How to make best use of attending a career fair

By Liam Horan, Career Coach & Managing Director, Sli Nua Careers

Liam Horan
Liam Horan, BALLINROBE Tel: 094 95 42965

Q: I am attending a career fair next week and really want to know the best way to prepare as this is my first one. I want to be get the most out of it if that I can. I have heard horror stories of people going along to fairs and coming away very frustrated after spending hours queuing up to talk to people for just a few seconds. Any suggestions on how to prepare? Thanks SC, (email).

MARK MCDONALD, DUBLIN NORTH: SC, employers use career fairs for two reasons. Firstly, they are an ideal chance to source talent for vacant roles and, secondly, they provide an opportunity for employers to reinforce their brand in the hope of attracting talent for future roles. As a job seeker, there are a number of ways for you to prepare for, and maximise your time spent at, such an event.

1: Research the companies attending the event and select those who may have opportunities within your sector of choice.

2: If possible, try to make an appointment beforehand to speak to representatives of companies which interest you. Some career fairs offer this facility via their website.

3: Make sure to have copies of your CV ready on the day. Spend time perfecting your CV in advance, check and recheck everything. If you are targeting several employers, tweak your CV where possible to meet requirements unique to that employer.

4: Have a cover letter prepared which outlines your skills and experience and highlights the potential you can offer. Again, where possible, try to have your cover letter specific to the needs of particular employers. This takes a bit of work but it can make a huge difference.

If-you-are-targeting5: On the day of the event, dress appropriately – you should always treat any engagement with employer representatives as an interview in itself. This may sound like overkill but, remember; you are trying to make an impression and want to stand out from the crowd. Maybe get some business cards printed up as well and use them to accompany CVs you hand out to employers or recruiters.

6: if you don’t receive any contact after the event, follow up on any conversations you have with company representatives. Career fairs can present a good opportunity to take your career to the next level. But they require a certain amount of preparation and research from you in advance in order to gain real value.

This week’s top tip

Nerves can be good before an interview.

Great sports people are regularly so consumed by nerves before major events that they can barely talk – some spend more time in the small room than they do listening to their coach before taking to the arena.

Some singers shudder and shake uncontrollably before going on to entrance tiny acoustic venues and large outdoor stadiums.

Learn that nerves are inevitable: and focus instead on what you’re going to be asked to do.

You’re going to be asked to talk about yourself (a subject you know well), your background (ditto), your education (ditto), and what value you can bring to the employer (ditto, if you’ve done your homework).

Therefore, like the great sportsperson, your nerves should dissipate once you get rolling in the interview. The subject matter is familiar to you so you have less to fear than you think.

If you would like to make a booking with any of our career coaches mentioned above, see HERE for CV Preparation and Interview Training.