Accountancy and financial firms have long stressed the importance of those so-called ‘meat-markets’ known as recruitment fairs.
Perception is everything in these events. To some, they are just showcases for big companies such as Accenture and Ernst & Young to flex their muscles and market their fabulously structured career programmes to exceptionally talented and well-educated future applicants – while ‘average’ job-hunters wander around, CV in hand, hoping to stand out from the masses and land dream roles.
But that isn’t necessarily so.
In a positive light
, career fairs are invaluable for budding accountants of ALL levels to connect and network with employers in the search for that sought-after financial appointment. Graduate career fairs, or those run for experienced professionals, are prevalent throughout the UK, particularly in London, and their roots and values lie deep in the annals of time, when jobseekers would line up at public gatherings armed with the signs of their trades. A blacksmith would sport a horseshoe in his cap; a shepherd would have a crook, a housemaid her mop, and a cook a wooden spoon.
Today, though, the game has been turned on its head – with employers sporting the signage, plus free pens, notepads… and sweets (nom-nom). Nonetheless, career fairs – especially large ones – can be hugely intimidating, and job hunters can feel left in limbo as to how to prepare for them effectively:
Should I bring university certificates? Should I dress smart or casual (or a mixture of the two)? Is it appropriate to attend with friends or will it reflect badly? Business cards, I surely don’t need one of them do I? How do I approach employers?
Sound familiar? Thought so. Well, here are some tips on getting the best out of recruitment fairs.
1. Know your careers fair
Are you going to a careers fair targeted at Postgraduates or specific to the Tax division? You don’t know? Find out. Also, research the companies you’re interested in beforehand so that you can ask relevant questions and show understanding about their businesses. This will showcase commitment, enthusiasm and professionalism, which will impress.
2. Dress smartly
Generally, there is no official dress code at careers fairs – but it can’t hurt to take no chances and go suited and booted. More than anything, it will show prospective employers that you are serious about a career in accountancy and finance. Also, most recruiters will be dressed in shirts and ties, so wearing similar attire could help you fit in.
3. Be prepared to network
Make sure that you talk to people, whether they’re HR managers or company representatives. As you approach each employer at the fair, make eye contact but don’t interrupt ongoing conversations. Appear confident, without being arrogant and use the opportunity to sell yourself and learn about the company.
4. Take your CV and a business card
While the chances of getting offered a job on the spot may be slim, there are very likely to be people who can refer you to colleagues who can help. Therefore, having several copies of your CV and some business cards, so that they can look at your qualifications, experience and contact details all in one go, would be a great idea.
5. Follow up your leads
If you meet someone from a company or sector that you are strongly interested in, make sure you follow up this lead after the fair is over. Always follow up quickly. Drop your contacts some emails, perhaps thanking them for their time, and say how much you enjoyed meeting them. Then enquire about possible future opportunities. Don’t litter anyone’s inbox, or harress anyone – but show steely determination.
Just remember; be polite, well mannered and portray your personality in the best way possible – civility could be the ‘x factor’ that sets you above the rest, and puts you on the road to the accountancy career you desire.