Six top tips for attending careers fairs

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Attending careers fairs can be exciting and overwhelming in equal measure. To coincide with AAT’s careers event, which takes place later this week, AAT career coach Aimee Bateman offers her top tips to help you make sure you get the most out of them.

1. Do your research

Treat this event just as you would an interview – because that is what it is. This event is actually lots of ‘mini’ interviews. Get a list of the companies (if possible) that will be attending, and research their websites.

Discover what they do, how they started, who their competitors are and what products/services they are focusing on. Knowledge is power and you need to equip yourself as best you can to conduct intelligent, commercial conversations.

Identify who you want to engage with and what you want to achieve… and stick to it, no matter how nervous you get on the day.

2. Remember the seven second rule

It’s widely believed that we have approximately seven seconds to make a first impression (whether good or bad). You will be meeting potential employers, training providers and professionals who you hope to include in your network.

Please don’t think this is just a day out with your friends and throw on a pair of scruffy jeans (like many of my friends did, when we went to our first careers fair).

Wear something smart and ensure you look presentable. That goes for your persona, as well as your outfit. Remember to keep a big smile on your face and look confident and approachable, even if you don’t feel confident inside (fake it until you make it).

3. Practice makes perfect

Prepare your ‘elevator pitch’. This is a one minute pitch that focuses on what you have to offer. What are your key skills and what are the benefits you could offer a business?

There will be lots of people there and you need to impress. If you can’t tell someone how great you are and how you could benefit their business, how are they ever going to know?

Now, please don’t immediately approach the people who are your top priority. I would warm up on some other stands before heading for the ones that you really want to talk to. Practice makes perfect, so build your confidence up before heading to the ones that matter to you the most.

4. Keep a record of everything

Ask for business cards and make a note of all names and conversations. Did the consultant from Hays go to the same university as you? Make notes of absolutely everything. The little things do matter and will not only help you remember them, but also help you build upon these relationships in the future.

Don’t think you will remember all this stuff, because you won’t. However, I would avoid making notes while they are talking to you. Stay focused and engaged, and make your notes as soon as you are away from the stand and before you move to the next.

5. Take your CV with you

This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many people do not do this. Take a number of copies with you and insert each one into a clear plastic wallet.

I’ve managed stands at these events more times than I can remember, and things can get a little hectic – we don’t want any coffee stains on your CV!

Also, at the end of the day, things can get thrown into boxes and packed up very quickly. I don’t want your CV to be one of the pieces of paper that gets scrunched up and disregarded just because people may be tired or in a rush.

6. Go it alone

Even if you’re attending with friends or family, make a big effort to approach stands on your own. It’s much easier for someone to build a rapport with you if you’re alone (one on one), and it also shows people that you are independent, confident and serious about your career development.

It also shows that you have visited that stand because you wanted to, not because your friends have dragged you here on your way around the room.

And lastly, get up nice and early on the day, have that extra bit of breakfast and ensure you arrive early to avoid the queues.

Stay professional, focused and enjoy yourself.

Search for careers fairs near you on the Prospects website.

Aimee Bateman is a corporate recruiter turned careers champion and founder of

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