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Careers fairs - six tips for job hunters

Visitor numbers at jobs fairs have soared since the beginning of the recession – these tips might help you make the most of any you decide to attend.

The Working Abroad jobs fair in the RDS attracted thousands of visitors earlier this year.
The Working Abroad jobs fair in the RDS attracted thousands of visitors earlier this year.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

COME SEPTEMBER, JOBS fairs abound. Thousands of eager beaver job hunters all on the same mission – so what can you do to make the most of your attendance? To make the most of this opportunity, need to start preparing your campaign now. Don’t wait until the last minute to do this – that’s too late.

Why go?

Opportunity to network, make contacts, and meet organisations across a range of sectors who plan to recruit staff in 2013. Some may even have immediate vacancies to fill now.

A chance to find out what they’re looking for, as well as learn about new kinds of career options/openings/further training you might not have thought of before. Also, they are vital for students, graduates and other first-time job hunters – exposure to how organisations present themselves and what they’re looking for in employees.

Other exhibitors include recruitment agencies (Ireland and overseas), professional career advisors and education providers.

Here are six tips to get you thinking:

1. Research the exhibitors: Know which organisations will be exhibiting at the fair, visit their websites and be ready to ask and answer questions when you meet representatives at the fair. What vacancies do they have? What plans do they have for the future? What are their requirements? Don’t rock up there without prior knowledge of your target companies.

2. CV: Use anything you find out about a target organisation before the fair to help adapt your CV to better align your skills and experience with their needs. Ask a friend or seek professional advice. Identify what you might start doing now to increase your job value / core skills later. Your CV is a selling document – and it should be selling you from the word ‘go’. Bring plenty of spare copies on the day – clean, crisp and fresh. Know in advance who you want to distribute them to.

3. Be different: But best not to use a flower button hole water spray thingy. Think about your strengths, skills and experience from the employer’s point of view. What are they looking for? What kind of people do they recruit? Be able to tell them what you have to offer that matches their needs – this alone will make you stand out from the crowd.

4. Practice your elevator pitch: Just like the 30 seconds you might have to impress someone in an elevator ride, your chance to talk with an organisation’s representative will be short, particularly if there are a lot of people lining up behind you. You need to impress straightaway – rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Everyone has been persuaded before and can be persuaded again.

5. During the Fair:

  • Dress professionally as if attending a job interview – you are! Best to avoid jeans or flashy jewellery. Bring plenty of clean, fresh, up-to-date copies of your CV to distribute – consider using a slim briefcase rather than a plastic bag.
  • Arrive early – take some time to study the exhibitors map and orientate self. Think about switching off your mobile phone and avoid the risk of being interrupted when talking to company representatives.
  • Don’t just collect literature – smile and be friendly. Bring a mate along if it will help break the ice and make it easier for you to approach stands and talk to representatives. Remember, they’re humans also – everyone started somewhere, just like you.
  • Take a note of which organisations you submitted your CV to and follow up with them later.
  • Request business cards – make a note of any contacts you make and any insider pointers you garnered from conversations.
  • Take some time to visit the less well-known organisations – they may have opportunities on offer you haven’t thought of before. You may find more open and flexible about recruitment conditions.
  • Above all, try not to make unrealistic goals. Walking out of the fair with a job contract in hand would be one such goal.

6. After the Fair:

  • Follow up any job opportunities you’ve discovered. Email is good, telephone is better. But don’t pester.
  • Connect with people on LinkedIn – including other job hunters you might have met on the day. You do have a LinkedIn account, don’t you?
  • Send thank you letters with copies of your CV – especially if you ran out of CVs during the fair. Try and include a reference to the conversation you had, by way of reminder.

Conclusion

By preparing for the event, you stand a much better chance of using the time and opportunity effectively. Decide in advance what you want, know what you have to offer, and be open to everything. At the very least, you’ll leave a good impression behind you and maybe, just maybe, you
might go on to land a job.

Liam Horan of www.SliNuaCareers.com is the Journal’s resident careers writer and he’s always keen to hear your stories or ideas for articles. To obtain your free Career Resource Pack from Sli Nua Careers, simply go here. Sli Nua Careers have offices inDublinGalway and Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, and provide CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services.

Read: Previous Careers Clinic columns>

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