So, we are at that time of the academic year when recruiters are on campus actively promoting their brand, engaging with students and actively trying to drive applications onto their graduate and placement schemes. One of the ways companies do this is through careers fairs. Yes you know, those huge scary rooms, full of giant stands, littered with giveaways, brochures and company representatives waiting to speak to you. The good news is that this is really your opportunity to engage with recruiters or employees from companies and build on research to find out about their opportunities. There are however some key mistakes that students make when attending university careers fairs and I’m highlighting a few to ensure that you’re not the one to make them!
Not researching the organisations that you want to talk to
Nothing gets my goat more that when a student approaches my stand and says “So…what company is this and what do you do?” The first impression I get as a recruiter is definitely not “Wow, this candidate sounds great, I want them working for me!” Researching the organisation before hand, looking through their website on what roles they offer and what qualifications are needed will let you know whether this is a company that is aligned with your own goals. You could look up their recruiter on LinkedIn and maybe even connect with them beforehand. Try this approach instead
“Hi, my name is….and I currently study BA Business Management. I have been doing some research on your organisation as I’m really interested in your 12 month placement scheme, could you please tell me some more about the application process please.” It’s all about first impressions! When companies are at career fairs they are looking for talent, so if you approach recruiters in the right way then they will respond positively!
Being dressed like you have just got in from your student night out
Personal brand is everything when it comes to companies looking for their future leaders. If you show up looking like looking like you’ve been out all night and haven’t bothered going home before you come to the fair then you are showing no sense of personal brand. Take some pride in your appearance. Would you turn up to an interview looking like this? First impressions count in any situation. I’m not saying you need to come in full business dress, but remember that you want a graduate job, so give yourself the best opportunity to stand out from the crowd by dressing smart, grooming and approaching me with a smile on your face.
Not having a recent, good CV with you
OK, so you’ve created a good first impression on me, approached me smartly dressed and have done some good research on my organisation. I’m thinking this candidate has potential and I want to be able to follow up with you after the careers fair so I ask for your CV – You don’t have one! How are you standing out from the crowd now? Take several copies of a generic CV with you (even better if you’ve tailored one before hand as part of your preparation) so that you can leave this behind. Some companies may just tell you to apply online, but encourage them to take the CV anyway or take the opportunity talk a bit about yourself and your skills for the role …show them that your are more than just a name on an application. Another important point is to be open-minded when looking at potential companies. Don’t go to your careers fair with tunnel vision. Many employers at the fair, be it national and international brands down to smaller SME’s have many opportunities that might be what you are looking for and really suit your skill set, so be open minded with the organisations you look at…you never know what gem they might have.
Filling up on the freebies with your mates
Yes, most organisations have freebies; it’s their way of keeping their brand visible when you get home and to make their stands look enticing to get you over. Your job is not to fill up as many bags as possible with free stuff in competition with your friends, but to interact and engage with your potential future employer and collect information. It is always good to go out on your own so that you can have some one-on-one time with a recruiter or employee from the company you want to work for, so don’t trawl around in a big pack.
Not getting recruiters details and failing to follow up
The hard work has been done, the fair is over, you’ve met some great employers, left a few CV’s and come away with some great company information. How many contact details did you get? If you want to truly set yourself apart from the competition and give yourself an opportunity to work for your dream company then ensure you collect contact information and then follow up with an email or a personalised request on LinkedIn. This will look great to recruiters; you researched the company well, looked smart, gave a CV on the day; then followed up with an email saying how great it was to meet and how you’re looking forward to hearing back. If you’ve followed those 5 steps… the chances are pretty good that you will hear back!
Martyn Flynn,Talent Acquisition Manager, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Meet Martyn at the Opportunities Fair on 10 November 2016