Attending a careers fair? 7 tips on how to approach employers
Careers fairs allow students to meet face-to-face with numerous employers and business representatives all in a single day. While it’s always a good idea to go along, many who attend such fairs often come unprepared.
Students generally don’t know what to expect, so they blank out when speaking with potential employers and end up feeling frustrated. Remember, your objective is to leave the fair with new industry connections and know-how. However, it’s tricky to figure out how to make an extraordinary first impression — often in less than five minutes.
It’s not easy, but we’ve got you covered with our quick guide on how to approach potential employers at a careers fair.
In this article, you’ll learn 7 actionable tips and tricks to make you stand out from a sea of aspirants hungry for their first job.
Let’s get rolling.
7 tips to make the most use of career fairs
Planning to attend a careers fair? Want to know the strategy that actually gets you helpful connections (and maybe even an interview or two)?
Follow these 7 proven tips.
1. Do your groundwork first
Don’t visit the fair without doing some groundwork first. Speak to your career centre and find out what organizations will be there. Often, you’ll find this information has been emailed to you or will be on the event site itself.
2. Narrow down your options
Choose 3 to 5 companies you want to focus on and research about them. Read up on company news, follow the companies on social networks, and see whether they’ve advertised any entry-level jobs online. This way, you can discover what abilities and skills they’re seeking by reading their job descriptions and then you can try to tie in that info into your elevator pitch.
3. Relax and stay calm
Meeting with several employers one after another can be nerve-wracking—and selling yourself to them may not come easy. So, practice with a friend how you’ll introduce yourself, as the start of the discussion sets the tone.
Be clear and concise. Tell the employer your name, what you’re studying, and why you’re interested in their company. Basically, your elevator pitch.
If you’re still nervous when you roll up at the fair, you can loosen up by starting with the company you are least interested in. This will shake off all your apprehensions.
4. Arrive early and come ready
Reach the fair early when it’s often less congested. This is because the employers aren’t burnt out yet from communicating with lots of students.
Be sure to dress professionally, and have a few questions ready to ask the employers you’re trying to build a relationship with. Also, be sure to update your LinkedIn profile before the event so you can send out personalised connection requests after you finish chatting.
If you’re a creative, or just have your own website or online portfolio outside of LinkedIn, having a few business cards with your details could be a good idea too.
5. Use your time right and keep your ears open
If you reach the fair early, chances are that you might still have to wait in line to meet with some employers.
Instead of playing games on your phone, use it to see what these employers have recently shared on social networks. You can use their latest tweet or Facebook post as a great icebreaker.
Here’s another tip: Don’t be scared to overhear. Pay attention to what questions employers are asking the aspirants in front of you.
6. Ace the discussion
You’ll have a very short time span with employers, particularly when there’s a long line waiting behind you. To make it impressive, show off your knowledge about the company.
Look for ways to bring up company news. For instance, you can say something like…. “I read a new CEO just joined the company. How do you think that’ll alter the company’s direction?”
Also, know when and how to go back to your own self. For example, “I heard that you’re launching a new division in Melbourne. I’d love to operate in that market. Do you expect recruiting for any entry-level positions there?”
7. Depart with poise
Note down all important points that you discussed during the meeting so that you can later use them to send a meaningful follow-up email (or LinkedIn connection request).
Making a LinkedIn post with a photo of you at the fair, posing with employers, or of the great turn out and tagging the companies and representatives you spoke with can also be a good way to engage with these new connections post-event. Just be sure to write something reflective about your time and the new connections you’ve made.
Then, thank the employer for their time and take their business card.
Remember, your university careers fair could be your ticket to getting a real job. So, don’t even think about skipping it. With these tips in your arsenal, you’re so ready to own the game in you next career fair (which is actually on 11 March! Check out the event page for more information).
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
Joe Flanagan is the Senior Consultant at VelvetJobs, a resume builder helping candidates with their job search. His experience spans over a decade with resumes and hiring and has written for a variety of publications such as HRZone, CollegeRecruiter and Business.com about career and HR issues.