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How To: Make The Most Of Job Fairs

04/04/2014 10:04 BST | Updated 04/04/2014 10:59 BST

If you’re at uni or college, you’ve probably come across the phenomenon of a job fair.

For the uninitiated, a job fair is essentially a big get together of employers who are looking to promote their business and any vacancies or training programmes that they have to people who are looking for jobs.

They can be really great places to get more information on different careers and also to meet some employers and find out about jobs that you never even knew existed. Some people like to treat job fairs as an opportunity to grab as much free stuff as they can (a lot of companies will be handing out pens, notebooks, bags, and other promotional material) but, if you’re sensible, you’ll take this advice to make the most of your job fair experience.

GoThinkBig fills us in on just what you need to do to get ahead and get noticed.

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Dress appropriately

There’s a lot of debate in the world of job fairs about the best way to dress: should you go in jeans or a business suit? To be honest, it is a pretty tough call to make. You could end up feeling massively over or under dressed whichever way you go. And that’s why we’d recommend going for something in the middle. Definitely leave the ripped jeans and trainers at home. But probably leave the suit and tie at home too.

Practice

Know what you’re going to say when you meet employers. Maybe don’t practice it so much that it sounds like you’ve learnt it, but definitely have a good idea because there’s nothing worse than someone um-ing and ah-ing their way through trying to explain their interests and experience. You’ll want to be able to explain who you are, why you’re interested in working in that industry or (even better!) for that company specifically and what experience you already have.

Do your research

You’ll be able to find out in advance which companies will be at the job fair, which means you can prepare a plan of attack. By that, we mean you can plan which companies you want to talk to and possibly even figure out a route around the fair (some events will publish a plan of the venue to help with this) in advance. The most important thing you need to do once you’ve worked out which companies you’re most interested in speaking to is to research them: know what they do, the kinds of things they’ve worked on, where they might be going next. You don’t need to memorise a company’s Wikipedia entry, just a few things to show that you can drop into conversation will work.

Ask questions

Don’t approach companies just wanting to talk about yourself. Yes, obviously you’re there to try and improve your career prospects but just babbling on for ages about yourself isn’t really going to help you all that much. Ask questions about the company, about what working there is like, about the entry level roles that they tend to advertise. If you’ve got a job fair coming up soon, make sure you check out our advice on what questions to ask as part of your preparation.

Follow up afterwards

It’s worth remembering that job fairs are a great first step. They’re the place you can meet a representative from a company that you want to work for and make a brilliant first impression – and we all know how important that first impression can be – but that alone is not going to land you a job. Remember to follow up with an email or a call a few days after the event; employers meet a lot of people at these kinds of events and people are likely to blur into one another.

They’ll receive a lot of CVs and business cards and it will most likely be difficult to distinguish between them once back in the office. One way of making sure that you stand out in that pile of CVs is to follow up with an email a couple of days after the event (so make sure you ask for business cards!). You don’t need to write a three page email to them, just something short saying that it was great to meet them and thanking them for their advice.

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