10 tips to make the most of career events & fairs
Careers fairs are the best way to focus your career plans because you have the opportunity to TALK to recruiters, alumni, and other company representatives DIRECTLY! Here are our ten ultimate tips to make the most of it.
1. Analyse yourself
To analyse yourself is important in order to know what you want with regard to your career and your next steps. Only then will you be able to tell recruiters about it during careers fairs and other events. Firstly, you should have a look at your competencies, skills, strengths, and weaknesses (i.e., discovering what you are good at and what you like to do workwise is a good way to find out about your strengths). Secondly, you should think about which areas, industries, or companies you would be interested in and why. For example, large companies often have hierarchies and formal structures whereas small companies do not. Knowing all of this will help you to offer companies a focused and interesting profile and help you to sell your CV.
2. Have a plan & be informed
Having a plan means that you have an idea about where you would like to do your next internship or start your job. If you have several ideas, this is not bad – the career fair can help you to sort that out; BUT you should research these ideas in advance and prepare questions for the companies in which you are interested in.
An important point of research is to read company career and homepages in advance. For all companies, it is important to study discussions and trending topics in business media in addition to looking at their web pages.
3. Be focused, not general
Have specific questions ready and use your research to ask the employers informed questions. Show that you are focused and that you have prepared for the event.
- I noticed that you are opening offices in Dubai. Are there any graduate programmes there?
- What do they look for in employees applying for positions in [department/division/etc.]?
- I read on your website that you need x for x role. Is there anything I should highlight in my CV to demonstrate this?
- Did you have the opportunity to work on the latest deal I read about?
Companies will have various representatives at the events, ranging from recent graduates to HR and senior managers. Think of relevant questions for the appropriate person.
Being too general is, for most companies, a sign of bad or insufficient preparation. Therefore, do not ask questions that you can find the answers to on their website. Avoid very vague questions (e.g., So tell me about your company?). You should already know this before you engage with them on a professional level, and asking obvious questions shows a lack of preparation and real interest.
You may be interested in an internship first in order to get a feel for a certain industry. It’s fine to discuss this option with the companies, but approaching them with zero knowledge about the field or company creates a bad impression.
4. Follow up
If you are given a business card, be sure to follow up with a polite email the next day. Do not ask for their help to push forward your CV. Simply thank them for the conversation and perhaps ask a clarifying question.
5. Make use of the networking opportunities career fairs offer
Do not dismiss companies just because you think they are not for you on first glance. Research them a little further and be sure you know what opportunities they offer – there’s always a chance you’ll discover something new and exciting!
6. Be authentic
A lot of companies, especially industry, media and start-ups, want you to be authentic and to discover whether you, as a person, are fit for the company. Personal talk is therefore very important to them. For example, Unibail Rodamco wants to know why you are interested in their company. Otis gives an important tip: “Be as timely and flexible as possible, since it might happen that you get an interview straight away.”
7. Behave professionally
Although questions about the work/life balance and salary are perfectly valid, if you ask them to potential employers too early, they can appear to be your
main motivation for the role. They want to see that you are motivated for the profession and company first.
Do not interrupt other students when they are asking questions, even when it is very crowded. Wait patiently and listen to the answers, as they may help you too.
Be confident but not overconfident! Being confident to the point of arrogance is perceived as a bad trait, especially in the banking and consulting industries. Nobody wants to work with an egomaniac! You should instead be open, curious, and friendly.
8. Be informed about country differences in communication at careers fairs (e.g., in the UK, Italy, or Germany)
In the UK, fairs and presentations are a way for companies to get to know future graduates and inform them of recruitment programmes. It is rare to be interviewed directly by companies on the day of the career fair, and very few accept CVs directly – they will instead refer you to their website. However, it is still useful to have a few CVs with you on the day of the career fair so that you can show them your experience.
While it is not common to bring your CV in the UK, a lot of companies attending the Berlin fair (such as DHL Consulting) appreciate it if you do. Société Générale want you to have a “one-page Anglo-American CV in English; reports, folders or covering letters are not necessary.” Similarly, Beiersdorf ask you to have your CV and contact details on hand.
Companies attending the Torino Career Fair will accept CVs directly and have few interviews with the candidates; some of them will also organize an assessment centre the day after. Therefore, it is very important to be informed about the activities they do and prepare some interesting questions to ask the HR. Of course, Italian companies appreciate you having visited their website as well as seen the offers and uploaded your CV before meeting them at the Fair.
9. Dress up
Many students will not turn up to careers fairs in the UK in business attire. However, at ESCP Europe’s London campus, we expect students to attend this event in smart business attire.
It is a different situation in Berlin, and your choice of a business suit or casual dress depends on the industry you are interested in. Banks prefer business suits and ties, and Société Générale recruiter Sarah Paelecke says candidates in suits definitely stand out. Many consultancies are of the same opinion; BearingPoint, for example, finds casual wear unprofessional.
10. Stand out
Société Générale summarises:
How to stand out among other applicants:
Our bank’s values—professionalism, innovation, and team spirit—should be highlighted throughout your education and your experiences.
Professionalism: Provide a good CV and application form. Show your knowledge of the company’s activities and available career opportunities.
Team spirit: Give examples of how you inspire team spirit in others. Tell us how you have worked with other people to achieve a shared goal.
Underline your innovation and risk awareness: Describe how innovative thinking plays a part in your decision-making. Show us that you can challenge conventional ideas in order to solve problems.
"What do you expect from students at careers fairs?"
"Wear sneakers, no ties 😉 That means be yourself and come as you are! Tell us more about yourself … Details we can’t get to know while reading your CV."
“Don't be afraid to approach us, even if you're not sure of what we do or what roles would be most relevant for your career aspirations. We love our company and we're there to tell you all about it! A CV is by no means a must, we're happy to see your experience but we're more concerned with where you're going, rather than where you've been.”
“It is important to show real interest, to inform yourself about the company and entry positions on the company webpage, and to apply for an interview at the fair.”