Contributed by: Molly Burns, CPA – Staff Accountant
Due to COVID-19, traditional career fairs have shifted to virtual career fairs. The shift has caused students to wonder what this means for them as they begin looking for their first internship or job. It also has students wondering how they can casually visit a career fair to see what it’s like in a virtual environment.
Many universities and colleges have utilized platforms that allow job candidates to meet with potential employees via videoconference to help offset these challenges. A typical layout is for employers to set up one-on-one short video chats and group video calls that allow for an open discussion format.
Tips To Get Noticed — Virtually!
The first thing to remember about virtual fairs is that it’s still important to maintain professionalism, even if you attend a career fair from your bedroom. Attendees should always dress professionally, as one would at an in-person career fair. You may be meeting the person you speak with in person someday, but video calls still allow for first impressions to be made. Dress the part as if you were going into the office to meet the employer.
Also, pay attention to your background. Choose a well-lit and clean place to set up, so your background is clear of any distractions. For example, make sure your laundry pile isn’t visible to the camera. While pets are cute (and might even be a good icebreaker), be aware of how often your pet makes an appearance. Often, one-on-one video chats are limited to short time slots. A distraction (such as your cat walking across the keyboard) may take away from essential conversations in a short time. Worse yet, your feline friend may step on a key to end the call. You should also make sure your roommates are aware that you are going into an important meeting to reduce the chance of interruptions.
The one-on-one video calls can seem intimidating, especially for someone casually joining the career fair. Prepare ahead of time to ease some of the uncertainty. The employer should guide a conversation, but if there is “dead air,” have some questions ready to ask. Look up the firm you are going to chat with before the call. Visiting their website can provide insight to both help talk with them confidently and inspire your own questions. Also, read up on the employee bios if available. You may find things in common with the person you are going to speak with.
Some guidelines for questions that may be helpful:
- What does an average day for an intern/new staff accountant look like?
- What is the difference between winter and summer internships?
- If looking at internships that occur during the semester, you might ask how the schedule works with classes
- Do you have specific teams, or do you work with everyone at the firm?
- Are the internships remote?
- Are you required to have your CPA license to start working?
Due to the time-slot format, it is more important than ever to show up on time, as some platforms do not allow people to enter the calls that are in session after a specific time. Be mindful that employees only have so many openings; limiting the number of students they can talk to. If you realize you are unable to attend your assigned time, cancel the time slot. Canceling in advance opens up time for other students. Additionally, simply skipping a slot that you signed up for may leave an unfavorable impression on potential employers. Be mindful that employers take time out of their day because they want to get to know interested job candidates.
A group-oriented videoconference is an excellent choice for individuals who desire a less intense career fair experience. The group videos allow prospective interns and employees to get their name on the employer’s radar without the pressure of a one-on-one video call. Employers will often hold discussions revolving around a particular topic and allow discussion and questions. This is also a great opportunity to hear other job candidates’ questions about the firm. Bonus: group discussions may also have raffles or prizes for those who attend.
The group sessions are also a perfect supplement for a serious job seeker who is also signed up for a one-on-one. Even if you are planning on signing up for a one-on-one with the firm, it is highly encouraged to attend a group session, if possible. The employer will notice that you are taking the time to participate in multiple sessions and appreciate your interest in the firm. To your benefit, attending multiple sessions will allow you to understand better if the firm is a fit for you.