A Job fair is generally targeted at the more junior end of the market, as well as targeting specific skills which companies are trying to recruit, e.g. technical skills. Job fairs are a great way to get a feel for an industry and meet representatives from companies. Sometimes the representatives are from human resources and sometimes they are line managers, but either way you can have face-to-face conversations and it is an opportunity to build relationships.

The downside is you are getting the sanitized version of what it is like to work for the company, not what it’s really like! However by using tools like LinkedIn, you have the opportunity to reach employees who may be able to give you the inside track or, even better, past employees who are often able to be really open about the pros and cons of a company.

Here are some top tips for getting the most out of a job fair:

  • Take your business card and several copies of your CV.
  • Go early – representatives may be less tired than later in the day so more likely to help you, and it might be easier to be memorable.
  • You need to stand out; the best way to do this is to ask insightful questions, having done your research. Don’t ask questions you could have answered by an internet search. Ask their opinion, ask them why they joined the company, what work they do, what kind of assignments are on offer.
  • Take your ‘A’ game, look smart – shoes polished, clean nails, tidy hair, as if you were going for an interview. Do your homework – software companies will have a different dress style to investment banks.
  • If there is rapport, ask if there is anyone else they could recommend you speak to. Ask for their business card and follow up with them.
  • When you follow up make sure you remind them who you are. Perhaps you asked unexpected but insightful questions or had clearly done effective research. That person will have met a lot of people at the fair, so you need to jog their memory.
  • Don’t monopolize their time. If you sense they are feeling like you should be moving on, politely say you don’t want to take up too much of their time and signal you are on your last question.
  • Make sure you personalize your request to link to a contact on LinkedIn. Many recruiters we know won’t accept a linked request that someone has not bothered to customize. Make sure you send the request from a device that allows you to customize the request.
  • Follow the contact on Twitter as well, as long as it’s a business account. Many recruiters now have their own Twitter account. You should be following the company on all the social media platforms you are active on.

A job fair is one route to market. Like advertising and marketing, there is a lot of competition and often it’s only the bigger companies that have the resources to attend a job fair. So don’t overlook small and medium-sized companies.