Fair thee well?
On Saturday September 22nd, Ergo joined dozens of companies in Dublin’s Convention Centre for Career Zoo’s fourth annual job fair. This year’s event was sponsored by Microsoft so there was a big focus on technology companies and training institutions offering IT courses.
The organisers estimated that 12,000 people came through the doors and I think I may have spoken to just about every one of them!
Setting our stand out at 8am, it was apparent once the doors opened at 10am that we were in for a busy day. A queue of job-seekers had started to form from a little after 9am and there was a tidal wave of people across the auditorium that only eased into the late afternoon.
At Ergo’s stand, we came armed with all the necessities: brochures, signage, lots of pens, tins of chocolates (forget what your parents told you and never, ever underestimate the powers of chocolate when trying to start up conversations with strangers) and a team of enthusiastic volunteers from all across the business. What we didn’t bring was an ice-cream machine, Twitter had that bright idea. 1-0 to Twitter.
Pictured: Robert O'Neill and Gillian Beatty, Ergo employees at the Career Zoo Stand.
As the day progressed, a few things came to the fore as I started speaking to more and more people and I want to share a few tips on how to make the most of a job fair and get recruiters to notice you.
- Get there early. While Career Zoo was constantly busy, the morning crowd had the advantage in being able to walk in and select where they wanted to go first instead of just following the throngs. Try and get a list of exhibitors and a floor plan outlining where they’ll be and make a beeline for your preferences. If possible, pre-register to avoid having to queue needlessly.
- Do your research. Before the day, the organisers will release a full list of exhibiting companies including a company bio and links to the website. Take the opportunity to find out what each company does and what skills they hire. If it’s a company you’re especially interested in and there’s a specific role you think you’re ideal for, have a tailored CV ready outlining your skills in this particular area.
- Dress and act like you would do if you were walking in to an office. A three-piece suit isn’t required but similarly, a stained t-shirt and ripped jeans doesn’t scream “hire me!” Yes, it is 10am on a Saturday but you’re likely to meet with senior managers from a number of companies that you wouldn’t normally have access to. Don’t let bed hair jeopardise that chance and please, put the mobile phone down for a minute.
- Print out as many CVs as you think you’ll need. Then double that. Companies will always take CVs on the day. Make sure yours is well laid out, printed on neat, crisp paper and stapled together. In fact, double staple it. Nothing lonelier than the back page of an unidentified CV languishing at the bottom of a box, especially when the back page often includes very import information like academic achievements.
- Grab some swag. Keyrings, stress balls and pens a-plenty.
- Stick around and chat. Dropping a CV and nabbing a brochure is one thing but the person standing in front of you is likely to be directly involved in hiring across their entire organisation. Find out who they are and what they do. After you’ve introduced yourself and told them what you’re looking for, make a note of their name and be sure to reference your meeting during follow-up conversations. This is an ideal time to work on your Elevator Pitch.
- Check your mobile phone. On several occasions throughout the day, I was able to ring people to invite them back to our stand to meet with other staff members or to request clarification on CVs. Make sure your voicemail is set-up.
- Tweak your CV and resend it If you learned something new about the company or positions.
And a few Don’ts…
- Ask “are you hiring?”. It’s 10am on a Saturday, I’m at a job fair in a conference centre; it’s safe to say the aim for us is to hire.
- Ask too many questions around salary, benefits and other perks. Yes, we’re very happy to discuss our competitive package as we progress through the interview stage but not in an auditorium packed with other people and companies. Bear in mind that the person you’re speaking with may be working in a division other than HR and may not know all salary ranges across the company.
- Be afraid to follow-up. Even a quick e-mail reconfirming your interest will jog memories.
- Expect the company to do all the work. We’re happy to answer questions and chat but we have a lot of people to meet. We’ve invested heavily in exhibiting, both in terms of costs and the man-hours involved. Walking up to a stand and demanding to know why you should work for our company may seem edgy but it gets very old, very quickly. Use all of the information you’ve been provided with and ascertain if that company is of interest before arriving. By all means, ask open questions like “tell me the best thing about working for your organisation” but remember that while you may have 20 companies to speak to, each recruiter has hundreds of applicants to get through.
We’ve already started arranging interviews with candidates we met on the day and it looks like the blood (well, papercuts), sweat and tears put in to the fair is paying off.
Were you there? I’d love to hear some more hints and tips from job seekers.
If you couldn’t make it, don’t worry, a list of all our current vacancies is available in our careers section.