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Making the Most of Careers Fairs | The Careers Service Making the Most of Careers Fairs – Oxford University Careers Service
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About the fairs

We hold over a dozen careers fairs each year, the majority taking place in Michaelmas Term. All the exhibitors that are invited to our fairs have graduate jobs, internships or other opportunities available in the current recruitment cycle.

Careers fairs give you the chance to meet employers face-to-face, and to learn about current vacancies and opportunities available. The recruiters are trying to market their organisations to you.

However, the fairs are also an opportunity for you to market yourself to potential employers. Often the stands will be manned by graduate recruitment staff and/or senior managers, who may also review future applications. They may remember meeting you at the fair, and so making a positive impression may help you make a later, successful application. If you’ve been particularly impressive they may even ask for your name and contact details, and watch out for your name as applications come in.

It can be difficult for students to stand out at fairs; there are so many people there and it can seem overwhelming. Being prepared is the best way to make a good impression and get noticed. Think ahead and have a strategy.

Employers value preparation

Past exhibitors have told us:

“[We expect] students to have done some preparation before coming up to the stand, i.e. they should have read the company profile in the fair brochure (even better would be to look at the website in advance!)”

“The best questions we get come from those who have researched the company and have a genuine interest in the company. These questions tend to be more specific – rather than students coming along, not knowing anything about our firm or what it is we do.”

“Students that stand out are the ones who say ‘I noticed on your website that you recruit into the Analyst Consulting Group and within that you can be Technology or Management Consultancy aligned. Can you tell me a bit more about how these roles differ?’”

How to prepare

Download the app

Install our “Oxford Careers Fair Plus” app from iTunes or Google Play. It contains information about all attendees at our major careers fairs, as well as the fair’s floorplan and tips for the getting the best out of the fair.

Read the fair booklets

Before getting to the fair, identify the exhibitors you are interested in meeting by downloading and reading the fair booklet. Each one is available on our careers fair page one week before the fair. Read about the employers and opportunities available, and find out more about those of interest by following their web-links.

If the fair is sector-specific, also read about the sector on our webpages beforehand.

If the booklet advertises talks or presentations that you wish to attend during the fair, make sure you build in time to ensure that you get a seat.

Plan the questions you want to ask

Try to ask consistent questions to different organisations at the fair, as this will help you compare answers to make a considered decision about later applications.

We recommend you ask questions about the organisation’s culture, application process or training, or projects they’re currently working on. You will often find the organisation has a recent graduate on the fair stand. It’s useful to ask them what their first year was like and what sort of projects or responsibilities they were given. This shows genuine interest and gives you a sense of the company ethos.

Don’t ask organisations what they do (they’ve already written that information in the fair booklet for you) – and don’t ask about salaries and holidays, as that gives the wrong impression!

Consider what to wear…

First impressions count, so wear what you think will make you look smart but comfortable. This does not mean you have to wear a suit and a tie – they know you are a student! – but do make sure your clothes are clean and presentable.

… and what to bring

It is a good idea to take something to make notes on – either paper or electronic – so that you can note down useful things you have learned, or the names of the people that you met. This information can be very useful when you come to fill out applications or write covering letters. At the fair itself, it will demonstrate to the recruiter that you are well prepared.


It’s not usual in the UK to hand out your CV at careers fairs. Most of the employers will have formal, online application processes and so will not accept CVs at fairs. They will be more interested in finding out about you by talking to you than reading through a piece of paper.

However, at some fairs we hold CV Clinics, where recruiters will have a look at your CV and offer one-to-one constructive advice. You can check in the fair booklet whether CV Clinics are running, and whether you need to book in advance.

During the fair

Talk to employers


  • Introduce yourself to make a positive impression – tell them your name, course, and year of study.
  • Demonstrate that you have done some research on the company.
  • Ask pertinent questions, and try to establish a dialogue.
  • Bring other, hovering students into the conversation – recruiters like people who demonstrate an awareness of others’ needs.
  • Collect names, contact details or cards as appropriate.
  • Thank them for their time!


  • Ask questions which are answered in the fair booklet! Employers may have travelled a long way, and will want to feel their time was worthwhile.
  • Come across as arrogant – for example by asking “Why should I join your company? What have you got to offer me?”
  • Just grab a freebie and leave.

Make notes

  • Try to make notes when you move away from a stand – write down the names of people with whom have you have spoken, and what they told you.
  • You can add value to applications by explaining that your interest in their organisation stems from “the careers fair, where XXX told me XXX”… This immediately demonstrates that you have taken time to research their organisation.
  • In smaller organisations, the person who attends the fair may well later shortlist candidates. Referencing their name in an application may make them remember you, which could be advantageous if you made a good impression at the fair.

Feeling overwhelmed? Practise first!

Many individuals find  that they get very nervous approaching recruiters at Careers Fairs. If this resonates with you, then use the Careers Fair as an opportunity to practise your networking skills. Follow our advice above, but warm-up by talking to recruiters that are not your top targets – or go to an earlier Careers Fair to explore a different sector. It will make you feel less nervous – and you might find that an organisation you thought was not of interest is more attractive than you thought!

If you feel unsure where to start or whom to speak with then make sure you visit the Careers Service stand for help and advice.

After the fair

Recruiters appreciate follow-up contact from those that they have met at the Fair. Contact those recruiters that you felt that you had built up a good rapport with: it demonstrates initiative. It will also help the recruiter to remember you, and many recruiters will note who has followed-up discussions with them. It’s all part of how to impress the recruiter and make yourself stand out.

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This information was last updated on 11 October 2017.
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