How to make the most of careers fairs
A career fair is a type of exhibition at which employers meet a large volume of potential job candidates, and you, as a job-seeker, can meet a large number of employers. You can drop in at any time during the opening hours.
Employers have stands at which they display information about their organisation and job opportunities. Representatives of the employer will be there, ready to answer your questions about anything to do with working for them, from 'what type of people do you recruit?' to 'how do I apply?' to 'what's a typical day like?'.
By attending a career fair you build up your information on employers, job opportunities, and their recruiting strategies and styles.
It is also a chance for you to check out where you want to work - would working for this employer meet your career goals? You could expand your network of professional contacts, which is a vital part of the job search process. There may also be professional organisations or employment agencies at the fair, which are also good sources for networking.
Whatever stage you are at in your study, you can benefit from attending a career fair.
Some of the employers who attended the 2012 Science and Technology Careers Fair talk about how students can make the best of their visit to a careers fair. This video is 1 minute 40.
Here are some things you should do:
- Get a list of the companies attending the fair, and do some research on each of the companies you want to know more about. Gather basic information about the company such as size, organisation, locations, management, their products, and standing in their industry. See Companies and organisations attending careers fairs in 2013.
- Prepare some questions you would like to ask the employers you are interested in. Think about what you need to know about an employer before you make a decision to apply to them for a job.
Prepare a CV to take with you - you may wish to leave a copy with some employers.
- Career Development and Employment Services also provides a CV checking service. Make sure you have enough copies of your CV with you - one for each employer you are interested in, just in case they ask for it. Read more about the CV checking service.
- Consider what you will wear. We know that image and first impressions are very important, so dress smartly. It is better to over-dress than under-dress.
- Devise a strategy or plan of attack for the fair. Get a map of the fair (which may only be available at the door) and plan your route. Which employers do you want to see first?
- Prepare a brief (30 second) introductory speech about yourself, which you can use when you approach the employer. Include your name, course of study, stage/year, and career interests, for example.
When you arrive at the career fair, refer to your prepared plan and carry it out!
Gather information and materials from each organisation's stand, not just the ones you are particularly interested in. Once you review the information, your preferences may change.
When you visit the stands of the employers you are interested in make sure you speak to one of the employer representatives. Make eye contact, offer a firm handshake, and show enthusiasm. Ask them the questions you have prepared and deliver your introductory speech.
Make sure you leave with the employer's materials, answers to your questions, a clear idea of the recruitment process and the name of the representative you spoke to. Ask for their business card - your application may be made stronger by mentioning the name of the person you met.