How to Really Prepare for a Virtual Career Fair

As chemists, we all like to experiment.  ACS is no different – they are doing a big experiment of their own.  November 2-3, 2010, ACS is hosting a Virtual Career Fair.  You will be able to attend webinars, interview via text or video chat, and network with professionals worldwide—all from the convenience of your own desktop.  This is a free ACS Careers event co-hosted by Informex and C&EN, and ACS membership is not required to participate.

I’ve written previously on how to prepare for a real-life career fair<>.  While a lot of that advice still holds for a virtual career fair, there are other factors to consider as well.

Before the Fair

To get the most out of the career fair, register now and post your resume so employers can search your information before the fair begins.

Once you are registered, browse the posted jobs.  Research which companies will be in attendance, and learn as much as you can about them.  You may be surprised where the opportunities are.  Browse the program and make notes of which webinar sessions you will attend, and add them to your calendar – making sure to take time zone differences into account.

Have clear idea of what you want in a new position –  the 1-2 sentences that describe what you really need.  You may use this as an objective on your resume, or may just use it when talking to people who ask “What are you looking for”?

Use the InterviewStream system (ACS members only) to practice answering interview questions.  This system uses your webcam to record you answering standard interview questions.  Not only can you watch yourself answering, but you can send a link to an ACS Career Consultant or a trusted friend, and get their constructive criticism on the recording as well.

Since the virtual career fair may involve live video chats, make sure you have a quiet, private place to conduct video interviews picked out ahead of time, so you’re not scrambling if an employer requests one.  Pay particular attention to things like proper camera angle, distracting or inappropriate backgrounds, your voice level, ambient noise, and so on.

If you’re not a fast typist, this might be a time to do a little practicing for live chat opportnities.  Experiment with different keyboard orientations or desk setups until you find the one that is most comfortable for you. And make sure to remove all texting-type abbreviations from your vocabulary for the duration of any interview, or other professional encounter.

At The Fair

Attend webinars in the auditorium, visit the networking lounge to chat with other attendees, and visit the exhibition floor and employer booths.

The first day of the fair will center on “Outlook for Chemical, Pharma and Biotech Industries”, while the second day will focus more generally on “Career Development.” Each day will begin at 9:00am EST with a keynote session, followed by four additional webinars during the day. From 9:00am EST to 6:00pm EST the event show floor will be open for candidates to visit employer’s booths, and the networking lounge will be open all day for informal chats as well as scheduled topic discussions.

What to Expect

If you are scheduled for a real interview, do much more research on the company.  Make sure to be on time (which means 10 minutes early), and allow for technical problems.  Have a backup plan for how you will connect if your primary system goes down, the power goes out, or other disaster occurs.


Make sure to send a thank you note to anyone you talked to, most likely by email within 48 hours of the conversation. Follow up with the company if you haven’t heard from them in 2-3 weeks, to let them know you’re still interested and find out the status of your application.

You can read more about it at ACS Goes Virtual, which includes images of the virtual environment.

The more prepared you are, the better you will be able to take advantage of this opportunity – and that’s not virtual.

This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants. Lisa is a scientific communication consultant and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2007).

5 Responses to How to Really Prepare for a Virtual Career Fair

  1. […] preparation for this, I wrote a blog article entitled “How to Really Prepare for a Virtual Career Fair“.  Might want to read that before you sign up. […]

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