By Ryan Harding
Originally posted to Career Services Blog – Jan. 24, 2011
This past summer American Public University and American Military University held their first ever Virtual Career Fair through a virtual career management tool called NACElink. The Fair acted as a bridge connecting job-seeking students with employers explicitly interested in hiring AMU and APU students and alumni. Leading up to the career fair I encountered a number of students who were somewhat, quite rightly, befuddled by the prospect of a virtual career fair. In the same way that an interview conducted via Skype or some other digital platform is similar to the types of questions asked in an in-person interview, a virtual career fair parodies a traditional career fair. However, by virtue of the fact that it is being conducted online, a virtual career fair comes with its own unique set of rules and challenges. APUS is planning to hold another Virtual Career Fair this February, and in light of this, I thought it might be useful to share a few helpful tips to participating in a virtual career fair.
- Do your research. Just as you would research employersâ€”and the types of jobs they offerâ€”before going to a traditional career fair, research whatever employers you may be interested in that are â€œattendingâ€ a virtual career fair. Typically, employers will have a job management site through which you can find information about current job vacancies. With regard to APUS-sponsored virtual career events, most employers participating will post those jobs for which they are recruiting beforehand in NACElink, thereby providing students with ample time to explore listings and pinpoint their interests. In addition to this, remember that we will provide a list of employers participating in chat sessions and information about when those employers will be available online to chat prior to the start of the fair.
- Donâ€™t sell yourself short. What would you think of an infomercial in which the person pitching the product opened by stating what their product cannot do? Believe it or not, I have been to career fairs where I have heard job seekers introduce themselves to recruiters by listing their professional shortfalls or providing information about their lack of professional experience. Like the person pitching the infomercial, you must lead by detailing your best attributes and demonstrate how your past professional experience (whatever that may be) meets their current hiring needs. At the same time, however, engaging a recruiter about a job for which you clearly lack the requisite qualifications could waste both yours and the recruiterâ€™s timeâ€”be sure to research, and make a list of positions for which you qualify and employers you wish to target.
- It is not enough to simply log-on and ask a recruiter one or two questions. As I recently explained to someone who commented on this blog, a first introduction (whether it be through a cover letter or chat session) might be seen as a â€œsales pitch.â€ Like an infomercial, you have a short window of time to demonstrate, in a concrete quantifiable way, the various benefits of your product (in this case, yourself). Much in the same way that infomercials are able to grab the attention of fickle TV audiences by continually piquing their interest, you must grab the attention of a recruiter and not let go. You must show how you intend to meet the needs of a given market, in no uncertain terms. The object, with regard to a virtual career fair, is to engage a recruiter in a meaningful discussion of a position and your relevant qualifications. Keep in mind, however, that this is not a chat session with your friendsâ€”be cognizant of typos, grammar and use full sentences, and omit using text-speak, such as â€œLOL,â€ â€œIDK,â€ and â€œBRB.â€
- Go somewhere with a reliable Internet connection. Regardless of whether you are participating in a virtual career fair or an interview via Skype, always ensure that you signed onto a reliable network with a steadfast Internet connection. Donâ€™t engage a recruiter only to have your fruitful discussion cut short by a faulty Internet connectionâ€”that break in communication could provide a recruiter an opportunity to change gears, and focus on another candidate.
- Be prepared for an on-the-spot virtual interview. Although it does not always happen, it is possible that a recruiter will want to partake in an extensive chat of your job history and qualifications; thus, it is important that you prepare for such an eventuality. Have your resume out in front of you for quick reference and thoroughly research the companies you wish to target before the virtual career fair begins.
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