After two years of hosting careers fairs mostly online, colleges and employers are dipping their toes back into the water—bringing the recruiting events back live and in person. We’ve spent so much time on virtual platforms! Both hiring managers and college students are welcoming the opportunity to meet one another face-to-face.
The red-hot job market—especially for college grads with degrees in computer science or a STEM subject—begs the question: Do we really need live in person or, even, virtual career fairs? Career fairs, whether hosted by a college or an employer, are excellent opportunities not only for graduating seniors who have yet to accept a job offer but also for undergraduates to learn about companies that are hiring, and to begin networking.
“The point of going isn’t just to find a job today, it’s to meet potential employers, build relationships, network and learn who is hiring,” says Amie Ryno, Manager of the Center for Professional Development in the Rohrer College of Business at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J. “The employers are not just looking to hire for full-time jobs but also for internships. It’s a great opportunity for students to learn about companies they may want to work for.”
Lolisa Torbert, Assistant Director of Career Events at the University of Miami’s Toppel Career Center agrees. “It’s never too early to attend a career fair. Many employers are not just looking for seniors or someone who’s ready to graduate, they may be looking for a sophomore or junior to grant an internship. It’s free to students, so this is a great resource to take advantage of and to get practice meeting employers.” Torbert adds that to attend a career fair at the University of Miami, students need to register via Handshake before each fair.
As do students at many colleges and universities. A student-centered online jobs board, Handshake connects students and alumni with organizations looking for interns and new talent to join their teams. More than 18 million students and recent graduates and more than 550,000 employers—including Amazon, Tesla and Bank of America—and 1,200 universities currently use the platform. Whether you attend a career fair virtually or in person, you will want to make the most of your experience. To help, our recruiting team has pulled together these tips:
First impressions are made in seconds. Just as with interviews, when attending a career fair, dress in professional attire. For men, that’s a suit or nice dress shirt, tie and clean pants. For women, a suit or dress pants or skirt and professional-looking top. Here, the casual look is out so no jeans, sweatshirts, T-shirts or anything too tight or revealing.
Employers will ask about your background. Your resume is a crucial part of that conversation! Make sure it is accurate and professional. If you do not have work experience or internships, include school projects or coding competitions and hackathons on your resume. Be ready to discuss these projects—employers want to see your creativity. And communicate your passion!
Have a Strategy
Almost every school will put out a list of employers that will attend and the positions the companies are recruiting for prior to the career fair. Same with the larger fairs; they publish lists of companies attending, and often, roles most in demand. Take time to research these companies, so you can be on point when you meet with recruiters. Come with questions and examples of why you would be a good fit.
Do Your Homework
Be thoughtful in your preparation for a career fair. If there are specific companies that interest you, take the time to research and learn more about the company and have questions prepared. Be certain that your questions are not “generic ones” and cannot be answered if you went to the website. This would be an example of an impression that you don’t want to leave!
Sign Up for On-Campus Interviews
Many organizations will host next-day interviews or even same-day interviews. If you are really interested in the company, ask the recruiter if they are hosting either. It shows your immediate interest and puts you to the front of the line.
Succeeding at a Virtual Fair
Most of these points (researching the companies, dressing professionally) hold true for getting the most out of a virtual career fair. In addition, be sure to:
Check Your Tech
There’s nothing worse than signing into a virtual job fair and your Wi-Fi gets wonky. Make sure to test your settings prior to attending a virtual job fair so that you can let your skills and experience shine—and not your lack of a solid Internet connection.
Participate From Your Home Office
Although you can, in theory, attend a virtual job fair from anywhere, that doesn’t mean you should. Ideally, log on to a virtual job fair from your home office, where you’ll be able to stage your background so it looks professional. And don’t be tempted to participate from your cellphone, it doesn’t always have the same quality (and connection) as your home computer.
Look Into the Camera
Be sure to look at the camera rather than the person interviewing you, and exhibit confidence by keeping your legs aligned with your shoulders and your feet approximately four to six inches apart.
And always remember to send a thank you note to the people you meet at a career fair. Harvard University advises its arts and sciences students: Be sure to include your resume; use the opportunity to reiterate how your background and skills match their needs. And maintain contact. “It shows that you are genuinely interested in their work and actually paid attention.”