All the fun of the fair!

Published: 16 Nov 2012

Recruitment fairs are the equivalent of speed dating for job seekers trying to find the next job up the career ladder. They are essential as employers and would-be employees relish the opportunity to meet each other face-to-face.

For their part, recruitment staff can quickly appraise would-be applicants within moments of meeting them, reducing the huge time and effort needed to plough through a mountain of CVs.

As for the job seekers, it’s an invaluable opportunity to talk to a number of companies from many different sectors, in a very short space of time.

Use the fairs wisely and you could walk out with your dream job. But fail to grasp the potential they offer and you could end up not only wasting your time but also alienating would-be employers.

John Hancock, Managing Director at the National Engineering & Construction Recruitment Exhibition ( says: ‘To make the most of the recruitment fairs, do your research to find out which companies will be there that you are interested in. Then have well prepared CVs that have been drafted in a way that is relevant to the positions.

‘Obtain an understanding of the application process and the timetable. Try to discover what the important determining factors are in the recruitment process, the job spec and any other information.’

John adds: ‘You should ensure that you have all the required academic skills but also try to impress on exhibitors that you have the required depth of technical experience.

‘Also try to impress on them that you have all the required personal skills – decisiveness, independence, integrity, flexibility, tenacity – you should explain your interpersonal skills where relevant.

Read our comprehensive guide to getting the most from recruitment fairs – it could pay dividends.

Dress to impress
If you turn up in tatty jeans and a t-shirt, you’ll be sending out a strong message that not only do you not care about your own image, but you also not taking the fair of the employers seriously.

Ideally you should be suited and booted – but at the very least you should look presentable.

Do your homework
Make sure you know which firms are appearing at the fair and who you’d like to talk to most. Going in blind can be disastrous – you’ll simply wander from stall to stall with no proper goals.

Also do a bit of background research on the industries or sector you’re interested in – that way you’ll be able to engage a company’s representatives intelligently and appear knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

Be prepared
It may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many job hunters fail to bring a supply of CVs that they can hand out to employers. The CV doesn’t have to be detailed – but it should include contact details. It might be also be worthwhile adding a small picture of yourself to it to remind potential employers who you are.

Bring a writing pad so you can quickly jot down names, numbers, email addresses and any thoughts you’ve had on the various firms and employers.

Enjoy the show
Engineering fairs are much more interesting than they used to be. Many recruiters now go beyond the traditional stand and plump for a far more flamboyant approach.

Car-makers will usually have a selection of the most luxurious or exciting vehicles on display, the armed forces might show models, weaponry and uniforms, while other companies make the most of audio-visual displays and computer games. Even if you don’t get a job, you’re sure to have an interesting day out.

Be selective
Don’t try to spread yourself too thinly – have a good idea of who you want to talk to and make a beeline for them first. If that stall is busy, don’t be put off, but catch the eye of one of the company’s representatives and wait a few minutes – it shouldn’t be too long.

Alternatively, try to come back to the stall at a quieter time when you can have a longer chat with the representative – but don’t keep putting it off or you may never get a chance to talk to anyone.

Look for hidden opportunities
Sometimes the very best – and the most interesting jobs – come when you least expect them. Just because an employer isn’t on your top ten list doesn’t mean they won’t be able to offer you something exciting. Keep yourself open to new ideas and possibilities – you may well find an alternative that’s even better than the job you’d first gone for.

…but don’t be afraid of saying no
There’s no point going up to an employer’s stand if you have absolutely now intention of applying for a job with them – it’s simply a waste of your time and theirs. A very polite ‘no thanks’ and a big smile is the best way out if you don’t want to linger at such a stall.

Take advantage of what’s on offer
Most job fairs are full of good ways to improve your chances of getting a job. There are often employer-led presentations and free seminars covering a wide variety of subjects – from specific industry issues to more general topics such as writing applications and CVs and fine tuning your interviewing technique.

Treat discussions as proper interviews
Most companies won’t be looking to hire an employee on the day itself, but you should still treat all discussions with firms as interview situations. An employer you talk to will be sizing you up so it’s crucial you don’t let yourself down by appearing uninterested or too casual.

Ask the right questions
Once you’ve got an employer’s interest, it’s important that you don’t lose momentum by appearing to be too passive or apathetic. Instead be prepared to ask questions and engage fully in conversation.

Come prepared with generic questions – such as the firm’s location and number of employees – as well as specific questions about that particular industry.

For more information on the next upcoming National Engineering & Construction Recruitment Exhibitions taking place at the NEC go to


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