Careers fairIt’s careers fair season, and NAO staff are travelling up and down the country to impart their knowledge about our graduate scheme. But with so much information online, do students really need to bother with careers fairs anymore? I may be biased but I’d say yes.

There’s the potential to find out loads of insider information not available on official recruitment websites – about the working culture, what the people are like and what employees do in their day-to-day jobs. Apart from that, speaking to a recruiter in person will make you more memorable than if you just submit an application online. Use the tips below to make sure you are remembered for all the right reasons!

Before you go

  • The organiser should have a list of which employers will be at the fair. Have a think about which interest you the most, and find out more about them – what they do, any recent media coverage, who they’re looking to hire, etc. Make a list of the organisations you really want to talk to, and think up some intelligent questions (not something you could have found out online!)
  • Take time to update your CV and print some copies to give out. Try to make it relevant to the theme of the careers fair (if there is one) or to the kind of job you’d like to do – but remember that unless you want to create different versions, you may be handing it out to many employers.
  • You will probably be quite short on time (and so will the recruiters) so think up a short pitch about yourself and what you want to know, which you can use to introduce yourself.
  • Ask the organiser if there is a dress code – they should be able to tell you if it’s a smart event or something more casual.

On the day

  • Speaking to recruiters at careers fairs gives the opportunity to demonstrate the social skills you can’t portray on a CV. Smile, appear confident, and be enthusiastic. Good communication and listening skills are competencies which the NAO and many other organisations specifically look for in their graduates.
  • Make sure you know who you’re talking to on the stand. Are they HR, a newly hired graduate, someone who’s just finished the scheme? Tailor your questions to who’s there; someone on the graduate scheme may not know exactly when interviews are scheduled but they can give you a better idea than HR of what it’s actually like to do the job.
  • As well as asking employers questions, you are likely to be asked questions in return. Think about what these might be in advance (Why are you interested in…? What attracts you to…? Etc.)
  • Go with an open mind – don’t just walk past an employer’s stall because they’re not exactly what you’re looking for. After speaking to organisations on your ‘A’ list, see who else is out there. You never know, you might discover something that really interests you.
  • Before you leave a stand, get the name of the person you speak to and, if possible, an email address.


  • After the fair, send a follow up ‘thank you’ email with your CV attached. Give the employer a reason to reply, such as asking a question that’s since occurred to you or enquiring about the possibility of work experience.
  • Lots of graduate schemes post updates on Twitter and Facebook – you can stay in their mind by liking or replying to posts. You could also add the recruiters you met to your LinkedIn network.
  • Remember to mention the fair and who you spoke to in your application. You might be applying months after the careers fair so their memory may need jogging!

If you have any questions please comment below and I’ll get back to you. Good luck and we look forward to seeing you at a careers fair soon!

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