Career fairs are golden opportunities for job seekers, and you may have several questions about why they are so important and how to leverage them to land your dream job. To answer your questions, in this article, we’ll talk about:
Time and again, you must have heard about the importance of networking through LinkedIn and about ways you can use the platform to land a job in your dream company. However, career fairs can be an even better opportunity to do the same and more, while also standing a chance to interview for a company on-the-spot!
An Overview of Career Fairs
Career fairs are events where employers, recruiters and universities come together to interact with potential employees. They are not only a great way to connect with your dream companies, but also a great opportunity to learn more about how to polish your resume, improve your interview skills and network with recruiters to build long-term relations.
Traditional career fairs are generally organised in large auditoriums or stadiums where several employers set up booths to interact with students/job seekers and provide more information on the roles they’re hiring for. Virtual career fairs, on the other hand, are organised on platforms like Zoom or Handshake where students or job seekers are provided with a schedule well in advance just like the traditional fairs, to book slots for any specific sessions that might be happening and interact with recruiters the way they would in a traditional career fair.
Career fairs are generally organized once in a semester at universities either at a departmental or university level. However, in general, they are not just limited to students but are also hosted by professional organizations for experienced professionals as well.
Some of the top traditional career fairs in the U.S. are the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) and New York University career fairs, and the top virtual career fairs are Women in Technology Job Fair and HackerRank Fall Career Fair. While these are just examples, there are a lot more.
Difference between Traditional and Virtual Career Fairs
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things for job seekers and students, and career fairs are no different. While a virtual career fair means you’ll be facing your laptop sitting at home, the value that both modes of fairs provide are no different.
Both of them have their own set of advantages, which we’ll discuss below:
- Ease of Access. 🔑
Virtual career fairs can be easier to access than traditional career fairs. Distance can be a concern in traditional fairs, for both employers as well as job seekers, and navigating your way through a huge auditorium can be a herculean task. In that sense, virtual career fairs are easy to access and make connecting with recruiters easier.
- Building Connections. 🤝
At traditional career fairs, job seekers have a strong advantage of being able to interact with people one-on-one and impress potential employers by their personality and confidence. It allows you to drop your resume with anyone and everyone you think might be helpful to you in future. However, online career fairs allow job seekers to narrow down the list of people they would like to spend time interacting with and enable a more focused approach towards how they want to utilize their time.
- Efficiency. 🚀
Virtual career fairs are way more efficient than traditional fairs. They save the time of waiting in lines and walking from one booth to another when attending traditional fairs.
Virtual career fairs also allow both the employers and the job seekers to identify who they want to spend time interacting with based on their online profile, making the process much more efficient for both parties.
Tips to navigate a career fair
Now that you know what potential a career fair holds, the next question to answer would be - how to leverage these career fairs to land your dream job and build meaningful connections?
A few tips that Nikita Gupta, a technical recruiter at Amazon and founder of FAANGPath, has on how to make best use of these opportunities are:
#1 Update your resume
Your resume will be the first document that will provide a snapshot of your professional journey to the recruiters. Having multiple hard copies of your updated resume for traditional career fairs or a soft copy ready to share on screen or on email for virtual fairs is a must. You don’t want the recruiters to refer to incomplete/misleading information and make a decision on whether or not you’re a good fit for the company and the role.
Some career fairs like the Grace Hopper Conference also have a resume database for attendees to upload their resume before the conference. In such a case, make sure to upload your resume to the database soon as it opens up. Doing so could also unlock doors for you to receive interview offers even before the career fair begins.
#2 Update your LinkedIn profile
Your updated LinkedIn profile is just as important as your resume. You can convey detailed information about your professional journey beyond what is already mentioned on your resume.
Pro tip: You can refer to our blog on 3 easy ways to give your LinkedIn profile a much-needed boost! and also choose FAANGPath services for a LinkedIn makeover or to optimize your profile.
