How to make the most of career fairs

Meet an array of employers under one roof and get the maximum benefits from these brief windows of opportunity
Recruiter talking to a law gradaute
Write down and practise your mini pitch
Find your own unique selling point. Many students will have a broadly similar profile, so try to highlight your particular skills and qualities

Being savvy about career fairs and making the right impression on companies could find you invited for a job interview. If you are not sure where you want to work, these events can introduce you to a range of options.

Decide which fairs you want to go to by checking out the exhibitor list - you may also need to register beforehand. Undertake research about fairs before you go so you can meet the employers which interest you the most. Review companies’ careers pages, graduate roles and services on websites to help you talk industry trends, company targets and about your own goals.

Find your own unique selling point. Many students will have a broadly similar profile, so try to highlight your particular skills and qualities.

A few days before the fair you can scan the media and suitable industry websites to get an idea of what is happening in the sectors which interest you. This will keep you up to date.

Plan your visit. These events are often busy affairs and time is limited, so get a floor plan if you can. See if there is a programme of events and decide which talks and seminars you want to attend.

Do write down your mini pitch and practise it with a list of questions you are going to ask. Look professional and dress the part. Use Google maps to plan your visit so you arrive early and don’t forget to put your phone on silent.

At the event

Practise on a company to warm up and hone your patter. Next, go and talk to the priority company you want to work with. It’s best to go on your own rather than with a group of friends - this presents you as an independent and decisive individual.

One question to ask could be: ‘What experience do you like applicants to have?’ Avoid obvious questions like 'What does your company do?'.

Paper resumes or CVs can get lost or filed under the wrong skill or name. Take a business card or postcard with you which promotes you, what you do or what you can offer. List any relevant websites, blogs, LinkedIn profiles or online CV/resume on your cards. And make sure you ask for business cards in return.

When you meet people the following will stand you in good stead:

  • smile
  • be purposeful, confident and enthusiastic
  • also be polite, friendly and professional
  • be prepared about your skills, knowledge and experience
  • arm yourself with specific questions to ask
  • don’t hang around too long or overstay your welcome.

Take breaks once you meet each employer and jot down notes to help you remember what was discussed. Highlight one key point of discussion which you can follow up when you contact the company later.

Get connected

LinkedIn is now targeting college students to join up to its professional networking website. Students and graduates currently represent the site’s fastest growing demographic group. If you haven’t already, create a professional profile before you venture forth. Read our previous article Get connected on LinkedIn for tips and advice on how to get started.

After the event

Refer to your notes about each company and follow up with any information or action requested. Ensure you do this within 24 hours. Reference a point in the conversation to jog the recruiter’s memory and ask any follow up questions. If you asked a question and don’t hear back, follow up in two weeks with an email. You can also consider sending your CV or resume and a cover letter to companies.

Finally, track all your contact information in an orderly way which works for you. This could be anything from using an Excel spreadsheet, a suitable app like Contacts+ on Google, or Evernote Hello which allows you to scan business cards. You can also use LinkedIn to manage contacts and if you want to join up to a company make sure you individualise your request.

More information

The Careers Group has a list of forthcoming UK graduate careers fairs throughout the year where you can find out more about companies you are interested in and their graduate job opportunities.

Contact the institution in your country to find out information about career fairs you can go to. There are also fairs which specialise in your field. The Hong Kong Law Fair is a yearly event advertised on our Hong Kong institution’s website HKUSpace. Check the events section for March or October every year.

For students who study at SIM Global Education in Singapore, the institute hosts the SIM Job Fair yearly in March. It presents a good opportunity for companies to engage with students and showcase positions available.

For students in the USA, Target Job Fairs host more than 90 career fairs a year. Search their website for a wide range of local and national events in your area from Massachusetts to California.

In London, Target Jobs and The Careers Group also host the following fairs: