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This is how to ace an interview at a virtual job fair

No longer for recent college grads or seasonal workers, virtual job fairs are an opportunity for job seekers to interview anywhere, at any time.

This is how to ace an interview at a virtual job fair
[Photo: kentoh/iStoc]

As more leaders learn to manage remote workers, businesses are discovering unique silver linings related to virtual teams. Topping the list is the ability to tap a global talent pool through virtual job fairs. This new virtual job fair works for companies at all stages and for all levels of job seekers, not just for recent college grads, or seasonal help.

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Virtual career fairs are easier to promote and execute than physical events. Companies that are scouting for talent can effectively capture attendee data and personalize a job seeker’s experience regardless of their location. Virtual job listings can be customized to appeal to the type of people who have been successful in these roles. By welcoming applicants, companies can also generate followers for their technology, products, or services. People who are not a match will screen themselves out, so companies can focus on people whose qualifications more closely match what they need.

While there are 13 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic, there are ways for aspiring executives and senior professionals, and any level of job seeker to get noticed.

Leverage résumé technology

Interview training in college or in hiring programs was designed around a physical meeting. Stand up straight, polish your shoes, use a strong handshake. In the new virtual world, that won’t get you anywhere.  The online job fair is the new meeting ground for employers and candidates, and while many components are the same, so much is different, and if you don’t adapt, you will be eliminated.

So, how do you stand out when you can no longer read the room, befriend the receptionist, or depend on emotional intelligence? You need to learn the technology behind these fairs. The first step is to upload your résumé. If not, you can’t enter the virtual lobby.

Seven seconds.  That is how long an HR person spends screening a résumé. But first, you need to pass the applicant tracking system (ATS). This artificial intelligence tool is friend or foe if you understand how it works. The ATS is programmed using an assortment of algorithms to screen, sort, store, and match keywords, skills, and titles from the job description with the résumé it reads.  If the company you want to work with has more than 100 people, they will be using an ATS.

For an online applicant, it is important for your résumé to travel post-job fair. Résumés make it through by using specialized keywords that reiterate capabilities to handle today’s remote work. This ensures your résumé is not knocked out of the running in this new technology-based process.

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Delete extraneous information from your résumé and keep results that matter in the job you hope to land. If possible, reference your achievements right before or during the COVID-19 pandemic. Did you increase revenue, decrease time, decrease cost, increase satisfaction?  Show the problem, the action you took, and the result. This is what interviewers want to talk about at job fairs. They will give you a problem they face, and you should show how you would approach the solution so that you can indeed solve that problem.

Prepare your video presence

The online lobby of virtual job fairs houses many companies, so you will know in advance who is attending. This allows you to pinpoint your targets and research to develop your messages. All the traditional activities like being prepared and being on time still hold, though this time, think of it as speed dating with a cheat sheet.

Interviewing is a challenge, and with the coronavirus pandemic, remote video interviewing adds even more complexity to the process for both the interviewer and the candidate. The focus of any online interaction should be on the goals of each side. Companies want to know if you are the right person for the job, and you want to prove that you are that person. This has to happen in a very short period of time, while both parties are interested.

What makes you the right person right now is the ability to communicate how you will solve the problems they have today. They need people who are self-managed and minimize problems, not add to them. To differentiate, ask hard questions about the business strategy, competition, and financial challenges. At this point they want to eliminate anyone they think is wasting their time, and not treating this time as valuable will end your efforts before the real interview even happens.

Don’t try to get an offer—it won’t happen here. Your goal is to get the next interview with someone you might report to who will want you on their team. The way to do that is to research the company and role, talk about what you bring that they need, and ask insightful questions that show you know what matters and want to know more.  With this step, you can differentiate yourself from most other candidates for the job.

Most companies were not comfortable with remote work and are still unsure about whether they can manage remote workers, and get the job done. Your résumé, interview language, and problem-solving examples need to show that you are self-motivated, self-managed, highly dedicated, and will do what it takes to meet and exceed expectations without being told, or even worse, micromanaged.

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Today’s job seekers need to show they are capable of working independently and know how to report their accomplishments, what they are working on, and where they need additional support. Companies want to hire people who are easy to manage. Prove that to the reader of your résumé and the interviewer at the next job fair.


Elaine Varelas is managing partner, Keystone Partners where she spearheads all sales and marketing activities. She also currently serves as treasurer of Career Partners International, LLC, after serving as Chairman of the Board.

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