Careers fairs are useful for a range of students - those starting their degree and looking for work experience opportunities, as well as recent graduates looking for full-time employment or a graduate scheme. Also, they give large companies much needed time to advertise themselves and recruit new people.
What is a careers fair?
Careers fairs (also known as jobs fairs or recruitment fairs) are a useful resource for candidates to use to find out about potential employers. They are typically organised in a large hall where potential employers will set up booths with members from their human resources (HR) team along with new employees, to tell those attending about their company, their application process and anything else they might want to know.
Those attending a careers fair will be free to ask any questions they wish to prospective employers and take notes on their answer, as well as being able to take any promotional material or freebies that are offered by the firm. In addition, there will usually be talks held by either companies attending or the organiser of the fair itself - often on a range of topics such as how to apply and acquire certain jobs.
The talks can be useful in terms of general advice surrounding writing a CV or how to prepare for an assessment centre. That said, if you are solely going to a careers fair to apply for a specific company, such talks will not be as useful to you unless you need to know about such topics.
Careers fairs are typically held within universities for their students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, though there are plenty of other careers fairs organised by external companies such as JobsFair. However, such fairs will not run very frequently and so it is vital that you remember to go to at least one before applying to the company you wish to work at.
Why should I go to a careers fair?
One of the main reasons why you should go to a careers fair is for research. If you are unsure of where you want to work, or what you want to work as in later life, the companies at careers fairs provide huge amounts of information and experience about different sectors. Simply asking people what it is like in a certain profession or within a certain company will allow you to get a bigger picture of what it is like to work in that area, allowing you to make an informed choice about your career path.
If you have already decided where you want to work, then a careers fair is still extremely useful for networking with the staff. When you do apply for a particular company, it can be a great advantage to know someone there who can help guide you through the application process. Recruitment, especially at the top firms such as the big 4 and magic circle firms, is often dependent on who you know, and so connecting on LinkedIn with them afterwards is a good idea. Be sure to get their permission to do so at the careers fair beforehand.
Tips for Careers Fairs
Don't stay silent. Many people may be shy during a careers fair and simply listen to others; more often than not, this represents a wasted opportunity. Make sure to ask plenty of questions to potential employers as well as general requests to connect on LinkedIn. The best attendees will prepare their questions the night before and do enough research on specific companies so that they can impress them.
Example questions may include:
- What is the working culture like at your firm?
- Do you have any opportunities to work abroad during your training period?
- What is available in terms of career profession at your firm?
- What is your CSR policy?
Make sure your questions are not ones that can easily be found online and avoid any questions relating to salary.
Act professionally. Careers fairs can often be hectic. Nevertheless, ensure that you dress professionally, as you might be meeting your future employer or interviewer. Formal attire demonstrates that you are a competent and motivated individual with a passion to get ahead in your career with their help.
Follow up after. Those who have set up booths at a careers fair will have met a lot of people that day, so they will forget you instantly if you don't follow up afterwards. Make sure that you request to contact them on LinkedIn, or in substitute of that email them asking for further information so that you can keep in touch. If done, they will hopefully be able to help you later on when you actually apply for the firm.
While the internet does provide a lot of information on different careers and companies, they cannot be a substitute for the personal experience that you will experience when you attend a careers fair. Even if you can't attend, try to get a friend who can and get them to write notes for you.
For further information on careers fairs and the industries around them, read: