How to get the most out of a Careers Fair
If you’re looking for work, careers fairs could seriously help your search. In this guide, we consider how to approach them.
If you’re a graduate and you’re looking for work, attending careers fairs could be your new secret weapon. Sending off CVs to faceless companies can be soul destroying if you’re not receiving any interest, so taking a proactive approach could well be your foot in the door.
You will have probably seen careers fairs advertised all over your uni campus and they are simply an event or exhibition where employers who are looking for new staff turn up with details about their positions, and job seekers (that’s you) have the opportunity to meet with them and find out more about what they’re offering.
Like all things though, you’ll get the most out of a careers fair if you take a strategic approach. Turning up and wandering aimlessly, picking up freebies & chatting with your mates is unlikely to get you anywhere.
Top Careers Fair Tactics
Attending every careers fair that you can find probably isn’t the best idea. Not only will it take up almost all of your time, but you won’t necessarily get much out of it. Instead, find out what’s on offer and attend a few of the best ones.
You might find ones that are for graduate positions, if that’s what you’re looking for, or ones that cater specifically for the industry that you’re keen to work in. It’s a good idea to also look out for companies that you want to work for and which fairs they will be attending.
Once you’ve visited a couple, you’ll get a good feel for what works and where you should be focusing your time.
Going alone is always the best idea too. If you simply follow your friends around then it shows that you lack independence and the initiative to think for yourself.
Take a CV
You probably already have an all-singing, all-dancing CV (after following our guide of course) that effectively sells your skills and tells potential employers about what you can do for them.
Make sure that you go to careers fairs armed with plenty of copies to give out to any interested parties.
On the other hand, some employers won’t take CVs these days as most applications are online. If they don’t take it then do not feel offended.
Research the employers
A lot of careers fairs have a list of the major employers that will be attending. It’s important that you research those that you are interested in working for, almost like an interview.
If you can show that you have an in-depth knowledge about the company then it is something to talk about with the employer.
It could also help you from being caught out by any tricky questions they may ask you.
Dress to impress
You wouldn’t turn up to a job interview wearing jeans and a jumper (or we hope you wouldn’t!), and you shouldn’t take this laid back approach to a careers fair either.
Wear a shirt and some smart trousers or a skirt, which will tell employers that you’re serious about your job search and you’ve put some thought and effort into your approach. Smart casual will do too!
Stick to the usual rules such as not using too much aftershave or perfume and steering clear of excessive make-up.
It’s important that you stay confident and show it in your body language. If you don’t feel quite confident enough then it may be worth using the first few careers fairs as practice.
Prepare your elevator pitch
At one point or another you may have to sell yourself to an employer. It’s important that you know your strengths and how they could fit in with the company or industry that you are interested in.
Some graduates use their pitch as an introduction. Something along the lines of “Hi, my name’s Eric, I have just graduated in Geography and I was wondering what you felt about the transition for that subject into digital marketing. I’m mostly interested because I have a real interest in graphic design.”
In that short statement you have not only introduced yourself but also sold yourself.
Network and ask questions
If you plan to just browse the stalls and not strike up a conversation with anyone, you might as well just stay at home and browse the internet.
Make a point of striking up a conversation with the employers and paying a genuine interest in the positions that they’re advertising. It’s rare that you have the opportunity to form a relationship before the interview stage, so use it!
Even if they don’t appear to be offering any jobs just get to know the people on the stalls and maybe swap emails. It’s important to remember that they were in your position once.
If you like, you could take some business cards (get some free from Vistaprint) to impress your potential employers. It’s a great excuse to give them your contact details.
Very few people are blessed with a photographic memory so it is definitely beneficial to take a notepad and pen with you.
You can write anything from important contacts to notes from a swift talk with someone on one of the stalls. Every now and then you may be given a name to talk to (eg. Jenny Head of Marketing at Coca-Cola). You can use this in future to contact the Coca-Cola marketing department.
Don’t just go home and hope for the best. If you’ve made some great contacts at the fair, use them wisely. Follow up a few days later with an email or a phone call, asking if they’ve had the time to look at your CV and if they need any further information. Showing the initiative will definitely help you to stand out from the crowd.
Are you attending careers fairs as part of your job search? How have you found them so far?