Career Advice

The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Most out of Careers Fairs

John Smith

With job-seeking top-of-mind for summer finishers in APAC, careers fairs are a great opportunity for employers and students or graduates to get to learn about each other, and possibly interview for open positions. So, let’s talk about how to maximise your careers fair experience.

Scrolling through job site postings, emailing your CV into the void and crossing your fingers.

This obviously works in a lot of cases but… wouldn’t it be great if you could actually get face-to-face with company recruiters and cut to the chase?

Of course, there is a way… at careers fairs.

Careers fairs are events held over one or more days, often with dozens of companies vying for attention. Traditionally, they are staged in large venues with a maze of stands or, increasingly, in these times of COVID, virtually.

How you can get the most out of careers fairs

Like so many things, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. The key to getting the most out of a career fair, physical or virtual, is preparation. We’ve put together a few tips to follow which will hopefully make that easier.

First: What DO you want to get out of it?

Why are you thinking of attending? Aimlessly wandering about might score you a pocket full of cool branded pens but is otherwise wasted opportunity.

Are you there to compare the types of positions on offer? What recruiters are looking for in a graduate? Networking?

Arm yourself with a game plan, stay focussed on your objectives and your time there will be the most productive.

Do your research

There will be a list of companies which are going to be present at the job fair. Doing some background digging in advance will tell you who to put at the top of your own interest list. You’ll be able to start aligning their values and needs with your qualifications and ambitions before you take a single step inside.

It’ll also help in initial conversations with recruiters. If you can show you already have an interest in a company, they’re much more likely to show an interest in you. And with the ‘small talk’ out of the way – “So, what do you do?” – you can get down to brass tacks.

It also pays to research the fair itself. Study the floor plan and chart your most efficient course to check in on your top prospects.

Dress for success

You’ve heard the expression, ‘dress for the job you want, not the one you have’?

Most students will attend a career expo looking like, well, students. Nothing wrong with that generally, but if you want to look like you mean business, ignore what your peers might tease you about for an afternoon and set out to make an impression. ‘First impressions last’. That doesn’t have to be a suit, just… smart, you know?

Have your elevator pitch down

It’s a good idea to have personal summary of your background, skills and experience prepared – your elevator pitch.

You’re looking for a combination of why your accomplishments make you valuable and how you’re keen to apply them to the opportunity at hand.

To deliver with an air of confidence, practice it a few times before attending. It should be rehearsed without sounding rehearsed. Ideally, you want to have a war-chest of nuggets that you can drop in to stand out. “I was the Under-8 National Coding Champion” is more memorable than “I got a 95 in computer science.” Just, try not to sound like a walking PowerPoint – relax, be conversational and adaptable.

A fistful of resumés

You’ve probably already got a resumé in some form on file. Ensure it’s up to date and, if you have a hit-list of companies to approach, customise different versions to emphasise your skills and experience most suited to their requirements. Not necessarily a completely different one for each recruiter – but maybe…

Even though most companies at careers fairs are looking to fill entry-level jobs, they can still have surprising experience expectations – we discuss how to get around that in this blog.

Anyway, if you have 2 or 3 versions, print off more than you think you’ll need and keep them in clearly marked folders. You’ve got an online version of your CV too, right? Perhaps have a link to it on your resumé so it can be easily viewed and shared.

Have some killer questions ready

Recruiting is a two-way conversation, and it actually starts with you. Everyone’s favourite topic is themselves. Demonstrate that you already know enough about them to be very interested and that you’re eager to find out more.

“Your [particular product/service] looks amazing! Where do you think it’s going from here?”

“With regards to the culture, what’s the best part about working for [Company X]?”

The right questions will actually tell them something about you before they ask theirs. If you appear enthusiastic and sincere, they’ll be busting to get to know you better.

Going virtual

The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously changed how we do many things. One area of change that has seen a positive evolution is the rise in virtual careers fairs.

Holding these events online has introduced many benefits to companies and candidates alike. Naturally, there’s a geographic advantage – allowing participation on a much broader scale, even international attendees.

Apart from, say, printed resumés, preparation is basically the same as for a traditional fair, including how you present yourself. But there are a couple of specific points to consider.

When you register for a virtual career fair online, you may be asked to upload a resumé. This could be circulated among recruiters, letting them discover candidates who are a promising fit before you even meet them.

A physical location means physically getting around – it’s very easy to research all the participating companies’ profiles and plan your ‘route’ online to check out the recruiters who interest you.

All conservations will be by video chat, so look at the calendar and join chat queues for your 1-on-1 with reps. If they’re available, jump on group chats too.  

Be punctual for any bookings, ensure your internet connection is stable, and be aware that discussions will be time limited.

With so many interviews now taking place online, these video chats will be great practice.

Virtual or IRL – take notes and go back over them after the fair, then send follow ups and thank yous – they’ll show you are serious and help you be remembered.

Making applications

By all means fill in applications at the fair. Putting forward strong intentions will take you further along the all-important path of working out compatibility between you and a prospective employer.

That’s exactly what we recommend for the FDM Graduate Career Programme. Our application process is broken down into 5 steps and it all begins with our team learning about you, your goals, and strengths. We also encourage grilling us with questions too – anything to ensure you embark on the ideal tech career journey.

Well, that’s it – we hope we’ve shared some effective ways to get the most out of your careers fair experience – and that we might see you at one soon!