You probably remember your first job fair in high school or college. Booth after booth of companies enticing new hires with awesome perks, great hours, or a fun work atmosphere. For many of us, this was the first step toward a career or at least a way to make a few bucks during the summer.
Fast forward to today, and with a few years (or more) of experience under your belt, you are probably not looking at job fairs as a forum to increase your earnings or improve your career prospects. This is where virtual job fairs come into play. These modernized versions of traditional job fairs offer an interactive platform that pairs you with specific companies and jobs in a targeted and efficient manner. If you feel stuck in your position, a virtual job fair might be the answer to finding new opportunities and fostering renewed motivation.
What Are Virtual Job Fairs?
Since virtual job fairs are somewhat in their infancy, there’s some variance to each one you find. Generally speaking, virtual job fairs are an online event where employers and job seekers can interact via video conferencing, chat rooms, and other technology-mediated communication formats.
As a job seeker, you can upload your resume for employers to browse, or you can take a gander at each company’s “booth” to see if you’d be a good fit. Some virtual job fairs last only a few hours, while others can last up to two weeks. Depending on the company or agency sponsoring the event, virtual job fairs can cover a specific industry or a wide array of professions. Employers often pay a fee to participate in a job fair, but it’s always free for job hunters. If you stumble upon a virtual job fair with a fee, it’s most likely a scam.
What Do the “Booths” Look Like?
Companies that find compatible employees at a virtual job fair do so because they create a flashy, attention-grabbing “booth,” just like a real-world career fair. The more elaborate, tasteful, and approachable the “booth” seems, the more likely employers are to narrow in on the best candidates.
That’s not to say you should pass over more simple online “booths,” but you may find that higher quality ones have their affairs in order and know just what they’re looking for. But you also don’t want to be inundated with copious amounts of information and graphics either. Use your gut instinct to discover which employers are legit and pique your interest.
When you open a “booth” on your laptop, you may find pictures, videos, and graphics that explain what the company does or why their culture is a cut above the rest. In addition, these companies list resources, a company history, personality quizzes, work-related games, or a combination thereof. Other employers may just have an easier setup with links to their jobs page or a list of positions with descriptions, roles, and responsibilities.
Most virtual job fairs require you to register. At this point, you’ll likely have to upload a resumé and answer a few questions about your job interests. This helps to involve you in the process while finding potential matches from the pool of employers.
How to Choose the Right Virtual Job Fair for Your Profession
With hundreds of virtual job fairs available, narrowing down your search to the right profession is essential. Not only will you increase your job prospects, but you’ll also save time. A good place to start is the United States’ Job and Career Fair Calendar. This resource provides in-depth information to virtual job fairs and links to each fair’s website.
If you can’t find what you’re searching for on that website, you have plenty of other avenues to pursue. Like real-world job fairs, many virtual job fairs are held by the same types of companies and organizations. Check out online job boards, universities, employment associations, and alumni associations for online job fairs. Remember that some job fairs will host a variety of industries while others focus on a single industry, such as IT, finance, marketing, advertising, and graphic design just to name a few.
Once you’ve identified a promising job fair, it’s time to do your homework. Research how long the virtual job fair has been around, who sponsors it, the companies in attendance, and any reviews available. This will enable you to avoid ones that don’t fit your needs.
The Benefits of Virtual Job Fairs
While all job fairs have their pros, virtual job fairs have a number of benefits you won’t find in the traditional variety.
One of the most intriguing upsides to a virtual job fair is flexibility. Real-world job fairs are often held during hours when you can’t get away from the office without taking personal time or a vacation day. With a virtual job fair, you can log on when you get the opportunity and set up an online meeting with an employer when it suits you.
Cost and Time Savings
When you attend a traditional job fair, you have to travel to the event and peruse the booths until you find a company that intrigues you. While a face-to-face meeting has its advantages, the downside is that you might not find any potential employer that suits you. After draining the gas tank, taking hours out of your day, and accounting for lost wages, it hardly seems worth the effort.
