Careers fairs are one of the first steps you can take to securing a fantastic career. Here are some top tips on how to make the best of every opportunity there.
Preparation is key
Careers fairs aren’t on for long and stands and presentations will get busy. So do your best to make the most of the time you have.
Check which employers and organisations will be attending, and decide your top five companies that you would like to see on the day. Before the careers fair, research the companies and the roles that they offer to make sure they fit with what you are looking for. This also means that you won’t ask questions which are answered, plain as day, on the first page of their website.
Work out what you want to get from it. Are you researching and industry sector, finding out about companies, looking for job opportunities or internships, or networking for the future? All of this can help you plan what you do, who you want to see, and what you say to them.
Plot a route around the fair. Include any presentations or seminars you want to attend, and build in time for getting to them early to make sure you get a seat. You’ll also want to talk to recruiters while they’re at their freshest and while they have proper time to devote to you.
Update your CV and bring business cards too, if you have one (someone might offer you theirs, so it’s good to have one of your own to exchange). While few, if any, recruiters will accept a CV instead of an application, it can help you talk them through your skills, competencies and experience.
Get a brief pitch about yourself ready. Make sure you know what you want to say about yourself and what you want to ask the recruiters as you go round. You can tailor your questions according to who you’re speaking to – ask a hiring manager about the department, a recruiter about the culture or training, a current graduate about their experiences so far.
Bring water. It’s going to be a long day and you don’t want to sip water from company X’s freebie while you’re selling yourself to company Y or Z.
On the day
As this is the first contact with the recruitment team of your chosen companies, you need to create the right first impression. By wearing professional dress or something approaching it, you’re showing the recruiter that you’re taking the opportunity to speak to them about employment seriously.
Think about warming up by visiting a couple of employers who genuinely interest you, but with whom you feel comfortable enough to get started.
If you’re going with a group of friends, split up instead of cruising around together. This is your opportunity to network with your potential employers, and it looks better if you approach yourself rather than bringing your best mate along with you.
Always start with a handshake and by introducing yourself. Ask open ended questions and use information that you have gained from your research as talking points, including any recent news about the company. Never initiate a conversation at a fair by ‘what do you do?’ or even worse ‘what have you got for me?’ as it shows a lack of preparation. Things worth asking are:
What’s the secret of a good application?
What’s the culture of the company like?
It’s also a good place to practice your interview techniques, so you should be prepared to answer questions like:
What do you know about us?
What interests you about working for us?
What attracts you to a career in this industry?
What skills and qualities do you think would be important to our company?
Take notes and don’t be afraid to ask an employer for their contact details if you have a good conversation with them. And not just their telephone number and email address either: ask them about connecting on Linkedin, or if they have a Twitter page. By connecting with them at different levels they will become part of your network for the long term, so it’s worth doing.
Follow it up
After the excitement of the fair is over, there are still chances to network with the companies of your choice. If you were given a business card, drop them an email thanking them for their time and their help. Not only is it professional courtesy, but it helps the recruiter keep you in mind, especially if you let them know you’ve applied. Or you could just say how much you enjoyed meeting them, and ask to be kept informed of further opportunities. If they’re on LinkedIn or Twitter, make contact there too.