Graduate Career Fairs - What You Should Know

Many recruiters offer jobs and graduate schemes through graduate career fairs. These are usually 2- to 3-day events organised by universities, and they can be an excellent means to meet potential employers and enhance your career prospects.

Schedules for graduate career fairs are typically publicised in advance through flyers, national newspapers, university websites and student newsletters. Entrance to a graduate career fair is generally free and open to grads from any university.

In the UK, the Careers Service at the University of Manchester holds the largest graduate career fair in the country. The UK Association of Graduate Recruiters recently voted this graduate career fair as the best and most cost-effective way to match graduates with potential employers.

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What Do You Gain by Attending a Graduate Career Fair?

In the US, a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 52% of grad students who reported finding full-time work had applied for their jobs through graduate career fairs. Whether you are in the US or the UK, attending a graduate career fair can provide opportunities to:

  • Explore a wide range of career options in one location.
  • Identify potential job opportunities and graduate schemes that might be available exclusively through the graduate job fair.
  • Network with potential employers of interest and professionals in your chosen field.
  • Get expert advice on CV writing, applying for jobs, and honing your interviewing skills.

Before Attending a Graduate Career Fair

At a typical graduate career fair, recruiters meet hundreds of graduates. To improve your chances of success, you should prepare well. Many university career centres offer sessions on how to make the most of a graduate career fair. Take advantage of these sessions if they are available. Other things to dodo, as you get ready for the graduate career fair are:

1. Prepare your CV

  • Develop a strong CV that showcases your experience, abilities, and skills
  • If you are considering several career options, prepare more than one version of your CV to bring to the graduate career fair, each focusing on a different career objective.
  • Format your CV with care. Use plain, readable fonts and appropriate type-size.
  • Make sure your CV is not too long. Many recruiters at graduate career fairs prefer single-page CVs.
  • Before printing your CV, check it carefully for spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Use plain or neutral-colour, high-quality paper.
  • Bring enough copies. Depending on the size of the graduate career fair and the number of recruiters on site, you make need 30-50 copies of your CV.

2. Print professional business cards. Not all recruiters at graduate career fairs accept resumes or take the time to read them. Carry professional-looking business cards and make sure they are high quality, error-free, and uncluttered.

3. Research your recruiters ahead of time. Prior to a graduate career fair, the organiser's website will have information about the attending hirers and the floor layout. Research the employers that interest you, prepare your questions for them in advance, and set clear goals for yourself in terms of what you want to accomplish there. Learn the floor plan to make the best use of your time at the graduate career fair.

4. Perfect your sales pitch. Most recruiters at a graduate career fair will not spare more than a few minutes to meet you. Prepare and practice a one-minute sales pitch or "elevator speech" to introduce yourself. Mention your education, skills, career goals, and work experience.

At the Graduate Career Fair

  • Dress smartly and coordinate your clothing and accessories. Use a professional briefcase or hardcover portfolio to store CVs, company information, notes, and business cards
  • Arrive early at the graduate career fair to avoid the rush.
  • Don't move around in a group or spend time collecting freebies. To present a professional image, approach recruiters independently.
  • Take notes on all your contacts and remember their names. Don't monopolise the conversation, but listen carefully to what the recruiters have to say. Give them your CV and/or business card.
  • Before leaving, ask the recruiter about the usual next steps in their hiring process. Get contact details from recruiters and thank them sincerely for their time.

Follow Up

Mail a thank you letter or email to the recruiters you met within 48 hours of the graduate career fair. Phone those recruiters who indicated it was acceptable to do so. Use your notes and research materials to make your follow-up more meaningful. Attach a copy of your CV, or even better send them your iProfile. It's free, you never lose it, you control exactly what anyone sees and can make sure it's always up-to-date. It means more control and feedback when job seeking. Only people receiving the link can view your iProfile. That way you control exactly what anyone sees, get to opportunities faster - and get expert career advice or feedback too. And you can even track in detail exactly who's looking at your Profile and why.

Landing a job or entry into a graduate scheme at a graduate career fair happens all the time and it can happen to you. With adequate planning, preparation, and follow up, you can take advantage of the excellent career opportunities that graduate career fairs have to offer.