What are Some Common Mistakes to Avoid at a Careers Fair as a Grad?

Posted by GradConnection

As a recent graduate you’re likely not familiar with careers fairs. You may have heard about one through your university or a personal recommendation from a friend or lecturer. Either way you might not know how best to prepare

In this article, we’ll explain some common mistakes to avoid making at a careers fair, and how you can use this as an opportunity to find work, make connections, and learn more about a wide range of industries.!

What is a careers fair?

A careers fair is a one-day, sometimes multiple day, opportunity to meet and network with employers and graduate recruiters. While there will be free food, free stuff with all sorts of branding, careers fairs are an opportunity to ask questions, learn about different industries, and if you’re lucky even a chance to sell yourself a land a job! Usually they’re held on university campuses but increasingly virtual careers fairs are becoming more common. However, virtual or in-person, some of the mistakes you may make apply to both.

What are some common careers fair mistakes?

Not using the resume book or database before the fair

Your prospective careers fair may have a resume book or database you can submit your resume to in advance of the fair. For recent graduates trying to find their first job, getting into this database is a great way to try and secure interviews at the careers fair (if available). Short of that however, putting your resume out there may come in handy months after the actual careers fair. After all, you never know who or when someone might look at it.

While this may be a hassle, often requiring formatting changes to your resume and cover letter, AI is able to help make this process easier for you.

Not doing your research

Being prepared means doing your research and a key part of that research is consulting the fair guide. It might be a booklet, or a document you can access, that will include things like who will be there and where they will be. Create a shortlist of who you want to speak to most to least in order to structure your day. Also, keep the fair guide with you in case you need to consult it for the map or quickly figure out who a recruiter is on the fly.

Not preparing the right questions

Researching the company beforehand, familiarising yourself with their website, will help you prepare the right questions in advance.

Imagine you’ve been waiting to speak to your number one company for ages, there’s a long line of people waiting behind you as you come to the front and then… nothing. Your mind is blank and you don’t know what to ask.

If you know what’s on the site you can skip right past the forgettable surface-level stuff and ask the recruiter questions that will leave an impression.

Not having possible answers in mind

Likewise, preparing for possible questions a recruiter might ask will help you avoid cliche responses and say something that is going to leave an impression. The people you’re speaking to may see hundreds of people today so answering a question like everyone else means in their memory it’ll be like you said nothing at all. Take the time to prepare some answers to common questions, leave an impression, and you may see your work pay off dividends.

Not having a short elevator pitch
Creating a short elevator pitch of yourself is a great thing to have when there are so many eager graduates wanting the recruiters time. When the name of the game is leaving an impression, being able to succinctly and professionally summarise who you are and what you’re about is a great way to build a strong network and possibly land a job.

Not looking presentable

Looking presentable means dressing to the dress code, usually business casual, and being hygienic. No one will fault you for keeping on your pyjama pants for the virtual careers fair but your presentation is going to play a much larger role of that initial impression to recruiters at an in-person careers fair

Seeing recruiters in the wrong order

There isn’t a right or wrong order you visit recruiters, as planned out in your shortlist, but there is a best order for your personality. For example, extroverted people might prioritise their most anticipated recruiters when they have the most energy. However, an introverted recent graduate may choose to start somewhere in the middle and work up to the top in order to build confidence and get in a groove.

Whichever way you go about the careers fair it’s important to keep in mind that the fair is exhausting for recruiters. You want to avoid speaking to your most anticipated people at the end of the day when they’re tired and ready to go home.

Taking freebies in the wrong way

While freebies are always great, we’ve all got some branded drink bottles and hats, you don’t want to be building a horde as if dwarves are going to come and take it from you.

It’s important to always talk to recruiters before ransacking their stall for free stuff. Take a genuine interest in them and the company, even if it’s outside what you’ve studied. After all, you never know what you might learn or how they were looking for someone just like you!

Not making an effort to make connections

It’s not always the jobs we find at careers fairs but instead the friends we make along the way. In all seriousness these fairs are a great opportunity to meet people in a wide range of industries, not just your own. At the end of a great conversation ask them how you can stay in touch. These connections may be great in the short term of your job search but also long term into your career. People move around, change jobs and industries, who knows when knowing them might be just the thing you need.

How do you apply for a role after a careers fair?

Now that you’ve expertly navigated the common mistakes people make at careers fairs how do you use it to your advantage in an application?

Oftentimes the recruiter you had a great conversation with isn’t the hiring manager. That means the resume you gave them will just be put into the pile of other resumes they got and passed on to the hiring manager without the conversation ever coming into it.

Instead consider getting the name of the recruiter you spoke to and apply for a position you’re interested in after the careers fair as well. On your cover letter reference the great conversation you had with the recruiter, and name them, with the hope that will give you an edge with the hiring manager. It’s all chance, but you’ve got nothing to lose by trying!

Where can you find careers fairs?

The easiest way to find out about careers fairs near you is to head to your university events and careers websites. We also have a careers fair here on GradConnection! Meet the Employers is a virtual careers fair that not only puts you in front of employers, but gives you usable application tips, hear first hand experiences from current grads, and be an opportunity to make yourself known to recruiters.


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