You may think you know a career fair when you see one.

You’re in a big conference hall or at your university campus, just one of a swarm of fellow job seekers.

You’re standing in line at company booth after company booth, holding a pile of neatly-printed CVs (slowly decreasing in size as the day progresses).

You hope that you’ll have enough time to speak to all the companies you’re curious about.

In the end, you grab a bunch of branded pens and head home.

The virtual career fair

But not every career fair has to be like this.

Virtual career fairs promise a quite different experience (and very rarely come with branded pens).

You’ll be sitting in the comfort of your own home, in a lecture hall, or perhaps at a café.

You’ll be confronted with nothing but your own laptop, and you’ll be enjoying a nice cup of tea or coffee as you log in to a completely digital venue at your leisure.

Both virtual career fairs and their traditional, offline equivalents offer value to the job seeker – and each promises something different.

Here we look at the key differences between them and consider what virtual career fairs can do for you.

What is a career fair anyway?

Anyone unfamiliar with career fairs now has rough image in their mind of what attending one involves.

But what is the ultimate purpose?

Whether traditional or virtual, job fairs are job fairs. They should offer a chance to:

  1. Meet a selection of potential employers in one place
  2. Expand your network
  3. Distribute your CV or business card
  4. Present your professional profile to others
  5. Gain valuable insight into the job market

Professional approach and prior research is a must, and not just when you’re attending in person.

Before attending a virtual career fair you should check our recruiters’ tips on how to stand out as well as our guide to the Do’s and Don’ts of a virtual career fair to make sure you’re fully prepared.

There are also 3 major differences to keep in mind:

1/ Ease of access

Virtual career fair

The main and undeniable advantage of virtual fairs is the ease of access, which is one of the main reasons Graduateland has been organising these virtual events since 2016.

Even if your address is “the North Pole”, you can still scout job opportunities with companies from every corner of the globe. (Provided that you still have a decent wifi connection up there). Without the stresses and strains of a big event, you can focus on making the most of your opportunities.

Traditional career fair

To attend any traditional jobs fair you need to get there first, which means being limited by travel. This isn’t just a factor for you, it applies to employers too. If a company doesn’t attend the (offline) career fair you’re at, you can wave goodbye to your chances of talking to them.

Often conference venues are in awkward locations, too. If you live in a big city, getting there may be a pain. But if you are not based in a big metropolitan area, travelling can be a serious obstacle.

2/ Making contact

Virtual career fair

Online fairs make it easier to find the right people to talk to. Since you will be meeting companies digitally and communicating using online messages, quality of writing should be your top priority here.

This fits with how we tend to present our skills and qualifications when initially applying for jobs, and this is no different during the event. Be prepared to chat your way to a concrete job offer or the start of a promising recruitment process.

Traditional career fair

Offline jobs fairs, as you will be meeting company representatives face to face, will inevitably put more emphasis on your interpersonal skills.

In person, you will have the chance to charm potential employers with your confidence and personality. You’ll also have the chance to meet other job seekers and grow your network in the traditional manner.

3/ Efficiency

Virtual career fair

At a virtual career fair, the companies have the chance to preselect the people they want to talk to based on the attendees’ online profiles. (This is to ensure they speak to the most relevant people, not that you won’t get your chance.)

As a result, the process is very time-efficient for both parties – giving participants a better chance of ensuring they get to speak to the companies they have their eye on.

For recruiters, knowing clearly who they are speaking to can help facilitate dialogue, meaning a greater willingness to engage in a valuable conversation. And one that might just result in a job offer, or an invitation to interview.

Traditional career fair

Usually, the main aim of attending a traditional career fair is not to walk out with a new job already secured. It’s about getting to know the companies and gaining unique first-hand insight into how they operate.

You may spend a great deal of time in line only to find out that there is no chemistry between you and a certain company representative. You may make valuable connections not possible online, but it will inevitably take you a bit of time.

Virtual Career Fairs are now open for registration

Eager to put these tips to the test?

Then sign up today for the upcoming Virtual Career Fairs hosted by Graduateland where you can chat with top employers online.

You can learn more about the events and register with your user account — just click the event that interests you.