7 Tips for Interviewing Candidates at Your Virtual Career Fair

Through the magic of a
virtual career fair, meeting your company’s future leaders is easier than ever, with a welcoming online environment for job seekers and recruiters to get familiar with. 

While it removes much of the legwork and challenges of an in-person event, there’s still work to be done in preparing. And in some ways, it requires a wholly different approach. Despite the relaxed experience, the more serious you take your planning and execution, the more success you’re likely to find — and the better impression you’ll make on would-be recruits.

You’re not alone in the journey. We’re here to provide some useful considerations for your virtual interviews, to set your recruiting team up for success at your big event. Here are some tips for interviewing remote candidates at your virtual career fair, while having fun along the way. 

Making the most of your virtual career fair interviews

1). Treat it like a real interview (it is one!)

Back in April, as the COVID-19 pandemic crested around the world, a Gartner study revealed that 86 percent of organizations leveraged video conferencing software for conducting job interviews. Months later, virtual interviews and career fairs are still the de facto choice for some of the largest companies in the world, including Amazon and Walmart.

The ability to hire at scale, with optimal convenience and minimal costs, has legitimized this newly trending strategy for hiring teams of all sizes. Meeting talent at a virtual career fair and moving them through the interview process with video conferencing software may have started as a nifty gimmick, like many developments in tech. But there’s nothing gimmicky about the results that businesses are discovering through a successful virtual career fair.

Interviewing potential hires over webcam may be jarring at first, as compared to the comforts of a firm handshake at an in-person interview. But in our increasingly digital and connected world, it’s a natural progression in how we operate, and deserves the same credence as the physical experience we know so well.

job seeker on a virtual interview

Now, as we said earlier, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with the format and embrace the more relaxed atmosphere during your conversations. But the talent you’ll be interviewing, and their possible contributions to your organization, are no joke. In some cases, they may even have more to offer than the candidates you’d meet in person. Bottom line, get past the initial feelings that a video interview is somehow inferior to the traditional format, and prepare to meet your next great employees and teammates.

2). Test your hardware and prepare your visible interview space

Alright, here’s the catch about interviewing on virtual career fairs: We’re at the mercy of our technology. And also, the look and sound quality that comes with that. 

Walking around a virtual event can certainly feel lifelike but without the constant pressure of making appearances. Once you jump on a webcam, though, the spotlight is on. How you appear on the video — and making sure you appear at all! — matters a great deal. 

Once your virtual career fair is set up and ready for action, it’s time to foolproof the individual hardware your team will be using to access the event and engage with candidates. Firstly, double-check that the computer and webcam you’ll be using are of high quality and in good working condition. (As a matter of fact, double- and triple-check this.) You’re not only representing yourself on this call but your organization as a whole. So having equipment that both works and has good image resolution and sound quality is a more-than worthwhile investment. 

Background and lighting

With the right technology in place and properly configured, it’s time to set the stage in your filming location. In our routine Zoom meetings, we may be growing more comfortable with “phoning it in” (no pun intended). When holding virtual interviews, an added bit of effort is required to ensure you and your brand come across with the right degree of professionalism. 

Small details in your room setup are hugely effective in creating the right atmosphere for your call. Make sure you’ll be sitting in front of an uncluttered wall, with neutral colors (e.g. gray, beige, tan) and perhaps some simple branding. Position your computer and camera at eye level; take some extra time to test different angles to be safe, like you would with your brunch selfies!

Lighting is the next major consideration. Entrepreneur offers some valuable advice on lighting in an article about looking your best on video conferencing software:

“As a general rule, avoid fluorescent lights, which can cast unflattering shadows. Avoid overhead lights, too, as they can create dark under eye shadows. Place your primary light source behind your camera. This way, the light and the camera point in the same direction. You could also use two light sources behind the camera, one on the right side, one on the left.

3). Gather questions, responses, and informative content

The “meat” of your interview is not far off from what you’d expect with a physical interview. You’ll need to ask the most pertinent questions for the role, and be consistent across your many planned conversations. You’ve only got a limited time with each potential hire, so think long and hard about which questions are truly important while leaving time for the candidate to give thoughtful and revealing answers.

Don’t forget to leave space for the candidates to ask their own questions! Along with that, you should prepare a sheet of go-to answers for some of the questions you can expect. We recommend both digital and paper versions for your critical notes, so you can fire off the best possible answers and info during interviews, remain extra efficient, and impress candidates in the process!

person taking notes while on a web meeting

An added benefit of the virtual format is the ability to both access and share digital content on the same platform — before, during, or after your interview. Work with your marketing team and project managers to write helpful content about your brand’s mission, company culture, the positions you’re interviewing for, and other timely information that may come up in an interview. Not only can this content be worthwhile to share with candidates, but can be a handy reference for the many talking points you’re likely to cover throughout a busy day at your virtual career fair.

