A careers fair is a highly effective way for you to speak to employees about their industry, employer, job roles available, vacancies and their application processes.
They are often held in the Autumn term, and for companies they are a great way for them to find students to take on in graduate positions, internships and placements. Some are general, while others focus on particular areas of employment such as law, engineering or IT.
Attending with the right knowledge and prior research, you can make a good impression and really benefit from questioning lots of employers, however turning up blindly can be overwhelming and won’t get you anywhere so here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your day.
Before the Event
Why do you Want to Attend?
Why do you want to attend and what do you want to get out of the event? If you are in first year you may be exploring different industries or job roles, while by second year you might be exploring a number of company’s work experience programmes and by third year you may want to get an insight into a specific employer’s application process.
Plot your Route
Gather all the information available about the fair. Once you’ve got a layout of the space, you can plot a route and itinerary so that you can visit all the companies you would like to and make sure that you don’t leave a company out.
Employers’ websites are a great way to find out what they do and what services or products they offer. You might also want to find out more about what their future initiatives and objectives are. They might also have specific careers pages where you can find out about job roles, the skills and qualifications they look for in graduates and whether you would be suitable, what work experience they offer and their recruitment process.
You could also look at a company’s social media to see if they have any news or have been to any other recent events you could ask questions about.
From this research you can also work out which ones you’d like to speak to and who you’ve ruled out.
The questions you’ll want to ask will depend on why you are attending the fair, and might include what skills and qualities they are looking for in their employees, how the recruitment process works, more information about the company/industry or what work experience they offer students. This will show them that you’ve come prepared and really are interested in their company. You could also ask them about their career and what they enjoy about working in the industry.
Write them down so you don’t forget to ask something important. You can always refer to them if need be.
Practise introducing yourself. For example: ‘Hi. I’m Henry and I’m a second year Biology student. I am interested in a career in HR and am interested in finding out more about the summer internships available in your HR department. Can you tell me more about your internships, what they involve, what they are looking for and how I would go about applying for one?’
You’ll also want to keep in mind your knowledge, skills and abilities and your career aims in case you are asked about what you would offer the company.
Prepare a CV and take along copies. If you are interested in a few different industries or opportunities you can tailor your CV accordingly and bring a few different versions along.
Some companies won’t accept CV at fairs, however it is useful if you have to refer to your skills and experience and also shows that you are organised.
On the Day
Dress to Impress
You don’t need to be ridiculously smart, and smart casual is usually fine. However you do need to look presentable, neat and tidy. If in doubt, err on the side of caution, particularly for sectors such as law, finance and management consulting. Employers won’t mind if you look smarter than everyone else, but they will remember you if you don’t!
Adopt a Strategy
Work out the order you are going to visit companies and do so on your own, rather than with friends. Present your pitch and ask questions. If you're feeling nervous, start with one or two employers you are not too sure about before you speak to your favourite as the experience of the first few will help you calm your nerves.
Confidence is Key
You’ve done the groundwork so don’t worry, you’ll shine! Just remember to be purposeful, confident and enthusiastic.
You can avoid the queues and get everything over and done with!
Remember your questions.
Bring a notepad and pen to write down the names and contact details of those you’ve met and their role within the company. Once you leave an employer's stand, move to one side and record what you learnt from that meeting: Do you like the company? Do you think you would fit in? Would you like to find out more about them? Would you like to apply for a position with them? What skills and abilities to you have that you think they will like?
After the Event
Keep in Touch
At the end of the fair, you should have a better understanding of the types of companies you’d like to work for and the careers available within those companies. With contact details or business cards you should follow your leads up.
Following up can include sending a thank you email for the time the company representative spent with you and the questions he/she answered. You may also want to add the contact on LinkedIn so you can remain in touch and they have an idea what you are getting up to at university.