Attending career fairs is obviously a no-brainer, lots of potential employers all in one place, and most importantly a chance to speak with companies about opportunities, options and the graduate recruitment process. So, just roll out of bed and mosey on over to the venue on the day; well that’s one way to approach things, however, with potentially hundreds of other students attending, our team of professional CV writers and interview coaches advise that to get the most out of your time at a career fair, you need a strategy and here are their top tips:

Why are you going?

It’s really important to ask yourself why you are going and what you expect to get out of the event. Are you going to find out more about a particular industry or company? Perhaps you are looking for information on applicant requirements, or the overall selection process?

Research

Once you’ve decided why you are going, a bit of research is useful, but isn’t the point of attending a graduate fair to actually do research? Indeed, but remember you will be jostling with loads of other students for a few moments with a recruiter, so it’s a good idea to know which companies are attending and what they do. So you can spend that precious little time to find out the really important stuff about what skills and qualifications they might be looking for. It’s also a good idea to prepare your questions beforehand.

Logistics

When we say logistics, it’s both how to get to the venue and, once inside, your plan for negotiating the exhibition hall itself. Check where the fair is taking place, timings and best way to get there.

If you have taken a bit of time to think about why you are going and research on which companies you definitely want to see, then this will help you focus on the location of the stands you will be visiting. In case you can get hold of a floor plan beforehand, it would be a useful tool to plot your way around – remember it’s going to be packed on the day.

The early bird…

Going early definitely can help avoid the crowds and long queues to speak with recruiters. It’s also better to fly solo, do go along with your mates if you like, but make sure to split once you reach the venue. It’s good for you and the company to see that you can function well independently.

Presentation

How do you dress for a graduate recruitment fair? This one’s a bit tricky and quite frankly, there really isn’t a real hard and fast rule, but smart casual is usually fine, and of course don’t forget to wear your smile.

CV and personal pitch

Update your CV, some employers may take resumes at recruitment fairs, the majority probably won’t, but in any case it’s good to have to hand, so that you can refer to it when talking through your experience and skills with recruiters.

Also, be prepared with a quick introduction on who you are, just say what your name is, what you’re studying and skills/experience you would like to mention, this is a good way to connect your interest in a company and/or specific scheme.

Make note

Take a pen and some paper, notebook or device so that you can make notes on who you spoke to, as well as any useful information you manage to get. It’s really easy to forget things or to mix up employers, especially as there will be a lot of employers there, so don’t leave it to chance. This will also enable you to mentioning the names of specific individuals you have met in your graduate cover letter / online graduate application form.

Extra Advice

One final bonus tip from our graduate interview coaches; career fairs are a good practice ground for interview techniques and questions. Candidates can often find themselves asked typical questions along the lines of:

  • What attracts you to this particular industry?
  • Why are you interesting in working for us?
  • What skills, qualities, or experience do you think would be important for the role?
  • What do you want to know about us?

Here’s an previous blog entry in case you would like a few tips on graduate interview etiquette, and how to make a good impression.

The graduate recruitment market is extremely competitive, but it’s possible to stand out if you arm yourself with the correct advice and preparation. City CV Managing Director Victoria McLean is a former recruitment manager for two leading, global banks and is a multiple resume industry award winner, including the 2013 ‘Best New Graduate Resume’. She leads a team of interview coaches and professional CV writers, who provide a bespoke 1-2-1 service, drawing on their in-depth hiring industry experience, across sectors and levels, right from graduates to board level executives. For a chat on how they could help you, call on +44 20 7100 6656 or email [email protected].

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