How to impress at the Graduate Jobs & Internships Fair

Careers Fairs provide a fantastic opportunity for you to meet – and learn more about –  a whole range of employers, and further study opportunities, all in one place.

Our Spring Graduate Jobs & Internships Fair is taking place on 3rd May.  Full details available on the fair website.

This post provides tips to help you get the most from the fair.


Before the fair

Consider what you want from the fair: This should form the foundations of your planning and will shape how you approach the fair. Giving this some consideration beforehand means you are much more likely to find the fair useful.  For example, are you hoping to

  • Get answers to specific questions about a particular organisation?
  • Get advice on their selection processes?
  • Learn more about the organisation’s culture, or what their different opportunities involve?
  • Find out more about potential opportunities for the future?
  • Meet people doing the job roles in which you’re interested to get further insights?
  • Get inspiration about different types of opportunities or companies in which you may be interested (either now or in the future)?
  • Or something else?

Find out which organisations are going to be there:  And plan which you want to speak to.  The Fair Guide lists all organisations attending.  If you’ve got some ideas on sector/s of interest, you can use the “Organisations by Job Type” listings.  It is also worth a quick look at other organisations attending, especially if you’ve got no ideas of where your interests lie; fairs provide a great opportunity to learn about new areas or things you may not previously have considered, or have even been aware of!

Prepare questions:  Doing the above two points means you are likely to have some questions.  Make a note of the different questions you wish to ask each organisation. Ask informed questions which show you’ve done your research as this will make a much better impression.

For example; “I see that your graduate scheme offers a number of rotations.  Are these fixed or can the graduate choose their preferred rotations?” sounds a lot better than “Can you tell me about your graduate scheme/jobs?”

Fairs provide a unique opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have about the organisation so make the most of it.

What to wear: You don’t necessarily need to attend fully suited and booted.  Having said that, making a bit of effort to dress professionally is one of the easiest ways for you to stand out.  If in doubt, smart casual – and crucially, something in which you’re comfortable – is the best bet.

What to bring: CV?  It might be worth bringing along a few copies of your CV, just in case anyone asks for it.  However, the majority of employers will have their own application processes and tend not to accept CVs at fairs.

Something to make notes with, paper or electronic. After speaking to people it is really worthwhile taking a few minutes after you’ve moved away from the stand to make a few notes – you will thank yourself for this later!

At the Fair:

Get your bearings: It’s worth spending a few minutes doing a quick initial walk-around.  Locate the organisations in which you’re most interested, see if their stands are busy or quiet and plan your route around the fair accordingly.

Go solo: Whilst its tempting to stick with your mates, you will get a lot more from the fair if you go solo, focusing on what you want to get from it.

Talk to people: The organisations are attending because they want to meet students like you! They know that it can be daunting but are very friendly and want to speak to you.  If you feel nervous about approaching stands, this post has some quick tips to improve your confidence.

Nail your introduction: Knowing how you’re going to introduce yourself will do a lot to ease any nerves you have about approaching stands.  This post has a simple model on how to introduce yourself at events like fairs.

Get contact details: If you’ve had a useful conversation with someone, ask if they have a business card, or contact details you could take in case of any follow up questions.  This will be invaluable for you if you do decide to apply to that organisation, either now or in the future.

After the Fair:

Review and reflect: Spend a bit of time – ideally whilst it’s still fairly fresh in your mind – reviewing any notes you made and any initial thoughts or feelings you have.  For example;

  • You might have come across a new sector or idea which sounds interesting; how can you find out more about this if so?
  • Are there organisations you definitely wish to apply to? If so, when do you need to do this by? Is there anything else you need to find out in the meantime?

Follow up: Do this pretty much straight away!  If you had a useful conversation with someone at the fair, and got their contact details, drop them a line to thank them.  You could also invite them to connect on LinkedIn.  They will likely have spoken to 10s or even 100s of students at the fair; this is a really easy way of helping them to remember you. It also keeps the lines of communication open in case you do decide to apply to the organisation and have further questions.

Tips from Employers

We asked some recruiters for their top tips for standing out at careers fairs and here’s what they had to say:

“The ones that stood out to me, were the ones who had

A) done their research and

B) got the basics right and thought about what they were wearing, personal hygiene (bad breath is a big turn-off!) and were articulate and positive (a smile costs nothing, and shows confidence).”  

Adam Gretton, Sonru

Eloise Bell, a Freelance Resourcer specialising in student and graduate recruitment, said;

“I’ve represented my employers at careers fairs for the last seven years and have met all kinds of wonderful students during that time who have gone on to fulfil their potential upon starting with us later on. The best students are those who are engaging, friendly and confident. They know who they want to talk to company wise, and if they aren’t sure who we are, have some pertinent questions prepared to discover more.

We tracked high potential stars from careers fairs and did what we could to really fast track them, so it’s crucial to treat it almost like an interview. If you make a good impression at a careers fair, if really could create a life changing opportunity.”

Rebecca Fielding, Managing Director at GradConsult gave the following tips:

1. Introduce yourself, shake hands, make eye contact and say pleased to meet you! It seems so basic but being personable and polite really makes people more memorable.

2. Do some research (even if it’s a quick Google or twitter search for 2 mins). It’s so common for people to walk up and ask ‘What do you do?’ rather than asking an informed question, that it really stands out.

3. Prepare to spend plenty of time there. Take your time getting to speak to people, ask lots of questions and find out as much as you can about the application process, people, roles and culture. This is the stuff you often can’t get from the website.

My top tip to make the most of the fair would be to talk to everyone that might be recruiting for your degree discipline. Don’t just stick to the well recognised big brand names or obvious recruiters. For example manufacturing businesses need finance, marketing and IT people as well as just Engineers. And your chances of getting an interview with them are probably ten times better than the obvious recruiters.

Brian Sinclair, Head of Student Recruitment UK&I, at Cognizant said:

  • It’s not just the pens that are free. The advice is too. Talk to the company reps about how to stand out in the selection process. What are they looking for that’s not in the job description? Use them to your advantage.
  • Ask not just how get the job but how do the job. What you need to get hired isn’t always the same as what you need to get promoted. What are the key skills, attributes or characteristics you need to progress in the role?
  • Do your research. If the first two answers to your questions start with “As per our brochure/website…”, don’t ask a third. If you do your research beforehand you can ask deeper questions and gain a better understanding of what is on offer.
  • Above all be prepared, be engaging and be different. You will be remembered as a good candidate with potential and the employer will be chasing you to apply

Mel Clark, Senior Recruitment Specialist at WSP mentioned a blog post written by one of her former colleagues; Careers Fairs – How to handle the swarm.

What to expect:

If you’re not sure what to expect at the fair, this video, filmed at our summer fair a few years ago, provides a good overview, including comments from employers and students.

If you have further questions, come and talk to us.  You can either use our drop-in service or make an appointment with one of your Faculty specialist Consultants.  We are also running some ‘Prepare for the fair’ sessions. See our events listings for details.

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Filed under Advice, Autumn career essentials, Career fairs & events, Networking

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