Paula Reuben VieilletThis blog post was re-posted from Disability.gov 

By Guest Blogger Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

In this ever-changing world of technology, one of the best hiring opportunities for jobseekers with disabilities and other challenges is a "virtual" job fair.

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Get Noticed at Virtual Job Fairs [Disability.gov]

Sep 16, 2015

This blog post was re-posted from Disability.gov 

Paula Reuben VieilletBy Guest Blogger Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

In this ever-changing world of technology, one of the best hiring opportunities for jobseekers with disabilities and other challenges is a "virtual" job fair.

The advantage of virtual job fairs and chat-based interviews is profound. First of all, you can attend with an Internet connection and you don’t have to worry about wardrobe, transportation or even leaving your home.

Secondly, recruiters cannot consciously or subconsciously discriminate against you if you have a physical or visible disability because they can’t see you; they can only focus on your abilities, what you type and your skill set.

Thirdly, employers who participate in virtual job fairs often may have work-at-home jobs, which can make returning to work that much easier for many jobseekers with disabilities.

A Different Approach

Unlike the traditional face–to-face meeting where you can hand the recruiter your resume and interview from there, virtual job fairs are more about networking and making a good first impression.

It works like this: in virtual fairs, recruiters meet jobseekers in online chat rooms designated exclusively for that job fair. They will often list the hours of chat availability, states from which they are recruiting and other information you need to know.

When employers are available, you will see a public, virtual "waiting line." Recruiters may provide general information while you are waiting or they could be answering other jobseeker questions, so be patient and polite and wait your turn. It is the recruiter who will request a private chat for you to accept so you can begin conversing. Each job fair has its own unique set up, so be sure to read their instructions.

So, How Do You Get Started?

First, you prepare!

  1. Research All Employers and Jobs: Research the employers prior to the job fair to determine if they are a good job fit for you. Review their websites and career pages thoroughly to be sure they hire in your state. You don't want to be asking questions that are easily available to you online.
  2. Know Which Job You Want: If you see a position that you think you might qualify for beforehand, jot down the job number or job title and bring your questions about this specific job to the virtual event. This not only shows good research, but it will help you focus on what skills and abilities you can highlight for the recruiter.
  3. Have Your Opening Remarks Ready: Now that you have done thorough research, you can customize your introduction based on the job requirements and items you have read about. Think in terms of two or three lines.

Introducing Yourself.

  • Hello, I am Joe Smith and I am pleased to have this opportunity to chat with you today.
  • Hello, I am Joe Smith. I saw that you are hiring for a customer service gaming technician (job #43) and I love to game! I would love to help others get started or solve their problems.
  • Hello, I am Joe Smith. I saw that job #43 is for a customer service gaming technician. I have a Bachelor's in psychology and I worked in customer service for two years handling member benefit questions. I saw that it was full-time training. Is that true for part-time positions, too?
  • Hello, I am Sarah Smith. I have a Bachelor’s in nursing and I have been a nurse for 25 years – mostly in a hospital setting as a charge nurse. I also have some experience in home health.

After Your Introduction, Set the Scene for Specific Questions.

  • I was wondering if you have work-at-home opportunities in Maine for experienced nurses.
  • It only listed full-time jobs on your company website. Do you have any part-time positions?
  • I was wondering if you are hiring for more than one nurse for the on-site positions.
  • I was wondering about job #676P regarding your work-at-home medical phone screener. Is the training entirely at home or is on-site training required?
  • I saw on your website that you offer seasonal positions. Do these positions ever offer the opportunity for permanent employment with your company?

Examples of Creating Opportunities.

George wants to work for a local call center, but his experience doesn't exactly match the job description.

  • Hello, I am George Johnson. I have been a cashier for five years. I type 50 words per minute and I am very computer literate. I am very interested in your virtual customer service position, but I don't have call center experience. Will you consider someone like me for this position?

Let’s say Jane saw a job opening for a virtual tele-health nurse position, but it looked like it was only available in New York. Jane lives in a "compact" nursing state that has reciprocal licensing agreements and allows people to work in many different states. She can use that to potentially create an opportunity.

  • I have a Bachelor's in nursing and I have been a nurse for 20 years. I think I am a good match for job opening #2540. Will you be recruiting from compact states or only from the state of New York?

Just like when you meet a recruiter in person, they will be impressed that you did your research and asked intelligent questions. I have often seen recruiters ask well-prepared candidates to send them their resume on the spot during the job fair!

Tip: Consider Applying for Jobs Before the Job Fair.

If you know there is a job you want, apply for it. Then during the fair, tell the recruiter you have already applied.

  • Hi I am Stephanie Hill. I have a Bachelor’s in nursing and I have been a nurse for 25 years. I filled out an application last week for the nurse case manager position — #3356 and have not heard back. What is the expected turnaround time for applications?

Sometimes recruiters can access your application during the virtual event or will get to it that same day. Most often, they will agree to look at your application and get back to you after the job fair.

Tip: Get the Recruiter’s Name.

It is especially important to get the name of the recruiter you spoke to. This way you can follow up by e-mail, or social media like LinkedIn, and send a thank you note.

  • Thank you for chatting with me at the online job fair yesterday. I enjoyed learning more about your company and your work-at-home positions.
  • Thank you for our conversation yesterday at the job fair. I really appreciate you asking to see my resume that is attached. As I mentioned in the chat, I have 25 years of nursing experience.

Learning to communicate effectively and connecting during online job fairs really works! In our last public virtual job fair, several job seekers who came prepared got full interviews and were even hired in the same week! All because they made an impression on the recruiter and were well-prepared.

Find a virtual job fair; be prepared; and go for it!

About the Guest Blogger

Paula Reuben Vieillet is president and founder of Employment Options Inc., a certified Social Security Administration Employment Network in the Ticket to Work Program, which assists those on SSDI/SSI benefits in returning to the workforce. They specialize in work-at-home Employment and have long-term relationships with national employers. In addition, they offer community on-site jobs serving 47 states. Find Employment Options and many other service providers to help you in our Find Help Tool.