It’s very easy to go to a careers fair, pick up a lot of paper, some nice pens (anyone heard the RaboDirect ad “oh I do like a nice pen”? – love that ad 🙂 ) But how does that help you in your job search?  Careers Fairs can be really useful events – for you and the employer.

So here’s some tips on how to make the best of your time if you are attending as a jobseeker: (GradIreland also have a very good article on this here)

A careers fair is an excellent opportunity to do a lot of the background research, to make an impression on someone who matters, to figure out whether this is really a company for you. You can find out what vacancies there are, how to apply, even discuss the application procedure in detail (maybe pick up some key buzz words for that company). You can find out names of HR people, which means you can address your letters, or phone up and look for the right person. You can find out what the company is currently working on – major projects/ developments, which will make your application or interview sound more knowledgeable. You can find out what they’d offer you in terms of training, support etc. Just don’t ask ” what have you got for me?” – maybe ask, if I was working for you, what training would I get, what would you expect from me?

If you’re serious about using a careers fair to make contact with companies in your area, or to do research about the opportunities available to you, be prepared to make a good impression. Many companies do send their HR people & managers to run the stands, do be aware that they can be the one you’ll meet if you go to interview. Dress smart. Take notes. Have some key questions ready. Use the time wisely.

Some of the tips I’ve gotten from employers include

  • Don’t go up to the company asking what they do in a general sense – most fairs have a book given out at the entrance that describes the basics about the exhibitors.  In fact, a lot of fairs will list exhibitors beforehand on their websites, you can use this to prioritise some companies and prepare for talking to them.
  • Do be aware that you may not get as much time as you would like with an employer. There may be many students there waiting for you to finish, or you may have to wait to talk to the employer you want.
  • Do be careful about what you say or more importantly how you say it, i.e, Don’t make it about you – no “what can you do for me”
  • Do treat it seriously. If an employer thinks you’re only there for the free stuff, they’re not going to take you seriously.
  • Don’t give out your CV all the time – a targetted CV, tailored for that company is always better. Ask where you can send it instead (noting the details) and use the time to talk to the employer so that what you send in is better. Also, some company’s will not accept CVs on the day.

So there’s some things to think about and into careers month we go!

(edited to take in some extra feedback)

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