Virtual Career Fairs to Check Out to Get the Job You Want after 50

By Kerry Hannon

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

You may want to look into virtual career fairs when seeking a job after 50. Digital career events are on the rise and are a win-win for job seekers and companies. While these events are an inexpensive way for employers to meet potential employees, you can share your résumé with companies that are hiring.

Furthermore, for the 50-plus job seeker, your participation in a virtual career fair sends a strong signal that you are tech savvy — an important factor for many hiring managers. You may be able to nab an initial, albeit brief, interview with a recruiter or hiring manager — without having to leave the comfort of home. But this is not a casual browsing event. Take it as seriously as you would an in-person interview.

To find an online career event that’s geared to your job search, canvas job board websites, including Brazen Careerist and Monster for upcoming fairs. LinkedIn, industry groups, and membership associations such as AARP can also direct you to upcoming job fairs they’re sponsoring or are connected to in some fashion.

Some companies offer their own virtual fairs. Check their websites or social media accounts. See which businesses have a “booth” with job openings and a recruiter or hiring manager available during the fair hours.

To make the most of a virtual job fair, follow these suggestions before, during, and after:

  • Do your research. Review ahead of time the roster of the employers participating and what kinds of jobs are available. Go to company websites and their social media pages, and search Google News to find out any recent news. This will help you have a savvier and more energized conversation about why you’re a good fit for the job and the organization.

  • Update your résumé and social media accounts. When you register, you’ll probably have to create a profile and upload a photo and a basic résumé. Tweak your résumé, or, better yet, create several versions of it to match jobs you want. Don’t forget to proofread them for grammar and spelling errors. Save each résumé on your desktop so you can quickly refer to it and have it ready to email to a recruiter. Be sure to scrub your online profiles of any “unprofessional” posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

  • Get your computer ready. Generally speaking, a Mac or PC desktop or laptop is fine. After registering, you’ll likely receive a confirmation email with instructions to see whether your computer meets system requirements. If your Internet connection is spotty at times, find a cubicle at a local library with free Wi-Fi or ask a friend if you can set up at her place.

  • Keep your conversations professional and focused. Your goal is to connect with all the companies you have on your list. These can be instantaneous conversations, so be careful to keep it formal. Use “Mr.” and “Ms.” Avoid emoticons and watch for typos. Post sticky notes on your desk to remind you of your three main selling points. These will help you stay focused when a conversation gets rolling. Be patient for a response. With lots of questions coming in from other job seekers, the recruiter may take some time to answer.

  • Be prepared for an impromptu video interview. Recruiters may ask if you can launch into a video interview, usually Skype, on the spot. This means that you need to understand in advance how these virtual interviews work.

  • Surf the chat rooms. Stop by not just the firm’s “booth” but also its chat room. Recruiters and hiring managers are often accessible in the chat rooms. In chat rooms, you’re able to read what other participants post and hear more from the hiring managers staffing the booth about the company culture and more.

  • Send thank-you notes. Always send thank-you emails to anyone you talked to online, and be sure to attach your résumé. Reference something from your conversation with them as a reminder of who you are. Handwritten notes are great, but you may not have access to that mailing information. Doing both doesn’t hurt, particularly if you want to share more with the interviewer or ask additional questions.

  • Be realistic. Not many people actually get hired via the job fair itself. Employers mine these events to gather résumés that potentially lead to future phone and in-person interviews. The networking and educational opportunities these fairs present are far-reaching. You never know where these contacts can lead you in your job search.