Attending careers fairs is a traditional and major part of graduate and student recruitment. Almost every university holds them, often organised by the careers service. There are also national career fairs organised by private events companies that attract tens of thousands of students. Preparing for attending careers fairs is important as there are many factors to consider if you want it to be a success.
The type of fair
You or your colleagues may attend what is known as a recruitment or information fair. Expectations of the visitors vary at each fair and this therefore affects the type of person you will meet and the questions you will encounter.
Summer recruitment fairs tend to be oriented directly to either current vacancies or cyclical programmes. The visitors will mainly be students in their final year and graduates or postgraduates. They are more likely to be actively looking for graduate jobs. Autumn information fairs attract considerably more second year students, many final years, but very few graduates. Those who attend are likely to include finalists looking for jobs for the summer/autumn and others looking for vacation work or to find out about organisations and occupations they can apply to in the next cycle.
We suggest you familiarise yourself with the materials that will be on show at the fair, for example the recruitment brochure and current vacancy lists. Make sure you thoroughly brief your recruitment team on what careers/vacancies are available/predicted, the current remuneration package, what the employment process requires etc. and any particular issues or features of the organisation you recommend they highlight. Exhibiting at fairs will test your strength and stamina, but it can be good fun. Always remember to prepare well advance so you can make the most out of the event.
What to bring
The fair organiser for your company will probably arrange most of the necessary equipment and materials for attending careers fairs, so check with them what you can expect. You are marketing to students so be prepared with promotional and recruitment literature; application forms; copies of recent annual report(s); promotional items such as pens, mouse mats, mugs etc. bearing your logo; sweets or puzzles, exhibition stand/backdrop; forms, tablets or laptops to record the contact details of potential candidates you speak to.
Promoting your organisation
Everything on display, including you, says something about your organisation. What you wear, the way you behave and how you answer questions will influence each person you see - and their friends with whom they will share each experience with. It may seem like stating the obvious but the following are recommended:
- Don't be dismissive of an ill-prepared enquiry - the person might prove to be a good candidate in the long-term and how you deal with them could sway their choice of employer.
- Be enthusiastic and positive but honest - all jobs have aspects that some people regard as negative and it is disservice to both your organisation and the potential candidate to hide factors that ought to discourage the unsuitable.
- Most candidates are suspicious of and will be put off by a "hard-sell" approach - especially at information fairs. Many visitors are gathering impressions of firms rather than wanting to be pinned down, so encouragement and information discussion will work best, don't forget you are representing your employer so correct branding is key.
- Don't mention the opposition! - Some enquirers might want you to compare your organisation and opportunities with competing forms: it is best to resist the temptation to do so. Knocking the competition is unprofessional, and shows you are afraid of them as surely as praising them.
- Concentrate on the aspects that make your organisation distinctive - maybe the culture, pride in service/product quality, the well known product/brands, financial or other rewards, good training, etc.
- Attending Careers Fairs
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- Marketing to Students
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