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What Graduate Students Should Know: How to Prepare for a Virtual Career Fair

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What is a Virtual Career Fair?

A virtual career fair uses virtual platforms to give graduate students an opportunity to meet with companies remotely. How the remote connection occurs between graduate students and the company varies, and might include: panel discussions, panel Q and, and group meetings. There might be multiple recruiters or other employees from the same company.

Unlike the in-person career fair, at a virtual career fair you need to register for the event. After you sign up, you need to identify (EARLY) which companies you want to meet. Virtual career fairs require planning ahead, setting up appointments early, as these slots fill up quickly.

Depending on the platform used for the virtual career fair, companies‘ recruiters and other employees might communicate with graduate students via chat rooms, texting, email-style messaging, audio and video conferencing, or presentations.

COVID-19 and sheltering at home has made many people more comfortable with technology and engaging virtually. Therefore, it is not surprising that today, virtual career fairs have become quite popular for graduate students. Also, it allows graduate students to attend a virtual fair from the comfort of their home, rather than spending money on travel and lodging. It is a convenient way to connect with a broad range of employers.

It is also a great way to network with employers for potential internships.

Virtual Interview Questions You Might Ask the Employer

What do you like best about working at (company)?

What was most surprising when you started working at (company)

I read (on Google, LinkedIn, an article) that (??). Can you tell me more about it?

What is the tenure of people in your company?

Does your company have plans to expand?

Do you have any job openings in (your major)?

Do you expect a job opening to come up in the (your major) area?

Is it possible to move to different office locations of your company?

What opportunities does your company provide for someone with my education?

How do you advance in your company?

Do you offer internships for graduate students?

Can you tell me what your hiring process entails?

Things to Remember When You Attend a Virtual Career Fair

  • Remember to register for the virtual career fair. Remember that different virtual career fairs might use various platforms, such as ZoomHandshakeCareerEcoRemo, or Symplicity.
  • Research the companies that will attend, so that you can determine what employers you want to connect with during the virtual fair.
  • You can check each of the companies out on LinkedIn and Google, so that you can determine which ones you are most interested in.
    • How big is the organization?
    • What is the location of the organization?
    • Does the organization have one or more offices locally, across the US, or internationally?
    • How is the organization structured?
    • What departments do they have?
    • Typical job titles and roles; professional and educational background of people in those roles
    • Recruitment practices
    • Workplace culture
    • What makes this organization unique?
  • Make sure, after you have identified your top companies, that you reserve time with them during the virtual career fair.
  • During your meetings with these companies, remember that sharing some knowledge about what you learned from researching the company will make you look good. Also make sure you can talk about how your skills are a fit for that company.
  • Update your resume and LinkedIn profile (do a spell check!) You might have one vita per company, as you made it company specific. You can seek out help from the Career Counseling and Support Services Center on campus.
  • Practice how you want to introduce yourself. What will be important for you to communicate to the recruiter? How is your education and/or work experience a good fit for this company/job opening?
  • Make sure that your video background is appropriate. A white or neutral wall color will work well.
  • Make sure that you have a quiet space during the virtual affair, as this might be your first introduction to the company - perhaps a future employer.
  • Turn off your phone.
  • Dress professionally/dress for success-no different than if you would attend an in-person career fair. Dressing in professional business attire will make you look professional when you speak to the different employers, but also will help you behave professionally.
  •  Remember to log in early and to test your equipment (perhaps have a test run with a friend or roommate).
  • Make sure you have all your notes next to you and you have some questions for each recruiter (this will let them know that you are well prepared).
  • Things to remember during the meeting with the employer:
    • look into the camera, not the screen, when you meet with the recruiter or other organizational employee
    • be gracious if the recruiter or employee is late to the one-on-one meeting
    • be engaging
    • be confident
    • use good communication skills
    • introduce yourself (practice what you want to say - prepare an elevator speech)
    • take notes
    • remember that they (recruiters) interview you and you interview them (the company)
    • ask questions that are organization-specific
    • ask what contact info to use to stay connected with the company
    • thank the recruiter and/or other employees for the opportunity to connect and learn more
  • Remember that when you attend a virtual career fair, you will do much of your communication through written communication, through the chat function of the platform. Important: do not use text lingo, or slang. Your grammar is important and remember to write professionally (this is a professional venue).
  • Remember to send thank you notes to each recruiter and employee you met. Thank them for their time and the info they provided and communicate your continuing interest in the company.
  • Apply for the positions you made a commitment to (this is important).
  • Stay connected with the recruiter or other employee. It is fine to periodically (every 4-6 months) check in with them and see if there are job opportunities.

Attending a virtual career fair might be new to you, but it is a great way to connect to many companies. After each virtual affair, reflect on your experience, what went well. Are there areas you might want to focus on in preparation for the next virtual career fair?