Two recruiting event specialists at Cox share their best tips for navigating virtual job fairs.
As with so many other aspects of our work lives, many hiring and networking events like job and career fairs have shifted from in-person gatherings to virtual ones.
“The pandemic made virtual career fairs a big thing, and we have had a lot of success with them,” said Ashley Gerson, a recruiting event specialist at Cox. “I think that is helpful for a lot of job seekers, especially with how much everyone has going on in both their personal and professional lives.”
While virtual hiring events may offer the convenience of participating from the comfort of one’s home, they require a little bit of extra prep work in order to make a strong impression on recruiters.
I talked to both Ashley and Anne Egan, who is also a recruiting event specialist at Cox, to get insights on how job seekers can effectively navigate virtual hiring events. Here, they share what to do before, during and after a virtual job fair.
What to do ahead of a virtual job fair
1. Book one-on-one sessions with employers.
Depending on the event, you may have the option to pre-schedule individual sessions with employers you’re interested in beyond the main panel conversations on the agenda. If you can, seize it, Ashley said.
“That is key; it’s your time to shine and get face time with a recruiter,” Ashley said. “And the benefit is that nobody else is around you, you don't have a queue of people waiting behind you, so you really have that one-to-one time for about 15, 20 minutes or so.”
2. Prepare your notes, research and talking points.
Do your research on the companies and take notes you can refer to during the event. For example, if there are specific job openings you’re interested in, have the position names and job ID numbers on hand.
As you would at an informational interview, think about a couple of questions you’d want to ask a recruiter at a company. Use your research to prepare your elevator pitch (just keep in mind that the recruiter at the event might not be the one hiring for that specific role).
“Have about five things you want someone to walk away with knowing about you and how you fit into not just one role, but multiple roles at that company,” Ashley said.
If you have a second monitor at home, you can use it to display all your notes — whether it’s information you want to easily copy/paste into a chat, or your talking points and questions.
3. Test and troubleshoot your tech ahead of time.
If you want to make the best impression — especially as a potential hybrid or remote worker — you want to show you can hop on a virtual meeting without a hitch. That means already having your video and settings figured out, instead of troubleshooting on the spot.
- Familiarize yourself with the event platform. Once you know which platform you’ll be using, look over its instructions and best practices. Each event platform has how-to videos and other quick tutorials to get up to speed. “Each platform is a little bit different, so I have found that the how-to guides from those companies’ websites help,” Anne said.
- Check your video settings so you’re ready to be on camera. “The number one thing you need to do is turn on your camera, and it’s a common mistake people make,” Ashley said. “If you have video access, that personal connection is very powerful.”
- Close unnecessary tabs and programs. “Make sure you aren’t multitasking,” Ashley said. “No one wants to see you texting while you’re having a session with them.”
Beyond the technical prep, Ashley said candidates should find a quiet place to join a virtual event and dress the part.
“Making sure that you set yourself up from start to finish for success,” she said.
How to stand out during the event
1. Participate in group sessions.
In group sessions, you can reach out to others in the chat, ask questions or raise your hand to speak up.
“The best way to stand out is by participating in the discussion,” Anne said.
2. Make a connection with recruiters.
The one-on-one sessions with a recruiter are when you can talk about yourself and what you’re looking for. Ashley recommends focusing on your skills so that the recruiter can keep you in mind for multiple job opportunities in the future.
“It’s really all about impressions in the skills that really highlight you because you don't know what can come out of that conversation,” Ashley said. “Maybe the role you’re interested in is already in the final interview stage, but the recruiter might know of another role that might not even be posted yet that you could be a really good fit.”
3. Share your LinkedIn.
Anne explained that in a remote setting, your LinkedIn profile is your virtual business card. Have your LinkedIn handle ready to share in the chat and connect with people you meet.
What to do after attending a virtual job fair
You prepared and participated in a virtual hiring event — and event connected with a few recruiters on LinkedIn. Now what?
1. Apply and send a follow-up note to the recruiter.
First, if there was a specific job opening you talked about with a recruiter, apply and let them know. That often prompts them to put in a good word for you with the recruiter responsible for that specific job.
“Apply to the jobs that are relevant to you and follow up with the person you spoke to, and say, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know, I applied for this role,’” Ashley said. “I’ve had a lot of people do this with me, and it does make an impact.”
2. Stay in touch over LinkedIn.
If a job doesn’t pan out right away, stay in touch and continue building that connection over LinkedIn.
“I can’t tell you how many people have connected on LinkedIn and stayed in touch,” Ashley said. “And when something else became available, we’d immediately think of them for the job. That follow-up piece is huge.”
3. Be on the lookout for future event invitations.
Attending a virtual hiring event can also open the doors to more exclusive events, Anne said. So, keep an eye out for more opportunities.
“It’s going to open you up to your profile up to further invitations to smaller events with business leaders and hiring managers, rather than just the recruiters. So, there’s benefits and following through.”