How to prepare for a careers fair
Careers fairs provide a great way to find out more about employment sectors that interest you and to talk in depth with graduate recruiters from a range of organisations. You will be given the opportunity to:
- Ask questions about their graduate schemes
- Find out more about the recruitment application and interview processes
- Get insiders' views about the working environment and culture of the organisation to assess whether it is likely to fit your aspirations
- Build up a network of contacts
To get the most out of a fair, you will have to prepare thoroughly.
If you are as yet undecided on a career or specific business areas in which to work, the fair can be a good way to get an overview of a wide range of possibilities.
Remember that most organisations have a range of types of work available, not just the obvious. For example, a firm known for manufacturing drugs will need marketing staff as well as research scientists; law or accounting firms need information specialists as well as solicitors and accountants.
Take a look at this useful Guardian News article about preparing for a careers fair.
What to bring with you
You don't want to be carrying a lot of luggage around a busy fair, so bring as little as possible.
The following are the most important fair “equipment”.
- Bring a pen so you can complete any forms or sign-up sheets employers have. It does not create a good impression to have to ask to borrow a pen.
- A notebook to record names of people you spoke to (so you can follow up later) and to jot down answers to your questions. It is easy to forget details and muddle up people after the event if you haven't written it down at the time.
- An open mind! There may be exhibitors present who you haven’t previously considered. It might pay to explore what they have to offer: they could have an opportunity that would suit you perfectly.
- It is a good idea to bring some copies of your CV, but be aware that to be most effective, the CV should be targeted to a particular employer or vacancy rather than generic.
- If you bring a mobile phone with you, turn it off before you start talking to the exhibitors (or going into a seminar/workshop) as being interrupted in mid-flow is impolite and will do nothing for your confidence or concentration.
Everything about you influences the exhibitors. It is not just the way you answer questions! The way you dress, stand, make eye contact, gesticulate, etc. will all contribute at some level to their impression of you. It may seem like stating the obvious, but the following are recommended:
- Be polite and friendly, enthusiastic and positive, but also honest. It is a disservice to yourself and the potential employer to hide factors that mean you are truly unsuitable – you won’t perform well at, or enjoy, a job for which you are not suited!
- Be as well informed as you can about the employer; if you don’t know much at least try to ask sensible questions showing a real interest and not just focus on, say, the salary. Try asking about their business prospects, how they see their industry/sector developing, how the representative found their job and what they enjoy about the work.
- Each representative will probably talk to scores of people during the event, who will all be degree level candidates with a lot in common. Therefore when talking about yourself, concentrate on the things that make you distinctive. Perhaps a particular project you worked on, specific skills you developed during course work and social activities from which you gained knowledge or competencies, etc.
- Exhibitors are probably not expecting you to be dressed in an interview suit - particularly at campus events where you may have come to the fair direct from a lecture or laboratory – but don’t go to the other extreme. Smart casual attire is usually appropriate. Also bear in mind your comfort; some venues can be hot in summer or cold in winter and as you'll be standing around a lot, comfortable shoes are essential!
- It will probably look good if you make notes and take down contact details - this shows you are organised and serious.
Thanks to our colleagues at Kings College, London for contrinuting this article.