Virtual Career Fairs Are Coming



By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

Career development professionals expect that most career fairs during the fall will be virtual/remote events, and the trend could persist into 2021.  That means students need to be prepared in order to take advantage of these online events.  

In a virtual career fair, employers and job seekers meet virtually using a variety of different platforms to exchange information about job openings. Job seekers typically upload resumes and schedule video chats with employers or may simply browse companies’ virtual “booths,” similar to a career fair in a face-to-face environment.

The UofL University Career Center is planning several of these virtual events including a nursing career fair on September 8, a university-wide internship and career fair on September 30, a graduate school and professional fair on October 14, and a holiday jobs fair on November 5. 

UCC associate director Donna Lee said students need to prepare for a virtual career fair just as they would a face-to-face career fair. “For a virtual career fair, you still need to research the employers to see what they are hiring for, just like you would for a traditional career fair in a physical location. And on the day of the fair, be ready to devote the time to ‘visit’ each booth... that means your resume has been critiqued in advance like a traditional career fair and ready to place in their ‘drop box.’  In addition, you need to be dressed as if it is a face-to-face interview because they may ask to ‘meet’ with you one-on-one and you would need to turn your camera on.”

There are some things students can do starting now to get ready for the fall virtual career fair season.  If you have not been communicating much virtually, start doing so now.  You want to test your equipment to be sure your microphone, camera and speaker or headset all work well.  Practice good body language and eye contact as you communicate with others virtually.  You should also pay attention to the environment you are in; be sure you have a distraction-free place to utilize. Lighting is important so that you don’t have a bright background that makes it difficult to see you. And you’ll want an appropriate background behind you with perhaps a book shelf, plants or a nice piece of artwork.  

As Lee suggested, this is also a good time to update your resume.  Make sure it is up-to-date and highlights your skills, knowledge, and accomplishments that highlight your candidacy for a job or internship.  Later as the virtual career fairs approach, you can make final resume changes specific to companies with whom you want to meet. You’ll also want to update your social media profiles, paying special attention to LinkedIn since many companies will want to check you out on that platform. 

Lee said in a virtual recruiting landscape, students need to be working now to advance one specific area of their competence.  “This recruiting landscape will likely not be changing anytime soon so students should be constantly focusing on the soft skills that will make you marketable.  Those soft skills include technical/ digital skills.  What is your digital literacy? Are you well-practiced with video etiquette?”

But whether face-to-face career fair or virtual/remote, Lee said students can be doing other things now to advance their career readiness.  “Career readiness includes familiarity with tools that companies use to recruit beyond Handshake.  And it’s always important to research and stay present with employers online” 

One last thing to always work on is your pitch to employers.  You should practice so that it becomes second nature to confidently talk to potential employers (and networking contacts) about who you are, your credentials, what makes you unique, and what you want to do.

In the coming weeks as the virtual career fairs approach, we’ll have more tips for you about getting ready and what to do during these events.