I know what you are thinking. It's the first post of the week and I am already making bold claims. I promise this is not just a catchy slogan and/or clickbait. There truly are big advantages for students at virtual career fairs and here is why.
PSA: This one is probably my longest post, but I pinky-promise that it is worth reading.
First, let's remember all remember what in-person career fairs were like. Hundreds of Spartans would pile into the EB or Breslin or Munn and stand shoulder to shoulder waiting in a line to speak with a recruiter that we would get to talk to for maybe five minutes, if we were lucky. In that five minutes, there were so many angles that could be worked. We could use that time talking about ourselves and explaining our experiences. We could ask employers about how their programs were structured and what opportunities they currently had available. All while employers were trying to skim the resume that we had handed them in an attempt to determine which pile they were gonna put your resume in; follow-up or recycle. Depending on the employer, a particular representative/recruiter could see anywhere form 1-150 students within the career fair window. It was difficult for any student to meet a recruiter for the first time and make a strong impression.
Now that we have dusted off all of those old memories, we can compare them to the virtual career fair. For starters, you are GUARENTEED 10 minutes with a recruiter at a virtual career fair in a 1-1 meeting. No more no less. Right off the bat you are already doing 5 minutes better than you would have if you were lucky at an in person career fair. In addition, each of the interactions that you have with employers are appointment based. You are able to know exactly what company you will be talking to, exactly what time you will be talking to them at, AND you usually know the the name of the representative that you will be speaking with. This give you SUCH AN ENORMOUS ADVANTAGE. Once you have your time slot booked at the career fair, you can go to the companies website, learn about all of the positions that they have posted that interest you, apply to them, AND learn more about the company from a business perspective.
If you take advantage of this, it is easy to create at least three specific in-depth questions that will both show your interest in the company and impress the representative that you are meeting with. Speaking of that representative, since you know who they are you will be able to search them on LinkedIn before you meet with them. If they don't have a profile, oh well you tried, but if they do, you will be able to learn about their employment history, ask them specific questions about the experiences that they have had, and make contact with them via LinkedIn either before or after meeting them during the career fair. All of this preparation before hand makes a strong impression on employers.
Right now you may be thinking to yourself, "That's great, but we only get ten minutes and you haven't mentioned anything about an elevator pitch and selling yourself yet." You are right. I have not, which brings me to the most important benefit of all. All of the career fair appointments are booked with the employer through Handshake. This means that the employers immediately will have access to all of the resumes of the people that they will meet with at the fair BEFORE you actually meet with them (You might want to make sure you have a good resume in your account before signing up). This means they will have skimmed your resume and will have a general idea of what you are going to bring to the table before the meeting begins. They may even ask you some questions about the things that you have included on your resume.
The way I see it, you will immediately fall into 1 of two groups. The first group is the "Looks-Not-So-Good on Paper" group. If you fall into this group, you may not be at the top of the employers list coming into your meeting and that is 100% okay. It is your job to show them how interested you are in the opportunity and the company as a whole. A strong interaction will make them second guess your initial interaction, giving you a good chance to hear back from them. The second group is the "Looks-Good on paper group". If you fall into this group, congratulations. Employers are going to be looking forward to interacting with you, but you still have to do all of the things that I mentioned previously. Show them that you present well, AND are very interested in the opportunity IN ADDITION to your strong resume.
I apologize for such a long post today, but this may be the best advice that I have offered yet, and I say that because it worked for me. I had follow-up communications with 90% (that is not an estimate I kept track #NERD) of the recruiters that I met with at the virtual career fairs in the fall. I may not have been offered a position by those companies, but I was at least considered for all of those positions, and that is what it is all about. Spartan Engineers are the best kind of engineers (slightly biased opinion). We just need the opportunity to showcase all of our skills in conversations and interviews. I really hope that this advice helps you in some way as we move into career fair season. Stay Tuned and Keep Grinding Spartans!