The GSS Office is open. For COVID-19 pandemic updates and support information for UBC graduate students, click here
The right questions to ask at virtual grad student job fairs

The right questions to ask at virtual grad student job fairs

Campus career fairs are some of the best places for graduate students to broaden their careers. You could be there for whatever reason; curiosity about various companies, looking for jobs, looking for valuable networking opportunities, and so on. No matter your aim, they cater to most needs and degrees because employers are always on the lookout for passionate and highly educated individuals such as graduate students.  

These days, more and more career fairs are being held online as a basic precaution during the pandemic. However, this does not have to hinder your experience and the benefits you derive from going. Graduate students can attend from their homes, offices or even while grabbing lunch at a favorite restaurant. Strong connections with recruiters from companies that you are interested in can still be made online, especially without some notable inconveniences traditional career fairs present (e.g. waiting lines). Not only that, but scheduling chats with recruiters is much easier online and the process is much quicker.  

However, while all that is settled, the most daunting thing about career fairs is not knowing what to ask. What are the right questions graduate students can ask to secure a network and possibly, a dream job? 

Without further ado, here are some great questions to ask employers and really make a long-lasting impression. 

A Specific Open Position 

Don’t ask for an open role outright. Employers will easily tell that you didn’t do your homework. Plus you have no excuse because during virtual fairs, you have the luxury of being able to search online any available roles even as the fair is going on. Instead, do research beforehand or at the very least, discreetly check if there are any existing ones before asking the recruiter a more suitable question at the fair like:

“What specific traits they require from an ideal candidate of (a specific role)”. 

The Hiring Process 

It’s a simple question but most often don’t utilize it. Not only does this allow you to get valuable input directly from someone reliable so you can utilize it while job hunting, but it shows the recruiter that you are serious about being thoroughly prepared; you clearly are passionate about catering your application to their needs and not just using online search to find vague requirements. And ultimately, you never know—they could be so impressed they reach out to you a few months down the line to offer an open job to you first. Try questions like:

“What does the hiring process for (open role) look like?”

“Can you tell me more about each stage in the hiring process for (open role)?” 

The Recruiter’s Experience at the Company 

In order to join a company, you have to ensure if it is a good fit for you. After all, you don’t want to waste your time as well as a recruiter or company’s time. Hence, it will be beneficial to learn about its work culture and its proudest achievements through a reliable source such as a recruiter. Besides, the more personal you get, the more unforgettable you seem to them. Say something like:

“What do you personally think is the best quality about working at (company)?”

“What are some of the challenges you’ve faced at (company)?”

Growth and Evolution 

Something as simple as these example questions goes a long way in showing the recruiter you will be a dedicated and long lasting employee; you’re already thinking about your future working with them.

“What does development look like in (open role)”

“I believe that the workforce is always evolving. How does (company) upskill its employees to evolve with it?”

You can also take advantage of virtual fair formats by suggesting that the recruiter could share some links to where you can discover more personal testimonials from workers. Furthermore, this can send the message that you know your worth and you also care about how fellow professionals are being treated.

Services and Recent News 

While doing research on open positions to ask about, also take the time to read about their recent accomplishments and familiarize yourself with their services. For instance, they may have released a new product so it is a great opportunity to ask:

“I recently heard (news) and I am thrilled about it. How has it impacted employees and the company?” 

You can mention you did some readings of your own but you want to take advantage of virtual fair formats by asking the recruiter to share any links to news they’re most excited about.

Saying Goodbyes and Staying in Touch 

Wrap up your productive chat by collecting contacts (e.g. LinkedIn, email, etc.) so you can reach out afterward and ensure a long-lasting relationship. Say something like:

“What would be a great next step to take after meeting you here?”  

Also, after the fair, you could send a simple email thanking the recruiter for their time. It’s a good way to leave a positive impact as well as discreetly remind them that you’d like to stay connected and have further discussions because you find them interesting.  

Good luck and stay positive!  

Study Room, Thea Koerner House, UBC

GSS Loft, Rm. 4202 of AMS Student Nest, UBC

Leon’s Lounge, Thea Koerner House, UBC

Thea’s Lounge, Thea Koerner House, UBC

Penthouse, Thea Koerner House, UBC