What is a Virtual Career Fair? Connect with dozens of employers right from your own living room

Imagine discussing internship and fellowship opportunities with world-renowned scientists from your laptop or mobile device, in the comfort of your living room while wearing pajamas.

Virtual career fairs allow applicants to do exactly that, which reduces anxiety for applicants looking for opportunities and increases the number of events they are able to attend (without travel).

“Virtual events create a low-pressure environment where applicants can feel comfortable to ask questions of their potential mentor, begin building their networks with other applicants, and even start engaging with their recruiter,” said Amanda Hurley, section manager in workforce development at the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

Over the last few years, virtual career fairs have grown in popularity and 84 percent of virtual event participants would recommend the experience to others, according to an article in Hypergrid Business. ORISE offered its first virtual event in 2017, focused on reaching diverse candidates for the Department of Energy’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. More recently, career fairs with a broader reach have included up to 14 exhibitors with more than 2,000 registered attendees.

How does it work?

“A virtual career fair works a lot like an in-person career fair except that you don’t have to take time out of your day to drive or fly to an event,” said Cassandra Mitchell, social media and digital analyst.

Virtual career fairs have many of the amenities you would see at an in-person event, Mitchell said.

There is a lobby where you can see people moving around and chatting with each other, and there is an exhibit hall with booths that attendees van visit.

There are many benefits to virtual career fairs for attendees, Mitchell added. Attendees upload a resume that can be downloaded by all of the participating recruiters, have private chats with recruiters to discuss possible opportunities and ask for resume reviews, and meet potential mentors who will be involved in their research experiences. They can even have group chats with other applicants and meet other participants with whom they may be interning.

And candidates can continue to visit the virtual event long after the official “event” is over.

“One of the really cool things we saw at the last event was that some participants who had already been selected for programs attended to learn more about what they were going to be doing when they actually started their program,” Mitchell said.

Recruiters can also reach back out to applicants and have a good conversation immediately after the event closes.

How to succeed at a virtual career fair

What are some tips to help you make your mark during a virtual career fair?

  • Look up attendees and make a note of who you’re most interested to talk to.
  • Check the agenda (if one is available) to see time limitations on an attendee’s time.
  • Update your resume and ask friends/coworkers/career services to review it for you.
  • Be open to a video chat or interview with a recruiter at a later date.
  • Reach out to people! In addition to booths, you can often message individuals (recruiters, mentors) directly, but check to find out if the event you’re attending has any guidelines.
  • Don’t be surprised if there’s a slight wait to get an answer. Unlike an in-person event, you can’t see the line of people at one booth but they’re still there.
  • Keep detailed questions to private chat. You don’t need to broadcast your graduation date, GPA, citizenship status, and other personal details to all attendees in a public chat. But do ask the questions you need to ask to the people who can answer them.
  • Look for a “coffee(less) hour” or meet-and-greet space to chat with other attendees. Ask them about their research interests, where else they’ve applied, to get some ideas for yourself!

How to participate in a virtual career fair

  • Browse upcoming ORISE events, including virtual career fairs, on the ORISE events calendar.
  • Check your university’s career services for any scheduled events.
  • Reach out to organizations you’re a part of to see what they might offer.
  • Reach out to the company or graduate school you’re interested in attending, indicate your interest, and ask if they will be recruiting at any virtual events in the near future.