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What to Expect from a Careers Fair

What to Expect from a Careers Fair main image

By Anna Whitehouse

A new season of careers fairs is about to get going. Packed with information, these regular events offer a unique opportunity to network with employers and bring your future into focus.

We take a look at what’s on offer and how to make the most of your visit.

General or specialist fair?

If you don’t have your eye on a particular industry, look out for general careers fairs. These cover a variety of industries and many of the firms represented recruit undergraduates studying a wide range of subjects. Most universities hold their own general fair which is attended by employers, but if you fancy discovering what’s on offer at larger events, the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibitions are worth a visit if you’re in the UK. These general careers fairs are held in Birmingham and London and are attended by over 100 employers. Register beforehand for fast track entry.

For students who have already decided on a career path, there’s an abundance of specialist careers events. From fairs for aspiring lawyers to afternoon teas for prospective financial advisers, you’ll find events covering every career listed on the Prospects website.

Gain access to employers

The main benefit of attending a careers fair is the chance to talk to recruiters. Companies normally send a mix of representatives, so you’ll come across HR reps, experienced members of staff and recent recruits.

Take the opportunity to talk to younger employees, as they’ll be able share their experience of the graduate recruitment process, while more experienced employees and HR reps should be able to offer some interview tips and give you an accurate picture of their ideal candidate.

If nerves make you tongue-tied, prepare a brief introduction to your area of study, your skills and your career interests. You’ll have to do this whenever you attend an interview, so why not treat the careers fair as a chance to practice? If you’re keen to impress a particular company’s representative, it might be wise to try out your elevator pitch at a less important stall first.

Get help with job interviews and your CV

Many careers events offer a variety of optional seminars, interview workshops and talks. If you’re keen to take part, we recommend checking out the organizer’s website, as they generally need to be booked ahead.

Larger careers fairs often include a CV clinic run by HR experts. Taking part can give you valuable feedback and tips. It’s also worth making the most of opportunities to practice common assessment activities such as psychometric tests.

Use the chance to ask questions

Whenever you have access to recruiters, don’t be afraid to ask questions. However, instead of asking the obvious ones, try and dig a little deeper. For example, you could ask about the finer details of a specific role and what the options are for career progression.

If you’re worried that you might forget what to say, write your questions on a small piece of card and have a quick peek at it beforehand.

If you’re keen to ask a question during a more formal talk, you’ll need to submit it in advance on the day of the fair. When you’re invited to speak, stand up, introduce yourself and project your voice. Always avoid the temptation to show off with overly complicated questions.

Take the opportunity to secure work experience

While you’re surrounded by potential employers, why not find out whether they offer any internships or placements?

These CV-boosting opportunities are aimed at giving you a flavor of what it’s really like to work for a particular company. You’ll often get the chance to experience several different roles and this can make all the difference when it comes to choosing your career path.

Whichever events you opt for, making the most of each visit requires plenty of preparation. Check out the list of exhibitors beforehand, decide which ones you really want to visit and research them thoroughly. Arm yourself with a few pristine copies of your CV, dress smartly and don’t forget to smile.

Anna Whitehouse writes for Inspiring Interns, which specializes in sourcing candidates for internships and graduate jobs, including digital jobs.

Lead image: US Army Corps of Engineers (Flickr)

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Thank you for such an informative article. Adding to the best practice that has been shared, I have a blog including some insights from the students' side on what they expect from attending a career fair and what they have for a job fair application. Hope this can be useful and lead to further discussion: http://bit.ly/2DJvCBO