When classes, interviews, and career fairs suddenly went virtual last year, there was a pretty steep learning curve for all of us. While I as a recruiter miss meeting job candidates in person, I’m here to tell you it’s definitely possible to explore career options and embark on a successful job search over the internet. Knowing what we know now, here are some tips to help you crush the spring career fair season!
Update your resume and profile
It may sound simple, but believe it or not, many students don’t take the time to fill out their profiles on online platforms like Handshake or update their resumes prior to a virtual career fair. This is an easy step to take that can help you make a great first impression. It will allow the recruiter or hiring manager to “get to know you” before you appear on the screen.
Self-assess your internship and career goals
Spend time doing some personal reflection. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? What are your skills and strengths? What are some of your short-term goals? Long-term goals? What are your biggest areas of opportunity? Make a list!
This will make the next few steps much easier. Plus, it will impress a hiring manager/recruiter to see that you’ve done some prep work. It’s hard to come up with some of these answers on the fly, so preparation will set you up for success!
Find out which employers are attending ahead of time
Before the event, you will have a chance to find out which employers are attending. This is a great opportunity to do some research and narrow down your top five – the ones you really want to meet with or whose info session you will definitely plan to attend.
This is where preparation will really help you shine! Spend time researching the organizations and find out how your goals align. Take notes and feel free to reference them during your one-on-one. Pro tip: also choose a company or two that are not in your top five or directly related to your field of study. You may discover a company with amazing opportunities that you hadn’t considered because your search was too narrow.
Prepare your introduction
Every minute in a one-on-one session is valuable. Don’t spend five minutes attempting to break the ice – half your time is now gone! Instead, take time to prepare a 30-45 second introduction. Be sure to include who you are, what you are studying, a couple of accomplishment statements and what you are interested in.
During fall career fairs last year, I spoke to one student who really stood out. After three hours of one-on-one sessions, Giselle was my last appointment. What made her stand out (besides her great attitude, experience and career goals) was that as soon as our session started, she got straight to business: This is who I am, this is what I have done, this is what I have to offer and this is what makes me an excellent candidate.
This should be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people miss the mark when it comes to dressing for a virtual career fair! Treat a virtual fair just as you would an in-person event. Business casual is the minimum expectation here.
Find a quiet spot with a good connection and neutral background
This may be hard depending on your situation, but having a plan ahead of time will help you feel more confident. Find a quiet spot and be aware of your background and what is in view of the camera.
Be on time, turn on your camera
Follow your schedule and stick to it! Be sure to turn on your camera before being asked. Smile! It’s go time!
Have your notes in order
Have your notes handy. You’ve taken the time to reflect and research, so be prepared to talk about what you discovered! If you know who you will be meeting with, take a few notes on the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s career from their LinkedIn profile.
Prepare questions ahead of time
When a recruiter asks, “What questions do you have for me?” we aren’t trying to rush you off the call. We are trying to gauge your excitement and interest. This is a chance to ask a couple of well thought-out questions that will leave a great impression. Be sure to ask a question that is not easily answerable on the company’s website.
Get contact details and find out about next steps
Ask for contact info! How will you send a thank you note or follow-up email if you don’t know how to get in touch with the recruiter or hiring manager? Ask about the application process and what to expect next. Recruiters want to hire you – but there are steps that need to be followed to make you an applicant. Follow-up is key!
Attitude is everything
One of my first managers used to always quote, “Attitudes are contagious, is yours worth catching?” A positive attitude is a great way to make a lasting impression.