To quote the Boy Scouts: “Be prepared [for careers fairs].” Candidates who do their prep really do stand out at careers fairs. Here are our top ten tips on preparing for a careers fair…
1. Work out what you want from a careers fair. Inside knowledge about a profession? Tips on the application process? Or an employer’s opinion on your CV?
2. Gather as much information about the careers fair as possible. Make sure you pick up a programme of events and a map from the organisers. It’s best to work out a provisional itinerary for the day and figure out how much time you’ll have to speak to companies.
3. Check out who is attending. Research the companies who will be showing up at the careers fair and write out a list of the ones that particularly appeal to you. Careers fairs are getting bigger and bigger, so you’ll want to make sure you use your time wisely and meet the people who are most relevant to you.
4. Research, research, research. It won’t impress if you go up to the company’s representatives without a clue about what the company does. With your list of favoured companies in hand, research their background, environment and objectives.
5. Write down a list of questions that you want to ask them. Design them to show that you researched the company beforehand and are enthusiastic to know more about them. You could also ask them about their career and what they enjoy about working in the industry.
6. Practice a pitch. Prepare a brief introduction about your knowledge, skills and abilities. It’s a great way to educate your listener about your qualifications. Having something prepared will make it easier to approach company representatives. Think about your strengths, career aims and the skills you have that the company will find attractive.
7. Prepare a CV and take along copies. Check out our tips on how to write a CV and get your careers advisor to check it over beforehand. You might want to tailor your CV to highlight the education, skills and work experience that are most relevant to your targeted companies or even prepare several different versions. Some companies prefer not to accept CVs at events, so you might want to rustle up a few business cards with your contact details and a brief line about what area of work you’re particularly interested in.
8. Companies love organised types. Bring a notebook, a pen and a folder to carry leaflets, brochures and business cards. You don’t want to be dropping their leaflets all over the place.
9. Dress to impress. Careers fairs aren’t super formal environments, but it does help to look smart and presentable. You don’t have to shell out on a new suit, but smart casual is probably the safest bet.
10. Begin an application. If you’re particularly interested in a company, register on their website and start an application form. You don’t have to complete it (or write anything at all); it’s just a great way to get an initial sense of their application process and the kind of qualities they’re looking for in a candidate. This also means you can ask them more tailored questions about their application process.