Careers advice and planning

How to make the most of virtual careers fairs

21 Jun 2023, 15:40

Discover how to make the most of online careers fairs with our top tips for before, during and after an event so that you come away feeling clued-up on your graduate job prospects.

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What does a virtual careers fair look like? | Spend time creating a profile | Have a plan for the event | Draft an elevator pitch | Get in the right mindset | Test your tech | Communicate in the right way | Reflect on the event | Take on board the advice you received | Other types of virtual careers events

Careers fairs are one of the biggest types of event held by universities each year, with a number of employers and often hundreds of students in attendance.

Some universities choose to hold these events online. Virtual careers fairs serve the same purpose as on-campus fairs, allowing you to network with different employers at one event.

What does a virtual graduate job fair look like?

The exact layout and features of a virtual careers fair will depend on the platform the organiser is using, but you’ll often find:

  • a home page with details of the fair
  • a ‘main hall’ where you can access all of the exhibitor ‘stands’
  • an ‘information desk’ manned by the fair organiser, eg for help with tech issues
  • a CV clinic
  • live sessions eg webinars and panel Q&As.

A typical employer stand might include:

  • a bio about the employer and its student and graduate programmes
  • answers to FAQs
  • videos for you to watch, eg of current graduates talking about their experiences
  • links to the organisation's careers websites and social media channels
  • job and placement vacancies.

You can then interact with employers on a one-to-one basis via a chat box (where you can instigate a conversation and only you and the employer can see your messages). There is usually also the option to request or register your interest in a video or audio call with the employer – but it is ultimately up to them whether to accept and call you.

You can also interact with employers at any of the live sessions they’re participating in, such as a webinar. Any questions you ask or comments you post in the chat during these sessions can be seen/heard by the other attendees.

Tips to prepare for a virtual careers fair

Use the following advice points to get yourself ready before the day of the event.

Spend time creating your event profile

Once you’ve registered to attend an online careers fair, save time on the day by filling in your profile in advance. This will likely cover biographical details, education, work experience, hobbies and languages – much like the contents of your CV, which you may be able to upload as well as photos, videos and links if appropriate.

Treat this profile as you would a job application. Fill out all of the fields you can and don’t skimp on details. The information you include will be pulled from your profile if you apply for a job via the careers fair. It will also be visible to employers during the event so they can filter by their requirements and determine who they actively reach out to and who they prioritise when it comes to accepting students’ requests for one-to-one calls. You want to put yourself at the top of recruiters’ lists and a complete, considered profile gives you the best chance.

Create a plan of action for the day

You can’t just wander casually around a virtual careers fair and approach the stands that catch your eye or look less busy. You’ll need to be more direct and have a plan of action, but still be open-minded if you encounter an employer you haven’t heard of before... you never know!

  • Once you’ve registered to attend, add the event to your calendar and set a reminder so you don’t forget. Nearer the time, double check when the event is starting and ending.
  • Look at which employers are attending and decide which stands you want to take a closer look at, whom you’d like to have a conversation with and what questions you’d like to ask.
  • When you log on to the fair, don’t rush straight to an employer’s booth. Take five minutes or so to familiarise yourself with the platform the fair is being hosted on, including the layout and the navigation.
  • Make the most of all of the fair. You’ll learn a lot from features such as CV clinics and webinars. Find out the times of any live sessions and plan your schedule for the day. If you can’t make it to a talk, ask at the information desk if it will be recorded.

Draft your elevator pitch to employers

A common piece of advice for attending networking events is to know your elevator pitch: how you’ll introduce yourself to an employer when you approach them. This still applies to virtual events. You’ll just type it instead of saying it. You don’t even have to worry about fluffing your lines as you can have it drafted in a word document ready to copy and paste.

Think short and snappy. A few sentences summing up who you are, your academic and work background and why you want to talk to them. For example:

‘Hello, I’m a third-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Westeros and I’ve recently completed an industrial placement year at a small shipbuilding company in King’s Landing. I’m now looking for a graduate job in the marine industry – could you tell me more about your scheme and the training your graduates receive? I’m available before 3.00 pm if you would like to have a call. Thank you, Yara Greyjoy.’