A virtual job fair bypasses these drawbacks, allowing you to sift through companies in the comfort of your own home. Plus, you won’t have to venture outside or waste too much time on interviews if you can’t locate that perfect fit.
Targeted Job Searching
Because your resumé is already on file along with your interests and experience, virtual job fairs save time. Companies with the need for your specific skill set can home in on your experience and put you on their shortlist. You won’t have to pour over jobs you don’t want, and employers won’t waste your time. It’s a give-and-take process that makes the job-hunting process simpler and quicker for both sides.
Overcome Networking Shortfalls
If you work remotely, you might not have the “in” you need to land a job at a particular company. Although a virtual job fair isn’t a social networking event, it can introduce you to recruiters and hiring managers. Even if you don’t get the job, you can make a favorable impression, and hopefully there will be other opportunities in the future.
Making the Most of Virtual Job Fairs
You’re registered for a virtual job fair and are ready to find new employment opportunities. Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Remember that hundreds of qualified candidates are vying for the same job. Therefore, it’s important to do your research and be prepared.
Update and Review Your Resumé
If it has been a while since you’ve updated your resumé, now is the time to review it and make changes. Double check that your contact information (phone, email, and address) is correct, and that the document is free of spelling and grammatical errors.
If you need more extensive changes and additions, take advantage of a professional resumé writing service. It is well worth the money to have your resume optimized for applicant tracking software (ATS) and to meet the expectations of today’s recruiters.
Be Mindful of Your Social Media Profiles
Many employers search social media to get an idea of your character. For this reason, it’s important to scrub any questionable material out of your Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts. You should also set appropriate privacy levels for each social media platform. This will keep non-friends and non-followers out of your personal affairs.
Clean Your House
Few things can foil an online meeting or job interview more than a distracting or messy background. Before you log into the virtual job fair, do some housekeeping. Water the plants, clear the clutter, paint the walls, or whatever you need to do to make your home look tip-top. You may not care, but your interviewer will see it as a reflection of you.
Remote workers have been known to hang out in their pajamas until noon. That’s fine once you get the job (if it’s remote that is). But until you’ve inked a job contract, treat the virtual job fair like an in-person interview. Comb your hair, brush your teeth, and do anything else that will make you feel confident for a face-to-face conversation. Complete your look with a nice suit or professional outfit (at least from the waist up), and you’ll exude self-assurance.
Do Your Research
Just like any other job interview, it’s important to do your research on potential employers for many reasons:
- Determine if they’re a good fit for the position you want.
- Learn the roles, duties, and responsibilities of the job.
- Identify job growth opportunities beyond your intended position.
- Wow your interviewer or recruiter with your knowledge of the company.
- Avoid unsavory and disreputable companies.
- Make a positive and lasting impression.
Just 15 to 30 minutes of research time can go a long way toward impressing the people who can hire you. Knowing what to research can also save you a ton of time. Virtual Vocations makes researching employers easy. Visit our Telecommute Companies Database to explore more than 15,000 profiles of companies known for hiring remote workers.
Go Beyond the “Booth”
Stopping by a “booth” will get your name in front of companies, but don’t stop your job search there. Virtual job fairs usually offer video conferences and chatrooms to attendees. These options afford an opportunity to ask follow-up questions, learn about the industry or company, and possibly even meet with hiring managers or colleagues. It can also show initiative on your part.
Maintain Realistic Expectations
Think about how many people attend a job fair and the number of positions available. In a purely mathematical sense, the odds of being offered a job on the spot are slim. This shouldn’t discourage you from attending, but it should also keep you realistic and level-headed. At the very least, you’re earning experience and practice that you can use for a lifetime.
Is a virtual job fair right for you? The only way to know with certainty is to try one or two out for yourself. With a bit of preparation and a positive attitude, you just might find a position that opens doors and propels your career to the next level.
Are you interested in attending virtual job fairs? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us about the telecommute job you want. We’d love to hear from you and help you in your remote job search!
Photo Credit: iStock.com/AntonioGuillem
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