Five ways to make the most of career fairs

Want to speak face-to-face with recruiters in your industry?

Career fairs are a great way of getting in front of hiring managers and recruiters in your sector – not to mention an excellent opportunity to make valuable connections to help move your career forward. Not sure what you can do to make them work for you?  

Here are some of our top career fair tips, and how you can learn to use them to your advantage:

 

Know why you’re actually attending

No matter what your current job situation is, career fairs have a huge range of benefits.

However, if you don’t even know what the point of being there is, or what recruiters you could talk to, you’re only likely to be wasting your own time.

Maybe you want to ask about how to improve your CV? Or maybe there’s a particular job in mind that you’d like to know more about? Whatever it is, act on it and leave feeling satisfied.

A great deal of market research can be done here too, even for those of you not (yet) on the job hunt. Do not take this for granted.  

Write down what you want from the experience before you go, and you’ll automatically give yourself a goal to aim for by the end of the day.

Top tip: ALWAYS have copies of your CV to hand as well as examples of your work, if you have them).

 

Do ‘proper’ research

Never underestimate the importance of good preparation.

Job fair websites are great for providing detailed information regarding all upcoming events, including potential guest speakers and workshops. So start by seeing what companies are there, and where they’re likely to be.

You can also look up their vacancies online before you attend, which will give you a background of the type of roles they have available – not to mention give you some good material when it comes to thinking up potential questions you could ask.

And always work on your ‘elevator pitch’ in advance. It will make things far less awkward when it comes to introducing yourself on the big day.

Top tip: Prioritise who you really want to talk to, and head to these tables first. Turning up early is also a must – you don’t want to miss out on speaking to a company just because their stand is too busy.

 

Dress appropriately

Ah, the age-old dress code debate.

Heels or flats? To tie, or not to tie? Nike tech-fleece tracksuit, or literally anything else? We get it. Putting together an ‘appropriate’ outfit for these occasions can always be a challenge.

Try to think of it as somewhere between a job interview and a work event. It’s your chance to sell yourself to potential recruiters and give off a good first impression. And, let’s face it, why would you want to give your well thought-out elevator pitch dressed in a hoodie and bright green trainers?

Additionally, you have no real idea of the influence the people you’re meeting have on the hiring process. So, although their badge may not say “impress me, and I will get you employed”, they could actually help make the decision. Or at least remember you when you application comes through.

So dress accordingly, be professional and hope for the best.

Top tip: It’s always better to be underdressed than overdressed. Think ‘professional’: shirts and trousers, smart skirts and dresses. And leave the baseball caps at home…

 

Network

Jobseekers and employers alike, understand the value of ‘networking’.

Why? Well, remember the recruiter whose badge didn’t imply they were a key decision maker in their company? Because of your chat, they made you aware that their partner was the Talent Acquisition Manager of your dream company, and so they’d be more than happy to pass over your details.

Now is this likely to happen at every event? No. But if even one recruiter you speak to takes your details down, then the event has been well worth it.

And they aren’t just about connecting with recruiters. There are a number of insightful career coaches and like-minded job seekers out there who will be more than willing to help you improve everything from your applications to your personal branding.

As a wise man once said, ‘networking is more about farming, than it is about hunting’. So go on, plant those crops and watch as they yield fruitful dividend. Also, you know, another helpful analogy which isn’t about farming.

Top tip: Some research suggests that up to 70% of people in their current roles assumed these through effective networking. So don’t pass up your chance to make the right connections.

 

Follow up

Our number one tip for career fairs? Don’t just think of the short-term gains.

Using the connections you’ve made to actually benefit your career can often come weeks, months or even years down the line. So, in order to make the most of them you have to put the work in first.

Once you’ve got their details (did someone say business cards?), send them a follow-up email a few days later thanking them for their time. And add them to your professional networks across your social channels, if possible. That way you’ll know as soon as a relevant role comes up.

Finally, the most effective career fair candidates make themselves memorable. Be personable, be personal (i.e. asking about their experiences, rather than generic questions about the company), and relax.

It could just be the start of a brand new career.

Top tip: In your email or invitation on social, always try and mention one thing you learned or enjoyed about the conversation. That way they’ve got an easy reference point to remember your conversation.

 

 

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