It is that part of the season when job and careers fairs are kicking in. This post was prompted because, as part of the Student Communication Team Marketing Report that I submitted in December 2010 on the Leicestershire Student and Graduate Fair, one of the conclusions was that students need more information on what to expect and what sort of conversations they are expected to have with an employer at a fair.
What Happens at a Graduate Careers Fair?
Before I go into the preparation and type of questions and conversations that I have with employers, let me introduce to you the mechanism of a fair. Careers fairs give you the opportunity to meet employers face-to-face and get a more in-depth knowledge about their recruitment procedures and the organisation in general. Why do they do that? I have found a couple of reasons: firstly, their visual presence shows what kind of work culture they have; secondly, I don’t think they are there to promote their business, but give you good information, so when you apply for a job you have a higher success rate for getting through to the next stage. Finally, it is an excellent opportunity to network with top organisations and follow-up later in job applications. This is why I attend job fairs, to network.
Statistics behind Job Fairs
According to one Harvard Business Review, 80% of people today find their job through networking. A quick search on trend spotting tools shows there is an increase in searches for “job fairs” rather than “jobs”, which means more people want to attend a fair than randomly search for a job. So by attending a fair, you are concentrating your efforts on an organisation that you have first hand knowledge about, which would improve your success rate.
So, How to Prepare for Job or Graduate Fairs?
I’ve attended job fairs in Leicester, London and Birmingham. I always dress smartly when attending a fair. Whenever possible, I first start a job application and then attend the fair, not necessarily wanting to complete the job application, but it gives me some tips as to what questions I should ask the employer and develop a good conversation. Remember, they are not necessarily there to take CVs or give you an interview date. They are there to have a conversation with you, so you have to speak and ask questions for them to respond and give you some useful information. I always begin with a firm hand shake and “Good morning”. But it is up to you how you approach people, you need to be comfortable with it. The point is to come across as committed and sociable (key skill!). The conversation is an important process, as you get an insight into the job or organisation and you might figure out if it is really something you want to do. So, what conversation to have?
There is no right or best conversation. But there is a definite difference between a good and bad conversation. A good conversation is where you ask the right questions, listen to the employers and smile! A bad conversation is where you don’t do any of these. Asking questions and extracting the best information is very important. I have listed some questions I go with usually –
- How many applicants do you employ on a particular scheme?
- Does this job involve moving to different offices whilst on a graduate scheme? If yes, how does rotation work?
- Do you support graduates working towards their Chartered status in respective fields?
- How long (tentatively) does your graduate recruitment last from the application to interviews?
- Would you be involved in any of the later stages of recruitment and which business personnel are involved in later recruitment stages? (key question for me, as I get some background on interviewers!)