By Rachel Dhaliwal
Contributor, Career Services
One format of career fairs has been gaining in popularity throughout recent years: the Virtual Career Fair (VCF). If you are unfamiliar with it, a VCF is a career fair held online, where participants have the advantage of chatting one-on-one with employers, all from the comfort of their own homes. The Department of Career Services is hosting the upcoming Arts and Sciences VCF, and if you have experience or education in philosophy, space studies, engineering, history, social sciences, or other arts and sciences, this is the VCF for you! If you haven’t yet begun preparing for it, the time is now. Here are two key elements to having a successful career fair experience.
The key to success in any venture is research, but especially more so when preparing for a career fair. Take a look at the list of employers who are expected to be in attendance; go to their websites to research the company and find out which positions they currently have open. You can usually find this information on the employer’s “Careers/Jobs” page, but as an AMU or APU student or alum, you also have the added benefit of checking the employer’s entry in CareerLink where they may post jobs that aren’t listed on their website.
Once you find a job that you are interested in, tailor your resume to demonstrate how you are qualified to fulfill that role. (You should never use the same resume for two different jobs, as you will miss out on opportunities to strengthen your candidacy for the job at hand.) If there are several jobs you are interested in, beginning your preparations early will afford you the opportunity to tailor resumes for each position.
Doing your research now will also help you when approaching and interacting with the recruiter. We are often asked, “What should I say?” Your introduction should be professional, cordial and informative – tell them who you are and what you are interested in to get the conversation rolling. Ask open-ended questions, ones that can’t be answered with a simple “yes/no”, and that cannot be answered by a simple Internet search. Asking “What kinds of positions are available?” tells the recruiter that you didn’t prepare and worse, you don’t respect their time. Being knowledgeable about the company and the job vacancy ahead of time will allow you to prepare a professional introduction and to have quality questions on hand to maximize your interaction with, and your impression on, the recruiters.
As with any big event, it’s important to know what to expect. Manage your expectations better by understanding what a career fair is, and what it is not. Most career fairs are not an on-the-spot hiring event. (Imagine trying to interview someone in the middle of a gymnasium full of people. It’s pretty much the same thing online.) Career fairs are usually events which provide you exposure to knowledge, recruiters, and companies to expand your professional network and hopefully, to make a stellar first impression that may help you get your foot in the door.
Don’t be disappointed if a recruiter directs you to the company website to apply. Thank him/her for their time and be sure to retain their contact info. Follow up with them within the next few days to thank them again and remind them of whom you are. If you have since applied to their company, tell them so and ask what you should expect next. With any luck, they will put in a good word for you with the hiring manager. Also, make and maintain a connection on LinkedIn, because you never know where your next lead may come from!
With the proper research and expectations, every career fair can be a successful one! Sign up through your CareerLink account for the VCF as well as for one of our three Prep-Clinics. For resume reviews, help with approaching employers, and other career advice, please contact the Department of Career Services. We hope to see you at our Arts and Sciences VCF on June 28th. Good luck!