Roll up, roll up! Everyone’s a winner! Julie Franklin explains how to make the most of a trip to the recruitment fair

A lot of job hunting can be done online, but attending a recruitment fair lets you meet potential employers face to face. Fairs are an excellent opportunity to make a good impression in person and to build a rapport with companies and organisations that interest you. You may also meet other job seekers who have interesting information and insights. But to be worthwhile, you need to prepare, so heed our advice to improve your chances of coming home with a prize job.

What should I do before I go?

Preparation is vitally important; just turning up and wandering around won’t get you very far. If you’re going to make the effort and pay to get there, you need to make sure that you use the opportunity to the full.

Firstly, you need to ensure that it’s going to be worth your while to attend. Research the companies and organisations that will be represented – online and through your networks – to see if they are relevant to you. If you decide to attend, do some more in-depth research on the organisations that interest you most: what they do, what their major products and services are, what their mission and aspirations are for the future. Follow them on social media and see if you have any connections with them already through, for example, LinkedIn or other professional networks. 

Frances Roberts / Alamy

Recruitment fairs are an opportunity to make a good impression and to quiz your could-be employer

What should I bring with me?

Take copies of your CV, and if you have business cards take those too, but the CV is more important.

You may need more than one version of your CV if you are interested in different types of jobs and different types of organisations; your research will help you to decide how many versions you’ll need to take with you. Tailor each CV as closely as you can to each potential employer and make sure that your most relevant skills and experience are on the front page.

How should I approach the employers that interest me?

Think carefully in advance about what you have to offer. If you have a good idea of how your skills and experience match what the employer wants, it will be easier to get a useful conversation going. This approach will also help you to feel more confident because it’s usually easier to offer something than ask for something.

Organisations will be there because they are actively recruiting, so your job is to demonstrate to them that you understand what they do, that you have a genuine desire to work for them and why, and that you have something to contribute.

What else can I do at a recruitment fair?

Often there will be presentations and interactive sessions on offer, so check the programme carefully in advance and structure your time.

Treat the fair as an opportunity to make new contacts and to raise your profile. Talk to other job seekers in the refreshment area or breakout sessions. Exchange contact details with people you meet; you never know when they may be able to pass on some useful information to you. Of course you must be prepared to think about how you can help them too.

When you’re given business cards, try to write a key word on the card about why that person was interesting at the time so that you don’t get confused afterwards. This will make following up easier.

What should I do afterwards?

What you do after the recruitment fair is as important as the preparation you do beforehand.

Make sure that you follow up on any leads with organisations as soon as you can. If you met interesting people, drop them an email to show that you want to keep in touch. If you promised to do something for someone else, make sure you note it at the time and follow up as soon as possible.

Update your contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networks, as well as any contact databases that you keep.

How can I find out about recruitment fairs?

Search the internet and sector-specific publications on a regular basis. Recruitment fairs are usually advertised on job searching websites and through publications such as Chemistry World.

Social media is important too, so make sure that you’re signed up with the appropriate organisations and groups on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. These networks will alert you to events, conferences and fairs in your areas of interest.

Chemistry World Jobs Live will be held on 25 November, at the Chemistry Centre, Burlington House, London. Register now. We’ll see you there!