How to get noticed at virtual recruiting events and job fairs

Laveta Brigham

As many companies continue to operate remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic, recruiters are using virtual career fairs and online networking events to find new hires among recent graduates. Meeting a potential employer over video chat can seem intimidating at first, but there are several strategies you can use to stand […]

  • As many companies continue to operate remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic, recruiters are using virtual career fairs and online networking events to find new hires among recent graduates.
  • Meeting a potential employer over video chat can seem intimidating at first, but there are several strategies you can use to stand out and make a good impression.
  • Practice good Zoom etiquette by having a clean background and putting yourself on mute when you’re not speaking. Ask questions about the office culture, how different employees work together, and the company’s plans for reopening.
  • Follow up via email to reiterate your interest, and make sure your online presence (both on LinkedIn and on Instagram) is curated appropriately and represents you in a professional way.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With so many schools moving classes online, colleges have taken to virtual recruiting. Safety precautions during the pandemic means many students (and companies) won’t have access to the traditional career fair format or in-person meet-and-greets that used to be a staple of on-campus recruiting.

As a result, companies are moving many of their recruiting efforts online, planning participation in virtual career fairs, webinars, and online networking events. This format change has repercussions for students and new graduate job seekers, who must now learn to network and differentiate themselves from behind a computer screen.

“We know virtual events are going to be a part of our new normal,” said Maura Quinn, assistant vice president of campus recruiting programs for Liberty Mutual Insurance.

The good news is that it’s not all bad news. “[Virtual recruiting events] can be intimidating for someone who’s never engaged,” Quinn said, “but people can attend more sessions, they can learn more about organizations, and there are no geographic barriers or travel costs.”

Check out these strategies for acing your virtual job search.

Practice good etiquette

By now, many people are aware of the variety of Zoom missteps that are possible. You’ll make a better impression if you know what you’re doing on a video call.

That means muting your microphone when you’re not speaking (in a group situation), being aware of your surroundings, presenting a tidy background, and dressing professionally. And clear your space of distractions. “Make sure your cell phone isn’t by your side and your eyes aren’t glancing over to something else,” Quinn said.

Also, if it’s possible that you’ll be interrupted during the call by pets and/or kids, just give your hosts the heads up. “We understand that that’s the new normal for people,” Quinn said, “and it’s OK.”

Get a handle on the technology

If you’ve got plans to participate in a virtual interview or career fair experience, check out the tech requirements in advance. The last thing you want is to be five minutes late to your appointment because an app took longer than expected to install.

It’s also helpful to practice your digital presence. “It might seem silly, but record yourself on video to see how you show up,” said Kurt Heissenbuttel, head of university talent, rotation programs, and diversity recruitment at Fidelity Investments. “Most employers, Fidelity included, are using video to conduct interviews, and it is important that you are comfortable with the medium before your first interview.”

Do your research

It’s even more important that you’ve done some legwork on the companies you’re meeting with, now that you can’t dazzle them with your in-person small talk. If you can demonstrate that you’ve studied the company and understand what’s important to them, you’ll make a big impression.

“Candidates need to spend time to understand the culture of their target organization, what their value systems are, and what are the things that make them tick,” said Dave Barnett, chief human resources officer for DeVry University. “If someone says to me, ‘I was reading about DeVry’s culture of care, and that aligns so much to what matters to me most,’ that’s going to get my attention.”

Identify yourself

If you’re attending group video events, you’re literally just a face in the screen crowd. If it’s a smaller event and you can do some talking, help recruiters remember you.

“Make sure, when you raise your hand or ask a question, that you’re sharing your name, your school, your year in school, and what you’re looking for, so you stick out,” Quinn said.

Perfect your online follow-up

After virtual recruiting events, it’s even more crucial that you connect with contacts to thank them for their time and to reiterate your interest in the company and role that was discussed, if that’s relevant.

“Your follow-up game has to be really strong,” Quinn said. “It’s a way to stand out. Follow up with the recruiter, send an email, or a personalized note on social media. It creates more of that relationship recruiting feel even though you’re in a virtual environment.”

As such, make sure your social media profiles — professional and otherwise — are up to date. Now that it’s harder to meet people in person, it’s even more essential that your online presence is curated. “A lot of new graduates feel like they can share and be themselves on social media, but you’ve got to make sure that your content, even in protected mode, represents you in a way that is becoming,” said Luke Stratmann, division director at Robert Half.

Adjust your question line-up

If you’re still interviewing the way you interviewed pre-pandemic, you may want to tweak your patter. There are some questions you should be asking that you probably needn’t have considered before coronavirus. For instance, how is the company handling remote versus in-person work requirements? 

“Ask questions about not only what the present is like, but also what the future looks like,” Stratmann said. “While some companies never intend to have a mandatory physical presence again, other companies are asking for a physical presence five days a week. And what is your level of comfort with that?”

You may also want to ask questions about the steps the company is taking to keep employees safe and comfortable.

Think about what you’re missing in a virtual interview

Talk to recruiters and interviewers about the things you’d otherwise implicitly notice if you were to attend an in-person meet-and-greet or interview roundtable. Ask about their culture, the feel of the office, how people work together. How do they build teams, collaborate across departments, and how has that evolved in the current situation?

“This gives the company an opportunity to talk about what they are doing day to day, but it’s open enough that it could lead to a conversation about community engagement — picnics and happy hours and whatever that may be,” Stratmann said. “I think that type of question is open enough that it really allows a company to take a couple of different paths.”

Give some consideration to what you’d be seeing with your eyes if you were walking into an office and looking around. “How would you gather that information through verbal inquiry?” Stratmann said. “You’ve got to be a little more thoughtful about those types of questions.”

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