Careers fairs and open days can give you unparalleled opportunities to network, gather information and make a good impression with recruiters.
Graduate careers fairs, open days and exhibitions can give you unparalleled opportunities to network, gather information and make a good impression with recruiters. Here’s a guide to getting the most out of the events.
Research before you turn up
You need to decide if it’s worth your while attending first of all. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to apply directly for roles while you’re there – careers fairs are primarily opportunities to network and to glean insider information on the company culture and what it’s really like to work there.
For this reason, make sure the organisations you’re interested in will be attending, or that there are other events and presentations to make it worth your time. For example, the Bright Network Festival offers networking opportunities with recruiters, skills training and panel sessions with advice on getting into various industries.
Check out the event website, then familiarise yourself with what the participating employers do. Have they been in the news recently? What’s been happening in their sector? If you haven’t yet drawn up a list of targeted organisations you’d like to work for, careers events can also give you a chance to find out more about other employers. Go with a curious mind: what sort of people are they looking for, and what does the application process involve?
Prepare questions you really want answers to, such as, “What’s great about being at the company?”, “What are the career development opportunities like?” Ask how best you can stand out in the application process, or what sort of person tends to do well in the company. You might also want to get a feel for the general atmosphere – do colleagues spend a lot of time together outside work or have similar interests, for example.
James Uffindell, founder of Bright Network, says that firms use these events to develop watch-lists. “Make a good impression and this could be marked on the recruiter’s system and help you with an application,” he says. Look and act the part – wear a smart outfit, offer a firm handshake, build rapport, and ask thoughtful questions based on your initial research, avoiding those which could be easily found on the company website.
The sort of questions that can spark further conversation can be around specific projects, initiatives or deals you’ve read about, new markets and growth opportunities, or the impact that competitors or technologies are having on the business.
Don’t just stock up on the freebies — talk to people. Careers fairs are usually friendly and informal and they give you a good chance to practise talking to recruiters without the pressure of a formal interview.
Mention if you have any relevant experience such as an internship or work placement in the company or in a similar field. Even if your experience isn’t directly relevant to that role, it might be useful to talk about why you want to work there, or more generally about your career motivations and interests.
But don’t linger. There’s nothing worse that someone who just won’t go away and outstays their welcome. Once you’ve made a good impression and had your questions answered, move on.
Take marketing materials
A copy of your CV is one option, but it risks being folded up and lost among all the others. An alternative is a business card with your name, contact details and career goal on the front, and a memorable achievement or key fact about you on the back.
Ask for the recruiter’s business card and, once you’ve left, make a brief note on it of any key information that came out of your conversation. If you’re interested in the company, email them after the event to say how much you enjoyed meeting them. Try to jog their memory with one of the conversation points and say that you’ll be applying to the organisation.
Thanks to The Guardian for allowing icould.com to republish this article. You can view the original version on the Guardian website.