Attending careers fairs

A room full of employers just waiting to give you copious amounts of information on their grad schemes? It’s like the Christmas Day of your careers search. But careers fairs are only useful if you tackle them in the right way, so follow these top tips and walk away a champ.


It’s all in the research

If you want to make the most of your time at a Careers Fair, the best thing is to do as much planning beforehand. Go in there with an action plan – an itinerary if you will – and you’ll enter safe in the knowledge that you’re targeting all your ideal employers and getting all the info that you need.

So what do you need to do? Get out the post-it notes and coloured pens, because you’ve got some serious planning to crack on with:

  • First of all, find a list of the employers who are going to be attending. This should be available prior to the event via your university website or Facebook page. Can’t find it? Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Rank the employers in order of preference. Then you know what order to approach them in when you arrive. You want to make sure you get the maximum amount of time with the employers you’re most keen on, so head to these first.
  • Research the companies; find out what they specialise in, what their values are, what graduate opportunities they have available and how you can apply.
  • Think about what questions you want to ask. There’s no point wasting time on questions if you can easily find the answers online.

Go in there with an action plan.


Dress to impress

You might have a really busy day, but rocking up to a careers fair in your gym gear isn’t going to go down well. You don’t have to go in a full suit and tie, but dressing smart is going to leave a more positive impression with employers than jeans and converse.

Some smart trousers and a blouse, or smart jeans and a shirt, will do just fine. You want the employers to think you’re professional and well-prepared, not someone who was panic writing that essay at 2am – even if that was the case.


What to bring

The only thing you really need to bring is yourself and some badass questions that are going to make you stand out from the crowd. But if you want to be uber prepared, bring along a notepad and pen to make notes as the employers talk. Anything they tell you that you can’t find on their website or in their flyers is worth making a note of – this information will help your set your job application apart from the rest.

Perhaps take along a few copies of your CV as well. This isn’t essential and it might not be appropriate to hand them out in some instances, but there’s no harm in taking them along just in case. Some employers might be keen on reading more about your previous experience, so having a CV to hand will look professional and will help you stick in the recruiter’s mind.

The only thing you really need to bring is yourself and some badass questions that are going to make you stand out from the crowd.


The Action Plan

The best way to tackle a careers fair? Create an action plan and stick to it. Think about which employers you want to talk to most and target them first. Things can get pretty busy, so arrive early and beat the crowds. Once you’ve arrived at your first stand these top tips will help you leave a good impression:

    • Employers won’t warm to you if you bring a ‘couldn’t-care-less’ attitude with you, so show that you care and you’re keen to make a good impression. Look interested, ask questions and nod along when they’re talking to you.

    • Obviously the main reason you’re here is to find out about the company at hand, but also be prepared to talk about you. Think about what relevant previous experience you can mention, and what your career goals are.

    • Don’t try and engage in mindless small talk which is going to get you nowhere. Introduce yourself, tell them what you’re studying and what your career ambitions are to get off to a flying start.

    • Which ones are the right ones, we hear you ask? Make them specific to the company and things you couldn’t find out easily from the website. Whether it’s about the company culture, its specialisms or about the grad scheme itself, as long as you’ve tailored your questions to the company and you respond to what the recruiter is saying, you’ll leave a good impression.

    • Careers fairs normally take place over a number of hours so you should have plenty of time to speak to all the employers you need to, but remember that each recruiter has potentially hundreds of students to get through so don’t hog their time. Stay long enough to make a lasting impression but sense when it’s time to move on.



Remember that above all else, a careers fair is essentially a networking opportunity. Don’t see it as a room full of companies, but as a room full of people, recruiters and perhaps some trainees, who will be able to provide you with invaluable advice and perhaps keep you in mind for future opportunities.

So don’t forget to ask questions about the people themselves, and not just the company. For example, you could ask them what they particularly enjoy about working at the organisation, how they got to the position they’re in now or any of these top networking questions.

Don’t forget to network with other students in the room, too. They might have some other tips and knowledge about applying for particular grad schemes, so make the most of everything available to you in the room.

Don’t forget to ask questions about the people themselves, and not just the company.


How to stand out

Remember that every employer is going to be interacting with potentially hundreds of students in any given day, so it’s up to you to make yourself stand out. You might not have long to talk to them, but try and get across your unique story, accomplishments and ambitions. Just introducing yourself, asking a couple of questions and walking off is never going to make you stick in the mind of the recruiter, so help them get to know you as a person.

You’ll also stand out if you have some knowledge of the company or industry that you can impress them with. If there’s been a major industry development you could ask how the company is planning on responding or adapting to it – speak to the recruiter on their own level and they’ll take you seriously.


The follow up

Don’t just leave the careers fair and forget all about it or all your hard work will be for nothing. When networking with the recruiters, see if you can get your hands on any business cards, so you can send a follow up email, thanking them for their time and potentially asking for some more advice. Try and remember names so you can connect on LinkedIn and keep the connection going long-term.

Take all the notes you made and actually do something with them! Type them up into a document and keep them at hand when you’re applying for jobs. They could contain tips and advice that no other candidate has access to, so make good use of them. Think of the careers fair as a learning experience, and think about all the lessons you can take away from it.

They’re a great resource for boosting your careers search, but so many students don’t make the most of them. Be smart and savvy and you’ll be a step above the rest when it comes to securing that first graduate role.

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