With all of this preparation and structure to your interviews, we encourage you to have a good time in your interviews as well to put your candidates at ease. A few light jokes or improv moments may turn out to be what candidates remember most, and what makes them want to work with you over their other opportunities. In other words, be a human!

4). Plan for possible issues

As stated in tip #2, the success of our virtual events does require the success of our technology. Or, put another way, that our technology doesn’t fail us! And this goes for attendees as well as exhibitors and recruiters.

Leading up to your event, it’s paramount to test your video software, microphones, WiFi connection, and any other tech you may be using (e.g. applicant tracking systems, calendar apps, communication tools). Before your event goes live, reach out to planned attendees and ask that they do the same! Better safe than sorry with every bit of hardware or software that goes into your virtual career fair.

Alas, things do happen, even for those sticklers who overprepare. Technical difficulty is not the end of the world, though! (Even though it may feel like it in the heat of the moment.) Work with your in-house team and the project managers of your virtual event platform on a list of possible issues and how to react if something goes wrong during an interview. Staying calm might be the highest priority on that list — but we know from experience, that’s easier said than done sometimes!

people talking during a virtual job interview

Keep candidate contact information close at hand, and if any glitches occur in the middle of a conversation, make sure you can reach out and put them at ease that you’ll resume the interview as soon as possible, even if you have to reschedule for later. Keep your event’s customer support team within reach, and if the online career fair shows any performance issues, get in touch with those who can help immediately.

Same for your internet provider and any other support teams for your various programs and the building you’re operating out of, whether you’re at home or your company’s office.

There’s a saying that goes “chance favors the prepared mind.” The better you prepare for potential issues during your virtual interviews, the more seamless and stress-free your experience will be!

5). Organize candidate information for easy reference and updating

Come prepared for your scheduled interview with knowledge about the candidates. We know you’ll be scrambling from call to call, and there’s a lot of info to juggle and decisions to make. Don’t be a hero and try to cram candidate profiles in your memory! 

With vFairs, you’ll have access to a searchable resume database to pull up candidate details and refresh before each conversation. You can also keep profiles on your screen during interviews so all the factoids on your candidate are right there with you.

Along with referencing job history and skill set during the call, you can also add notes or tags as you go, such as key items they shared during the call or personal notes about what you liked (or perhaps did not). When it comes time to follow up with top prospects, these notes can cut out the guesswork and expedite your next steps.

animated people handing off notes over the internet

6). Know what you’re looking for and use time effectively

Depending on the length and popularity of your virtual career fair, you may wind up speaking with a sizable talent pool, each with their own unique experiences, skills, and personality quirks. So…what are you actually looking for? It seems obvious to ask, but especially when interviewing at scale and in rapid succession, any added discernment is a saving grace.

Put plenty of thought into the roles you’re filling, and what qualities would make a candidate rise to the top of the pile. As you work through interviews, get to the point with your questions so you aren’t left wondering about critical details later. 

You may be interviewing a lot of candidates over the course of your event, whether it’s one or several days, and time management is even more important here than in-person. Streamline your questions beforehand and know what to look for in their responses, so you can identify the key characteristics in a short window of time and not let the right people slip away due to the wrong questions or putting emphasis on less-important responses. 

Some conversational recruitment at your event can help you get to know candidates and narrow the field leading up to the actual interviews, so you can skip the surface-level questions and get down to brass tacks when the interview rolls around.

7). Send follow-ups and thank-yous

Lastly, send some thoughtful follow-ups to all the candidates you interview at your virtual career fair, regardless if they’ll be moving forward or not. Don’t let this slip through the cracks — candidates deserve to know that their time is valuable and that your company appreciates being considered. Any amount of personalization you can add will leave a strong impression and keep them motivated on their job search while reflecting well upon your organization.

Check out some example templates for following up with your virtual candidates here and then add your signature touch to really make them shine!

hand writing thank you

About vFairs

At vFairs, we strive to build a top-class online event platform that will help event organizers make memorable connections with their target audience. We’re obsessed with taking out the hassle normally associated with physical events, leaving organizers and exhibitors to focus on what’s most important – engagement with the audience. Get in touch with an expert to learn more about vFairs here.

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