What if you could guarantee yourself an initial interview with a recruiter without ever leaving the comfort of your couch? What if you could get your resume in front of 5, 10 or even 20 hiring managers–all in the same day?
It sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? But it is true, thanks to virtual job fairs.
Virtual job fairs take place online. Organizations with jobs to fill set up "booths" full of information about everything from job openings to advancement opportunities, compensation to culture. The "booths" are often "staffed" by recruiters, hiring managers.
Yes, "attending" a virtual job fair could pay off (big time) for you--if you plan, prepare and impress. Here's an eight-step strategy for virtual job fair success:
Step One: Do your homework
It's been said that finding a job is nothing more than a numbers game–apply for enough of them and sooner or later you'll get one. And while this strategy may pay dividends eventually, it can also prove to be an incredibly frustrating experience full of rejection and wasted time.
A much more rewarding job search strategy is to target your applications toward jobs you are most likely to get. The same principle applies to virtual job fairs.
Don't just attend a virtual job fair because you can. Do your homework. Check job board websites and LinkedIn for job fairs featuring companies in your industry, with open positions for which you're qualified, and in areas in which you want to live.
Being selective about which job fairs you attend will improve your experience and your chances for success.
Step Two: Get your house in order
Before you sit down to log on to the virtual job fair, get in the cleaning mood and pick up your house.
Many recruiters will want to video chat with you, and the last thing you want them to see is a stack of empty pizza boxes and beer bottles in the background. Before you log on to the virtual job-fair website, step behind your computer and take a look at your space from the vantage point of your camera.
Put away anything that looks unprofessional, do the dishes, and maybe even set some flowers in a vase on the counter–everyone's impressed by a person with fresh flowers in their home.
Step Three: Dress for success
You know your favorite vintage concert T-shirt, the one you got 13 years ago that's in the bottom dresser drawer? Keep it there. Wear your most professional outfit instead.
While virtual job fairs may seem less formal and more relaxed than traditional job fairs or in-person interviews, they're not. Companies make significant investments in virtual job fairs–in registration and set-up costs, in personnel time and in technology. They take the events very seriously and are looking for job seekers who do the same. Dressing professionally shows them you're serious.
Step Four: Have your paperwork ready
Before you log on, make sure you have your resume ready. If you know what companies will be participating in the job fair (and you should if you followed the first step), try to tailor your resume to each company. Proof read them. Then have them saved on your desktop so you can quickly access them, email them and discuss them with recruiters.
Step Five: Check your connection
There's almost nothing worse than being in the middle of instant messaging or a video chat conversation…and having your internet connection cut out. Before you log on, double check your battery to make sure it's fully charged and make sure you have a good internet connection.
Step Six: Stay classy
Just because you're sitting on your couch instant messaging doesn't mean you should forget to be professional–remember to address recruiters as "Ms." and "Mr." Be polite.
What you should forget is the casual way you communicate with your friends online–don't use emoticons, LOL or type OMG.
Step Seven: Take notes
This step is perhaps the easiest and most important to accomplish: Take notes. Take a lot of them, every step of the way.
Before you log on to the virtual job fair, take notes on the companies that will be participating. What jobs do they list as being open? What are their major accomplishments? How do you think you can help them? Use your notes to develop questions to ask the recruiters. Use them to develop three key messages about yourself–how you can be a valuable part of their team, how your experience translates to their companies' goals, how you can help them.
Use your notes–the questions, the key messages–to show everyone you interact with how prepared you are.
Step Eight: Follow-up
Send thank you notes to everyone who takes the time to talk to you. It will impress them and keep your name and resume at the top of their mind.