Job market / Warwick

How to prepare for a careers fair

It’s autumn fair season and with four careers fairs taking place this term, there’s plenty to get excited about. Our flagship event – the Impact Fair – kicks of the programme on 8th October, so save the date. All years are welcome and we have introduced a dedicated ‘CareersZone’ this year to help you make the most of the fair.

If you’re still trying to find career direction, then fairs can be a great way to scan the job horizon and see what’s out there. And if your career plans are a little more concrete, you can use the fair to meet (and compare) employers, make useful contacts and gather the information you need to polish your applications.

Before the fair

Careers fairs can seem quite daunting and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of people on the day, but you can minimise the anxiety with some basic preparation.

Read the fair guide

This should be your starting point. If you wander round aimlessly with no sense of purpose, you’re unlikely to get much from attending. Use the fair guide to help you set the scene and prioritise which companies/organisations you would most like to visit. The guide will also help you plot where find help within the CareersZone.

Research the employers

The Impact Fair presents a golden opportunity for you meet employers face to face and find out about graduate and work experience opportunities. You may only get a few minutes with each employer, so make it count! Try to familiarise yourself with their business, recruitment strategies and culture beforehand.

Come and talk to us

If you’re nervous about networking or this is your first time at a big careers fair then come and talk to us. Whether you’re a first year wanting to dip your toe in the water or a finalist keen to get your career on track, we can give you some useful tips and pointers to help you make the most of the day. Book an appointment or find us in the CareersZone on the day.

At the fair

Try to get stuck in and soak up the atmosphere. There’s a real sense of energy at careers fairs and most students come away feeling enthused, motivated and ready to take the next step. If you haven’t been to a careers fair it’s worth taking note of our top tips:

  • Try not to walk round with a big posse of friends; it might feel like safety in numbers, but you want to make an individual impression not a group one.
  • Fake it till you make it! Even if you’re feeling nervous, try to project an air of confidence through your posture and handshake. Smile and get the conversation going.
  • If you dread networking use this opportunity to practise your skills in a safe environment. Approach one or two employers outside your field of interest and when you’ve warmed up a little you can move on to the ones that really excite you.
  • You don’t need to wear formal, business dress but you should aim for clean and presentable.  What does your image project – potential employee or permanent reject?
  • Don’t monopolise the employer: be sensitive to your surroundings and your fellow students. Recruiters are looking for applicants who are self-aware with great interpersonal skills. There’s a fine line between keen and overbearing
  • Take a notebook. Paper and pen might seem horribly retro, but there’s a lot of info to process and you don’t want to miss the key points.
  • Make a note of employer contact details, or better still take their business cards.  Not only does this allow you to follow up with further questions (should you have any) but it’s a great way to develop your own professional network.

Ask the right questions

Make yourself memorable for the right reasons by asking sensible, insightful questions – there’s no point wasting time on the superficial stuff. The company representatives are often a mix of Warwick alumni and graduate recruiters, so you may – or may not – be talking to someone involved in the selection process later on. Either way, you don’t want to squander the chance to make a positive impression so choose your questions wisely…

Questions to ask:

  • Can you explain the culture of your business and how does it differ from your competitors?
  • What is the most interesting project you have worked on?
  • What motivates you to go into work every day?
  • What were the particular challenges you faced during your first year?
  • Is there anything you wish you had known before you started at X?
  • What is the best way to make my application successful?

Questions to avoid:

  • What do you do? Who are you? What are you about? Betrays your lack of research and preparation.
  • Why should I work for you? Leave the ego at home.
  • What freebies have you got? And yes, people do still ask this.
  • Can I have your number? It’s not an opportunity to pick up a date (the recruiter’s words, not mine!)

After the fair

Don’t treat the fair as an end in itself. Take time to synthesise all the information and then take action. Whether it’s applying for work experience, refining your CV or researching other options, do something tangible. You won’t regret it!

5 thoughts on “How to prepare for a careers fair

  1. Great advice, Helen!

    I’ll be honest – in my uni days, I turned up to one with zero preparation done beforehand, and so it’s no surprise that I didn’t get much out of it beforehand! Preparation beforehand is keep – especially finding out who’s exhibiting! 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment Steve. I think it rings true for many of us, which is why we encourage students to learn from our mistakes!

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