Months into the pandemic, the coronavirus continues to take its toll on populations and local economies worldwide. While lockdown measures have lifted and many organizations have reopened for business, the economy is still far from normalized and millions remain unemployed. Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported strong monthly gains as more organizations begin to add employees. Now, some organizations are hosting virtual career fairs to help organizations engage with prospective employees. We spoke with a representative of the talent acquisition organization CareerBuilder to help candidates stand out in an employers’ market rife with competition. That said, what is a virtual career fair?
What is a virtual job fair?
Virtual career fairs allow prospective job seekers and hiring organizations to safely engage with one another amid an ongoing pandemic. Within the virtual portal, attendees can peruse a wide range of available positions quickly and conveniently. Video and chat functionalities enable further engagement and virtual interviews for some candidates.
“Now with the virtual hiring solutions, candidates can really get to that stage in the vetting process that much more quickly. Same goes for the recruiter, they can vet the candidate out that much more quickly. Both sides can determine if this is a match and we’ve heard it I hate to say it, but we’ve heard this compared to speed dating or online speed dating of the recruiting industry,” said Chris Salzman, director in healthcare at CareerBuilder.
These virtual career fairs are accessible via computer, smartphone, or tablet for connectivity at home or on the go. In many ways, these virtual platforms offer many advantages compared to the traditional job fair format. At times, the hiring process is expedited, with some employers offering candidates positions on the spot.
“If I’m a job seeker, I’ll log into the portal, I can either do it from in front of my computer or on my phone or tablet. Then I’m able to express interest in different job opportunities that the company is hiring for, and then I’m able to chat with a recruiter one-on-one about that specific job, so it really shortens the process from being interested in a job to interviewing with the recruiter,” Salzman said.
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Tidy up the resume
There are many basic tips prospective job seekers can keep in mind to increase their chances of employment heading into a virtual career fair. Whether it’s an in-person event or a virtual variant, a candidate’s resume can be a deciding factor. There are a few general concepts candidates should consider when updating their resumes.
“Don’t spend a ton of time with really driving home every little detail about where you’re working, but make sure everything is accurate. There are no grammatical errors. All the information is current. That’s what recruiters are looking for the most,” Salzman said.
A 2018 report, found that recruiters spent about seven seconds looking over a candidate’s resume. For this reasoning, it’s important to include as much information as possible with brevity in mind. In general, the resume should act as a concise description of past experience and interests related to a given position or sector.
“The content itself is the most important. The layout and all of these other aesthetic things, not so much, it’s just really getting to the point and why you are a qualified candidate for the role that you are applying to. That’s still super important to do even in a virtual career fair setting,” Salzman said.
Leverage artificial intelligence tools
In the age of digital transformation, it’s always a great idea to leverage all of the technology at your disposal, especially in a competitive employment market. Today, there are numerous AI platforms job seekers can utilize to increase their chances of landing a new position. CareerBuilder offers an AI-enhanced tool to help individuals tailor their resume for a specific position using keywords present in the job description.
Show off the soft skills
In the era of the virtual workplace, effective communication and collaboration are invaluable across industries. More employers are seeking out candidates with exceptional soft skills to enhance their existing teams. Even if your correspondence with a hiring manager is limited to text communication, try to leave a lasting impression.
Communication matters: Maximize your exchanges
While some virtual career fairs have video chat built into the platform, many rely on text communication. As a result, effective communication skills are fundamental parts of the virtual career fair format. Professional grammar is important and Salzman suggests avoiding acronyms and abbreviations in these exchanges. While text communication is certainly limited and increases the risk of indeterminacy, it is still possible to illustrate your personality in this setting.
“What makes you kind of stand out from the competition? What separates yourself from other people? Is it your past experience, skills, education, or hobbies, relevant both in office, outside of office activities? Showing those types of things through your text dialogue is still important,” Salzman said.
Do your homework
Again, some employers will be fielding interviews on the day of the virtual career fair. This means a candidate could quickly transition from the virtual career fair floor to an interview in a matter of minutes. For this reasoning, it’s always a good idea for candidates to research prospective employers in advance. This proactive strategy is a solid move to show recruiters they’ve done their homework. This will provide candidates with a clearer understanding of the company’s reputation and decide if the position would be a good fit for both parties.
Pepper-in the anecdotes
Upfront preparation will also allow candidates to feel more at ease during the interview process.
Before the event, attendees should come prepped with a few professional anecdotes that exemplify their skillset. This will help candidates stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression.
“I think having a couple of very relatable stories that you’re passionate about that exemplify the qualities and skills that are displayed on your resume will set you apart. That’s how you can use emotion and creativity to make yourself stand out amongst the rest of the pack,” Salzman said.
It’s important to not over-rehearse these key stories and instead deliver this information in a more natural, conversational way. This will give the personal touches a more genuine feel.
Practice the sales pitch
Virtual career fair attendees will have the opportunity to interact with a host of potential employers. The classic elevator pitch approach is a great way to approach a new career pathway. During event interactions, quickly highlight your valuable assets and engage your audience using your past experience as your foundation.
“Make sure that you let them know quickly why you’re qualified for this position. And then some things that you want to lead with that you would like to be able to demonstrate out of the gate. So being able to quickly ‘sell yourself’ within a 30-second elevator pitch is something that I would definitely recommend for candidates,” Salzman said.
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Seize the opportunity
Overall, a virtual career fair allows job seekers to peruse a variety of unique opportunities. Again, many employers are looking to hire on the day of the event. An attendee’s next career pathway could be one conversation away. That why it’s important to maximize the event and make as many connections as possible.
“Find as many events as you can attend that are relevant to your skillset and have as many conversations as possible. And sometimes you may even have a conversation with a different recruiter with the same company within even that same event that might be hiring for a different role,” Salzman said.
Remember traditional interview etiquette
Basic interview etiquette still applies to virtual career fairs and virtual interviews. After an underwhelming in-person interview, it’s always a good idea to send a follow-up email thanking the interviewer for their time. Even if you may not have landed this particular position, maintaining contact and a positive rapport with a company could keep your resume at the top of the stack for future positions.