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How to get a job without leaving the couch: virtual career fairs

Career fairs can be pretty daunting. To be honest, normally I find an excuse not to go. The awful winter weather is just one more excuse to skip most career fairs. But there’s one fair you can’t use the inclement weather as an excuse not to attend: CDPI Virtual Career Fair on February 4.

This career fair is unlike most career fairs you’ve attended or imagined. It’s done completely online and allows you to stay in the comfort and safety of your warm apartment but still network with potential employers and possibly get a job!

Sounds exciting, I know, but maybe also a little strange. Here’s how it works: job seekers and employers meet online through a private virtual meeting or online chat. Often, companies can use these virtual career fairs as a prescreening to an interview. Candidates can interact with employers by exchanging information in real-time chat windows. Companies can set up virtual booths so candidates can find them, can create online marketing brochures, and can accept applications online.

When “attending” a virtual career fair, there are some things you may have to think about differently. Here are some tips that can help you get the most out of your experience:

Be aware that communicating through instant messaging can take away a lot of the benefit of verbal charisma. You may want to re-read anything you type before hitting enter, to ensure that it sounds exactly how you would like it to sound. Spend extra time on your replies. Use spell check!

Make lists of the companies you want to talk to and do research on them. You might think that you don’t have to really do research before attending the fair, but googling the company in another window probably won’t be quick enough to warrant an acceptable response time. If it helps, you can have typed notes on the companies open in a word document or in front of you, but don’t rely on being able to quickly excavate info from an employer’s website.

Prepare answers to generic questions ahead of time. Because this career fair is virtual, nothing is keeping you from thinking about and typing up answers to common questions prior to the even. If you choose to do this, you need to make sure to proof and check for spelling and grammar and be prepared to tailor the responses to the specific company. Also, make sure not to just copy and paste a huge paragraph and instantly send… they will either think you have phenomenal typing skills or they’ll get suspicious that you aren’t tailoring or being real with them.

Be formal. This conversation may be online, but that does not mean that it’s not as laid back as Twitter or Facebook. No texting shortcuts allowed. It’s a professional event, so please be professional.

Request a follow-up interview. During the fair, the companies may have a limited amount of time they can talk to you, so if you’re really interested in a company use the time you have to set up more time to follow-up.

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