#3 Shortlist companies that you want to apply to
Doing your research and making a plan before the career fair is also very important. Having access to so many employers at a fair can be overwhelming, and you might end up losing out on key opportunities. Always do your homework on which companies are going to be present at the fair, do a thorough research about them and tailor your resume accordingly. If you are attending an online job fair, don’t forget to book your slot in case of limited seats, well in advance.
#4 Apply to jobs before the career fair
Several virtual career fairs’ websites allow you to view job openings that are only visible to attendees even before the fair has begun. Applying for internships/jobs through their website can make it easier to get interview offers than otherwise.
#5 Build connections
Ensure you have an email draft ready to send with your updated resume. Every time you interact with a recruiter from a company you’re interested in, send an email right away with your resume, if requested, and tell them that you’ve sent it. This will help the recruiter go through your resume soon after they’ve spoken to you, and take the necessary next steps. Even if you can’t send the email right away, do not forget to send a detailed email after the session talking about the role you want to apply for, with your resume and LinkedIn profile.
#6 Plan your day right for traditional career fairs
Traditional fairs can often be overwhelming, with so many companies present at the same place for a limited number of days. Planning your day well in advance would be very important here. Most career fairs provide a map before the fair, spend time identifying where the booths of the companies you’re interested in are at and navigate your way through the fair accordingly.
How to stand out at Career Fairs?
Networking at career fairs is very important.
But how do you stand out from thousands of other candidates that the recruiters meet at these fairs?
An elevator pitch is the answer to that.
An elevator pitch is a short and concise 1 minute introduction of yourself talking about who you are, your skills, what you’re passionate about and what value you will bring to the company. For virtual career fairs, you will get chances to drop your introduction in chats and interact 1:1 with recruiters or hiring managers, and a good elevator pitch can open doors to further conversation. Similarly, in a traditional career fair, you have a very short amount of time to introduce yourself to a recruiter before it's another candidate's chance!
Before the career fair, spend time drafting a good elevator pitch, practicing it and making necessary changes to it. Talk about what roles you’re interested in or the specific role if you have information about it.
Besides working on your elevator pitch, it is also important to plan how you’ll dress at the career fair. Career fair days should be treated no differently than your interview days. The fact that you have access to potential employers also means you have higher chances to land an interview offer right away. You might have heard the advice to ‘dress professionally’ a lot of times, but what does it exactly mean?
For traditional career fairs - For your business attire, opt for solid colors with/and simple patterns in what you wear. Dress minimally and opt for neat accessories, if you’re planning to put on any. Avoid extravagant clothes and keep it simple. Spend time deciding an outfit for the career fair day and keep it ready in advance.
For virtual career fairs - Besides doing all you would do for your traditional career fair outfit, choose clothes with colors that won’t be much of a distraction on screen. The same applies to your background, sit at a place with a background where you can be the centre of attention or use a virtual background from your video conferencing software. Although you’ll be attending a virtual career fair from the comfort of your home, prefer to wear your complete business attire to ensure you’re confident while interacting with people.
What you wear can tell a lot about your personality. Hence, besides spending time on your resume and elevator pitch, devoting some time to planning your attire can do wonders to your confidence.
You attended the career fair, met with recruiters, built connections, and dropped your resume with the companies. But wait, that’s not the end of the line!
Just the way you can unlock a lot of opportunities for yourself before the fair, there’s just as much you can do after as well.
The art of following up with the recruiters you interacted with and the roles you applied for is often overlooked.
If you didn’t end up with an interview offer from any companies during the career fair, there are still chances for that to happen. As soon as the career fair is over, drop emails to recruiters thanking them and mentioning you had a great time interacting with them. Connect with them on LinkedIn, keep in touch and FOLLOW UP. A lot of times, this might end up with you getting an interview offer for any other openings at the company or a solid connection that you can go to whenever you find an opening of your interest in that company.
The opportunities you may come across at career fairs can be priceless. They’ll not only help you land an interview offer or build connections with recruiters from your dream companies but can also improve your interview skills, soft skills, and resume.
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