Preparing for a careers fair
Tips and advice to help you prepare for careers fairs and ensure that you get the most out of the event on the day.
How do I prepare
- Think carefully about the career options that would suit you best. If you need help see MyFuture resources for online guidance resources and make an appointment with a Careers Adviser to discuss any queries you have.
- Find out which employers are going to be at the fair and decide who you would most like to speak to.
- Research your preferred companies’ websites and think about what you want to say/ask.
Be prepared, do some research into companies that you would like to work for. Be confident and inquisitive, ask questions.
Mark, Principal LCC & MRMS Business Analyst, Rolls Royce
How to find out who is attending a Fair
For the Autumn Fair: a list of exhibitors can be found on the app available on Android and iOS. Search ‘Career Fair plus’.
For our other Fairs: a programme will be available on the Fair's event page in MyFuture. Find out more and access MyFuture
Isn't the fair just for engineering and business students
No. Many employers look for students from any discipline because they are interested in the skills and attributes you have gained from your degree and your extra-curricular activities – not necessarily the degree content. But if you can’t find any employers that could meet your career needs, come to the Careers Service and we will help you identify relevant employers and appropriate job-search strategies.
Who should you speak to
You can speak to any company that interests you. Be open minded – you might learn about a company you hadn’t considered before. Be confident – when you meet an employer, introduce yourself, find out their name and role within the company and ask if you could ask them some questions.
Remember that a fair is not an interview but a chance to find out more from people that work for that organisation. They are often recent graduates so ask them about their experiences. If you are prepared you will be in a position to gather more information that may benefit your application.
Tamsyn, Student Recruitment Manager, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Some things to consider if you are an international student:
- The thing you probably will want to know most is whether the employer will sponsor you after you graduate. But don’t make it the first thing you ask. Ask some really good questions, impress them with why you want to work there and then ask whether they will be able to sponsor you.
- The people you meet are often recent graduates who might not know the regulations around employing overseas graduates. If you cannot get the information you need on the day, politely ask for the name and contact details of someone to take your questions to.
- Learn about the schemes under which you could apply for employment in the UK. UKCISA explains the options for employment in the UK. You could take some information with you to the fair to help explain your situation to employers.
- Company websites and/or job advertisements sometimes state whether the employer accepts applications from international graduates and whether they have any particular schemes for international graduates. Have a look before you attend the fair.
What do I ask about
- The work: day-to-day activities, highlights and challenges, what new graduates actually do. How will the work change over time?
- The workplace: culture, location, size of the teams, impending changes.
- Skills and attributes needed: What exactly are they looking for? What makes a candidate stand out? Where can you draw evidence from to show that you have these skills and attributes?
- Experience: what sort of experience do they like graduates to have, do you need relevant experience, and do they offer any work experience opportunities?
- Training and development: how will you be developed as a graduate? Are there opportunities to gain further qualifications?
- The industry and the business: how much/what are applicants expected to know, where are the best places to look for information, and what are the issues and developments within the industry at the moment?
- Opportunities to work abroad/use your languages: is this a possibility? When might the opportunity to work overseas arise?
- Their experiences: ask employers about their experiences working for that organisation, and why they chose this company/role. What do they wish they had known when they were applying for jobs? How much have they used their degree?
What not to ask
- How much can I expect to earn?
- What does your company do?
- What can you offer me?
- Can I have the teddy/pen/chocolate?
What is it you really want to know about the industry or organisation? Take full advantage of the opportunity to speak to people who are doing the work you are interested in. This is a chance for you to find out what the day to day work, lifestyle and culture of the organisation is really like.
Jennifer, Recruiter, McKinsey & Company
Can I discuss Brexit
Employer research will help here – if you’re well informed, you’re more likely to ask a good question that will elicit a useful answer. Think about what you really want to find out, and work out your questions and how to phrase them in advance. Careers fairs are your chance to meet employers and ask them what you want to know, but bear in mind that the time you have to talk to graduate recruiters will be limited, so there might be other topics that matter more to you. Don’t feel Brexit is a subject you have to avoid, but focus on gathering information that helps you understand and improve your job prospects.
Can I discuss the coronavirus
Yes, COVID is impacting all our lives and almost every business and industry. Think about what you really want to find out, and use open ended questions to elicit detailed information. Bear in mind your audience, often at Fairs recent graduate trainees are present or sometimes it's a member of the HR team or a senior business leader.
Therefore you could ask a graduate trainee about how their way of working has changed due to COVID and also ways they connect with other colleagues. If it is a HR representative, you may want to find out about how the company is supporting employee wellbeing or what additional training is in place to enable remote working. If you are speaking with a senior business leader, explore how COVID is disrupting their business / sector. Have they spotted opportunities or a different way of operating.
- Make notes about your conversation with your preferred employers for future reference.
- If an employer gives you their contact details, it is an invitation to contact them.
- Be professional. Ask about the work and the company and avoid seeming overly interested in the salary and benefits.