Tips for the day of the online fair

These next tips will help you add the finishing touches to your pre-fair preparation and to get the most out of the day.

Get in the right mindset for a careers fair

It’s easy to see virtual events as a lazy alternative to face-to-face events – you don’t even have to leave your bedroom if you don’t want to. But you shouldn’t snooze on such a valuable opportunity.

  • Give the fair your undivided attention – if you’re half-heartedly browsing while also juggling TikTok, Netflix and university work, you won’t achieve much.
  • You may work well from your bed or your sofa, but if your environment affects your mood and productivity, consider sitting at your desk to get in the right frame of mind.
  • Set yourself up for the day – make yourself a cup of tea, fill up your water bottle, print off your CV to refer to and have a notepad and pen to hand to take notes.
  • Make sure your background is tidy in case an employer calls you. No dirty laundry, leftover pizza or beer cans in sight.
  • There’s no need for office-appropriate attire and you can ditch the smart shoes in favour of slippers but re-think the pyjamas. Employers won’t love your dressing gown as much as you do.

Test your tech before the fair

Don’t leave it until the last minute to check that your tech is in working order. Consider the following:

  • Is your device fully charged?
  • Is your internet connection okay?
  • Is your usual browser compatible with the platform? (You may want to check this before the day of the event in case you need to download and familiarise yourself with a different browser.)
  • Can you log on?
  • Are your webcam and microphone working ready for a call with an employer?

You can check most of these before the event starts and, if you spot any issues, you’ll be able to solve them or escalate them to the event organiser early on – rather than have them eat into your valuable time at the event.

Tech troubles are universal. Be patient if a webinar is delayed, an employer is experiencing issues or the organiser has encountered a wider problem on the platform. After all, it’s probably not the fault of the representative you’re talking to and ‘easily irritable’ or ‘easily flustered’ aren’t sought-after qualities in a future employee.

Maintain a high standard of written communication

You’ll mostly rely on your written, rather than verbal, communication during a virtual careers fair. First impressions count so make sure your messages to exhibitors are professional.

  • Use full, grammatically correct sentences.
  • Take your time. There’s no need to rush to reply and make mistakes.
  • Don’t use textspeak, casual slang, memes or gifs.
  • Check that what you’ve written is clear, makes sense and doesn’t waffle. Equally, be careful not to sound too blunt or demanding.
  • Read over your messages for typos before pressing 'send'.
  • Be courteous and, once you’ve finished talking, thank them for their time and advice.

If it feels appropriate, you could also ask a recruiter for their email address or if they’d be happy to connect on LinkedIn so that you can follow up with them after the event.

Tips for after the fair

Follow our final tips to round off a virtual careers fair successfully after the event.

Reflect on the event

Taking a moment to reflect on how the day went can help consolidate what you learned and to prepare for the next online fair. Think about the conversations you had with employers and look back through your notes. Did you find out the information that you wanted to know?

If so, then you have a good idea of how you can approach recruiters at the next online careers fair. If not, then you’ll know to reconsider or hone your questions.

Perhaps your questions were a little too broad and so next time you should focus more on a specific role. Or perhaps you focused a little too much on a single role, in which case, you could ask employers a question or two to find out about any wider job opportunities available to graduates with your degree background.

Heed the advice that you received

You should also act on any advice you received at the fair from individual employers or through the careers talks. For example, you could update your CV and LinkedIn profile based on information you gleaned from recruiters.

Other types of virtual careers events

When finding out if your university careers fairs are being held virtually, it's a good idea to ask also about what other types of online careers events your university careers service is arranging this year – such as skills workshops and employer presentations.

There will also be virtual networking opportunities outside of your university – such as those run by targetjobs events and by professional bodies specifically for their field, such as finance, journalism, construction, health or management.

Head to the targetjobs events page to see the full line-up of targetjobs events for this academic year, including careers fairs, Undergraduate of the Year , Future Female Engineers, Aspire Law and IT's not just for the boys!

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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