Careers Fairs: Top 5 Tips for Making the Most of Them

Article

5 min read

Lou Zoanetti

You would have to be crazy to turn up to your first job interview without having prepared your outfit, your CV and some good examples to showcase your experience. Yet so many students turn up to university careers fairs without putting in the time and energy to make the most of them, or leave their best first impression with graduate / internship program recruiters.

I have been a graduate recruiter for over a decade and over that time, I’ve met thousands of students and graduates. I’ve seen it all! The good (actually the VERY good), the bad and the ugly. To help set you up for success, I’ve put together my top 5 tips to help you make the most out of the careers fairs you choose to attend this year. 

 

1: Be Prepared

This goes without saying. But how do you best prepare for a careers fair? 

The first step is to ask yourself why you are going and what you hope to achieve from the day. Are you after a job or do you just want to network? Do you want some clarity on your career path or are you hoping to find inspiration in your chosen field? Do you want to meet a recruiter from a particular organisation or take a broad view of what is on offer? Whatever it is, make sure you are clear on your purpose as this will guide your overall strategy for the day. 

 

2: Look The Part

Careers fairs aren’t interviews, but they also aren’t not interviews. This is your opportunity to make a great first impression so you not only need to talk the talk, but you also need to walk the walk. You can leave the heels and ties at home, but still dress professionally – smart casual attire is the safest bet. 

Another thing to consider is what you will use to carry your resumes and all of the company brochures you pick up. You want to give off the vibe that you’re organised and presentable, so a folder, small bag or tote will help you look the part.

 

3: Create a Plan of Attack

Before you go, work out which organisations will be at the careers fair so that you can create a schedule relevant to your goal. Just like a music festival, you need to know who you want to see and create a timetable so that you don’t miss them. Prioritise the companies you actually want to work for, and spend time speaking to them rather than getting distracted by gimmicks or activities.

Then it is time to research. Research, research, research. Gather as much information about these organisations as you can. Read up on the different roles available, the company’s values and strategic plan and what kinds of things they are working on at the moment. This will help you devise a set of specific questions for each organisation which will ensure you get the most out of your time with them while you impress the recruiter with your preparation (win, win!). To stand out, avoid asking questions that can be found on the company website. Focus on questions that show you’ve done your research.

Researching your top-choice companies will also give you the right information to tailor a resume that you can give to them. Nothing says “I’m organised, prepared and an overall standout” like a company-specific resume come application time.

 

4: Don’t Waste Anyone’s Time

And that includes your time too! It all comes back to proper preparation. Practice a short elevator pitch you can use to introduce yourself to recruiters. Include your skills, passions, experiences, career goals and anything you believe will give solid insight into who you are and how you best align with the company at hand. Don’t forget that your elevator pitch could need tweaking from company to company. 

Seriously – don’t waste time! If you’re really connecting with a recruiter and organisation or you’re standing in front of your dream job begin a job application. Yep, right there, on the spot. If there is a hard copy form drop it off to the recruiter while continuing the conversation. If it’s an online process, be sure to let the person you were speaking to know you are as keen as a bean. You don’t have to finish the application right there on the spot but starting one does let them know you are serious about the role. 

 

5: Enter and Exit Conversations With Confidence.

Careers fairs are all about seizing opportunities, so don’t be afraid to head straight up to a recruiter to start a conversation with them. Introduce yourself with confidence. If the recruiter is speaking with another student, it may be appropriate for you to join in that conversation. Start by saying “Would you mind if I joined in?” Jumping in at the right time will indicate to the recruiter that you have initiative, are confident and personable. How you navigate these social scenarios will offer them insight into how you would interact at work with your team and clients. Make eye contact, be respectful and be sure to not speak over the other person, simply scope for a queue and take it. 

The way you exit a conversation is just as important as how you enter it. Once the conversation is wrapping up be sure to thank the person you are speaking to for their time and request a business card or ask if you can send them a LinkedIn request there and then. There is no way you, or the recruiter, will remember everyone’s name after the fair is done, but you will remember impressions, so be sure to leave the best one. 

While preparation is key for a successful day at a career fair, it is also just as important to be yourself and let your personality shine through. At the end of the day, you want to land a job at a company that aligns with your values and interests. 

 

I hope that these tips will help you make the most out of your next career fair. Don’t forget that your unique personal qualities are your best asset, so pack a smile and be your best professional self. Good luck!