In Fall 2021, there are many career exploration opportunities at MIT, including the MIT career fairs and the BE Career Expo. All fairs are being held virtually, presenting new challenges for even seasoned job fair candidates. While the nature of online interactions is different, doing your homework before the fair is still key to making a strong impression with recruiters. Check out our top tips from CAPD’s webinar below and learn how to get the most out of your time in this virtual environment.

Many of the tips that apply to in-person career fairs, apply to the virtual career fair format as well.

  • Think about your goals for the career fair. Maybe you are looking for a job or summer internship. Or maybe you are just exploring opportunities that exist. Either way, it can help to set expectations and goals for yourself. This can also help you to figure out how you want to present yourself and grow your potential network.
  • Be sure to clean up your online profile and have an updated resume ready to go. Use our resume templates for a quick way to create a professional-looking resume. Look at CAPD’s LinkedIn guide to learn more. If you have a personal website, now is a great time to refresh your professional bio.
  • Register early to give employers an opportunity to review your materials.
  • Research companies ahead of time by looking at their profiles under “event details.” You can also look them up on LinkedIn to see if you know anyone who works there. Through both these sources, you can identify the type of candidate they might be interested in.
  • Express interest in the company. Companies can bulk download resumes for candidates who express interest so make sure to check the box next to any company you’re considering. Even if you can’t attend a chat session, indicating your interest will ensure you are on their radar.

There are some unique considerations for a virtual career fair.

  • The Fall fairs will be held through Brazen. You can familiarize yourself with the platform by watching this short video.
  • Upload your resume to Handshake. This is how employers might find you. This is also where you can learn more about employers that will be attending each fair.
  • All virtual MIT career fairs will run from 1pm-6pm ET. BE’s Career Expo is from 10am-3pm on Oct 1st, 2021. Despite the long hours, you will still need to do your research so you know what companies to prioritize. Many students have said the career fair is great, but there isn’t really an opportunity to “wander” as you might in person. Plan your time so you don’t miss out on an opportunity to connect with a recruiter.
  • Because most interactions will happen over chat, be sure to prepare a written pitch that is specific to the types of companies/roles you might be interested in. It is important to write out your pitch so you can copy/paste it from a document into your chat window.
  • In addition to your pitch, write out answers to common questions that recruiters might ask. The advantage of a virtual career fair is that you can do a lot of your work ahead of time and have a “cheat sheet” script ready to go. You won’t want to take too much time crafting the perfect response in real-time.
  • But also remember that you don’t need the perfect response. You just need to have a normal conversation. Imagine you are chatting with a friend and be natural.

Virtual Career Fair Pro-tips

  • Use the chat history strategically. Unlike in-person career fairs, chat rooms keep a history of previous conversations, which you should use to your advantage. While it may be impossible to read the entire chat transcript upon entering a room, do try to scan and avoid repeating the same or similar questions.
  • Stay present. While you could multi-task and enter multiple rooms at a time, it is recommended to focus on one at a time. Being present will allow you to respond quickly and hop on video calls when requested.
  • Type professionally. While it might be easy to avoid capslock or use abbreviations, you are still communicating with potential employers and they can save your chat history! So be professional when you are typing!

Speaking of video calls…

  • Even though this is a virtual career fair, still present yourself as if you are there in person. Know where your camera is and practice looking into it when you speak. This will make it look like you are making eye contact. You can set up a mock interview with a friend, CAPD, or a Comm Fellow to practice.
  • Be ready for video calls and dress as you would for an in-person fair. A business casual/business formal outfit is recommended. Avoid business-on-the-top, PJs-on-the-bottom look, on the off chance that you accidentally stand up in a hurry.
  • Consider the background in your webcam. If possible, make sure your setting isn’t messy or distracting and check that your face is properly lit. Or create a virtual background, perhaps one that has your name, department, and contact info on it.
  • Instead of hunching over your laptop, prop your computer on books for the video call for a stronger presence on camera. Use headphones to limit background noise.

Follow up

After your virtual interaction, take the opportunity to thank the recruiter and follow up with more tailored materials, including a targeted resume and cover letter.

Following these steps will help you make the most out of your first virtual career fair. Check out additional resources in the BE CommKit or CAPD’s Career Handbook.

Blog post by Prerna Bhargava, in collaboration with Caitlin Stier.