Ten tips for careers fairs

Careers fairs provide graduate recruiters with a chance to reach out to potential applicants in a more laid-back setting than a formal interview. The fierce competition for graduate roles means you should be using these to learn about employers and speak to their representatives.

Making a positive impression on a graduate recruiter at a careers fair now could make all the difference later on when you're applying for internships or graduate schemes. With that in mind, here are our top tips to make the most of your time at these.

1. Do your homework

It's not enough to just turn up at a careers fair. Organisers will publish a list of employers that will be at each fair in advance, so use this to plan which ones you'd like to talk to.

Then do some research into each one, and come up with the questions that you'd like to ask.

2. Dress to impress

A careers fair might not be as formal as a job interview, but you should still be wearing a suit or something similar in order to make a positive first impression.

People you meet at these fairs may be the same people who read your CV later on, so you want them to remember you as smart and professional, not scruffy and studenty.

3. Don't turn up empty-handed

It's vital you have either a business card or a CV to give representatives from each employer. Not only does it help them remember you, it also gives them your contact information.

Business cards might seem like the more natural thing to choose, as they're fairly easy to carry and give out, but you'll never get a better chance to put your CV into the hands of someone important.

4. Get there early and don't get distracted

Every minute is crucial so get there before the event is meant to start so you can be one of the first in. Being keen is definitely not a bad thing here.

Once you're in, make sure you're not distracted by the freebies available on stalls, or employers you're not interested in. Eyes on the prize.

5. Build up to the big ones

Even if you feel really well-prepared, it's probably going to take you a few conversations before you get into your stride.

So don't rush straight to the employers you're most interested in, but use some of the others there as a chance to warm up. You might even learn things that will be helpful when talking to your preferred employers.

6. Nail the introduction

With so many things going through your head, it's easy to start talking to someone and not pay enough attention to how they introduce themselves. Don't make the mistake of forgetting who they are - if it helps, mentally associate them with someone else you know with the same name, or someone famous.

And make sure you introduce yourself clearly so they'll remember your name too.

7. Don't be a robot

Although you'll have questions planned in advance, try not to rush through them all without pausing or taking a breath. Instead, treat each conversation more casually and throw the questions in as and when an appropriate opportunity comes up.

It's also important you make sure you're actually listening to the answers and asking follow-up questions based on what they tell you.

8. Try to learn something new

It's easy to fall into the trap of going to a careers fair with certain set questions in mind and not considering anything beyond these.

But careers fairs are the best opportunity you'll ever get to learn about the range of potential roles employers are offering so try, if possible, to learn about a career path you'd previously not considered. You never know, you might fall in love with it!

9. Don't ask about things you can Google

The internet is a vast and amazing source of information, so don't waste someone's time by asking them things you can easily find out online.

The most important questions you can ask an employer representative at a careers fair are subjective ones, such as how their job makes them feel, how they find their workload, and what the office environment is like.

10. Follow up every conversation

Use the contact information you've collected from everyone you spoke to and send them all a brief email the following day thanking them for speaking to you.

It's good practice to do so even for employers you're no longer considering applying to, and it increases your chances of being remembered by the employers that you're interested in.