Career fairs are still an essential part of the job hunt for people of any age and can be a great opportunity. The problem is that these fairs are often frustrating experiences, especially if you come in with the wrong expectations. At their best though career fairs provide a great chance for job hunters to research the opportunities that are out there. So how do you get the most out of it? Well as you might have guessed from the title, my answer is to think like a recruiter.
Why do recruiters go to Career fairs?
It is rare to find recruiters looking interview straight away, though this becomes more common the higher up the career ladder you are. For large companies Careers fairs offer a chance to let people know about their openings and get feel for the candidates out there. This is part of the reason why you will often see flashy exhibition stands but very few people moving straight onto the next stage.
So what can you make of this information, well rather than treating it as a chance to actually get a Career, use it for research opportunities and companies. For example did the staff on one stand seem particularly aggressive or uninterested? Then maybe that’s an indication that this isn’t a great company to work for? Rather than exclusively asking questions about what available now, enquire as to future vacancies and try to get a name to write to in the HR department.
Why do they all look the same?
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do! Recruiters know that if they create a bad impression then you are unlikely to try to work for your company, so they will often adopt a safe approach. You will see a few exceptions such as branded polo shirts for more informal companies, but by and large the image they want to project is look how successful you will be if you work for us. In addition the current market is very much an employers’ market meaning that it is tempting for companies to get lazy about hiring people.
So how does this translate to you? Well the obvious thing is dress smart. After all if you’re overdressed then it won’t be a huge deal and may help you stand out. (Unless you turn up in black tie, then you will stand out, but you will probably look like a twit.) So either smart casual or a suit is a good way to go. If you customise your suit by wearing an unusual tie or badge then you may be able to stand out, but by far the main concern is showing that you can be smart, even if you wouldn’t normally be!
As side note it is worth taking a couple of tips from the professionals and wearing shoes that will remain comfortable despite a lot of walking around and eating outside of the fair. This is less to do with appearance and more to do with comfort, but you will create a better appearance than if you are comfortable.
What’s with all the brochures?
If you have ever been to a Career fair you will have seen the brochures that each business hands out. They do this for several reasons, one is so that interested students have more information about the company, and the other is to ensure that they are remembered. You can do something similar. Of course there is no point handing out brochures, but if you get some business cards made beforehand then you will make yourself a little more memorable. (Even if all they say is John Doe, Computer science Graduate). However the true worth of a business card is that you can use it to get cards from the recruiters. If instead of a C.V. you hand over your card and say something along the lines of “it would be great to have your card” then you have netted yourself a contact inside the company!
Always Follow Up
You know those C.V.s and cards you handed out? Chances are the recruiters are going to throw them in the bin. Sorry but that’s the truth. They will follow up with a few prospective candidates who caught their eye, but they probably saw a couple of hundred over those few days and the chances are they won’t remember you. So what can you do?
Well you remember I told you to get their business cards. Well here’s why, the next day go through the cards for the companies you liked and either email or call them. This is a chance to ask the questions you forgot to ask or didn’t have time to at the fair. In addition if you can get names to send C.V.s to and inside advice then you will find it that much easier to get that precious interview!
Daniel Frank is a recent graduate and online marketer working on behalf of Nimlok a company that specialises in creating modular exhibition stands.