees of their booths, they still meet hundreds of job hunters in one day. To make a positive impression, you need to prepare your digital presence! While mingling with you, many employers would have both the interaction interface with you open, and your LinkedIn profile and other information that you have shared open simultaneously. This means that the company agents can check on your information swiftly. In my talk hosted by CPHR AB last summer “Are Your Connections Defined by Location? Boundaryless Networking for Professionals”, I revealed the strategies for building a strong online presence. By the way, it is also always a good practice to have your resume ready, in case a prospective employer asks for one.
2) When I manage a booth at an in-person or online job fair, I know that I must be ready to answer many similar questions from job hunters, during an intensive 6 - 8 hour day. I usually do not remember who I have spoken to and what was discussed by the end of the day. So, how can you stand out during a virtual fair?
Set up your camera and microphone appropriately and test them in advance. Make sure you are in a well-lit and quiet space, with a professional (virtual) background. A reliable internet connection is crucial.
Dress accordingly. While attending a job fair, applicants typically dress in business attire. However, when “promoting” ourselves through a camera, it is vital to choose clothes that will create more contrast with your skin colour. For those who typically apply makeup, put slightly more on than usual. This is because our images tend to “fade” a little in front of a camera.
Show engaging and confident body language. This includes smiling, maintaining eye contact, slightly leaning forward, speaking a tad louder, and using hand gestures to illustrate your points when speaking. Maintain good eye contact, one common mistake is that people look at their computer screens when they speak, instead, they should look into their camera.
3) Many people find it difficult to market themselves in front of strangers, especially to potential employers. Reservedly presenting yourself may mean that you will lose the chance at impressing an employer. Therefore, give a shameless plug of yourself because no one else will.
During an online fair, you will likely have the opportunity to speak to employers directly. I have seen some employers even give short interviews right there. Therefore, rehearse your elevator pitch (self-introduction with value) and common interview questions in advance. Many times, people ask me,
"How can I promote myself during an interview?”
My answer back is, “What do you want your next employer to know you for?”
After hearing an answer, I would follow up with another question, “Does the way you presented yourself during an interview serve that purpose?”
Unfortunately, oftentimes, the answer is no.
One crucial strategy I personally use to promote myself is to tell stories. In other words, share real examples from my past achievement and back up the stories with achievement data. On top of that, I would emphasize the results with a passionate verbal intonation. When a potential employer is engaged with your stories, that means that you have impressed them.
Besides, being on a screen does entail practical advantages: it reduces your nervousness, because you will be in a comfortable environment that you are familiar with, and can have your script close by to peak at when needed. Therefore, take advantage of the opportunity to present the best of you!
If I have not stressed it enough, a virtual job fair is a networking occasion. The common good business etiquette rules still apply. Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a stunning first impression. Therefore, when you attend these events, turn on your camera and microphone, and proactively market yourself. At the end of the day, you are your advocate and you are your brand!
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