Career

6 Tips for University Students Going to Their First Career Fair

University Education singapore

Joanne Poh

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Listen up, young padawans. You’ve spent the last 13 to 15 years of your life being educated, and now it’s time to attend career fairs organised by hundreds of companies eager to recruit at your school.

So does that mean you turn up as your usual fabulous self, grab a stack of brochures and leave? No, it doesn’t, at least not if you are actually hoping to get a job. Here are a few tips on how you should be conducting yourself.

 

1. Dress like you’re going to work

Even if the job fair is being held at your university, that doesn’t mean you should turn up wearing what you always wear to school. Your hipster ensemble or hall tshirt + FBT shorts combo are completely inappropriate at a job fair.

You should at least be dressed in work-appropriate clothes, so if you are at a job fair for a fairly conservative industry like banking, accounting or law, that means you show up clad in full-on office attire. The companies at the job fair are there because they want to hire people,  and the entire affair is like a giant job interview,  so make sure you look the part.

 

2. Bring multiple copies of your CV

This really goes without saying, because how do you expect the recruiters at the job fair to peruse your credentials and contact you with a job offer without a CV? Do you think they are going to save your phone number in their list of WhatApp contacts, or google up your blog?

If you think you can just collect recruiters’ business cards and then email them your CV later, you should know that they’ll already have collected a nice thick stack of neatly printed resumés by then, and will have less of an incentive to download yours.

 

3. Do research on the industries and jobs you are interested in

Some students think of themselves as the stars at job fairs, and imagine that recruiters will be rushing to hire them. In actual fact, these recruiters will be judging you, and other than dressing too casually, another cardinal sin is seeming “blur” or unprepared. Employers hate that.

While you can’t possibly research every single company that’s going to be there, at least pull up the list of companies ahead of time and read up on the specific types of work you’re interested in. Recruiters will definitely ask you what roles or areas you’re interested in, and if you say you don’t know, you definitely won’t be getting a call back.

 

4. Treat any interaction like an interview and prepare a snappy self-introduction

Most of the conversations you’ll have with company representatives will be quite predictable. They’ll ask you about yourself and what sort of work you’re interested, and you’ll ask them about the company and what sorts of roles they’re recruiting for.

This is nothing like chatting up a stranger at a bar, I can assure you. You want to treat every conversation like an interview and show them how passionate, responsible, qualified, etc you are. You’re going to basically be saying the same things over and over, so prepare an elevator pitch ahead of time, and once you’re there you can rattle off your speech without fumbling for words.

 

5. Try to talk to someone with hiring power

At uni job fairs in Singapore, not everyone present is going to be in a position to hire you. Companies often send random employees to assist, and their role is mostly to help their bosses collect resumes or spread the word about their company.

Obviously you should be nice and respectful to everyone you talk to, but still, for companies you’re really interested in joining, it’s a good idea to speak to someone with hiring power, usually a partner or somebody in middle or senior management. These are the people who’ll be making the decision whether to put your CV in the shredder or not, so if you can form a good impression on them yours might be rescued from premature death.

In many banks, people with the designation Vice President or President should be able to make hiring decisions. Get everyone’s business card to find out their roles.

 

6. Prepare your questions ahead of time

You may think you’re a special snowflake, but these recruiters are going to spend their day talking to hundreds of people identical to you. If you take half an hour to hum and haw your way through your questions, you’re wasting their time and they won’t be pleased.

Prepare your questions ahead of time so you can fire away once you get there and visit more booths in one afternoon. For companies you are particularly interested in, prepare more specific questions. You’re not going to impress them by being the 2983rd person to ask. “So, uh, what’s the environment at your company like?”

Have you ever been to a career fair? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.