A guide to making the most of graduate recruitment fairs

Students are arguably more stretched than ever before. Many work part-time to help pay living costs while studying hard to get a good degree. Not surprisingly, career plans may be put on hold until the last piece of work is submitted or final exam is sat. The annual round of UK summer graduate recruitment fairs gives new and recent graduates a not-to-be missed chance to meet employers with vacancies to fill.

The largest fair is organised by the University of Manchester and this year takes place on 11 and 12 June. It features 190 companies, as well as some higher education institutions with postgraduate opportunities.



A range of graduate employers accept applications from graduates of any subject; a relief to those with a non-vocational degree who may have wondered how it would help them get a job. But competition for graduate employment remains tough. Although the Association of Graduate Recruiters’ 2008 winter review predicted an increase in graduate vacancies, a high percentage of employers anticipated difficulties filling vacancies due to not enough candidates having the right skills. Commercial awareness is chief among skills in short supply. Understanding that businesses operate in a competitive field influenced by economic and industry developments is a crucial starting point for anyone seeking to make the transition from university graduate to company employee. Reading company reports and keeping up-to-date with business news is essential preparation for any job application.



Other key “soft skills” include communication, problem solving, team work, use of initiative and negotiation. Applicants often struggle to tease these out of experience they’ve gained through part-time and voluntary work, work experience, internships and extra curricular activities. A part-time job, for instance, may be more relevant when described in terms of meeting or exceeding sales targets, standing in for a manager, coming up with a new promotional idea and so on.



Extensive information on writing CVs, covering letters and applications is included on the careers pages of the University of Manchester’s website www.studentnet.manchester.ac.uk/careers. Receiving feedback on an application or CV is important and can usually be given by the careers service of the university attended and at the summer recruitment fair itself. Preparation in advance of a fair pays dividends. Information on exhibitors at the Manchester fair is updated daily and is available via the website.



Although most job applications are now made online, it’s a good idea to have copies of a CV ready to hand out. Dressing professionally signals to an exhibitor that the individual wants to make a good impression, especially if they’ve done their research and know something about the employer. An “I’ve read that you do” introduction will always win against a “What do you do?” one. Having struck up a conversation, the candidate can mention in an application that they found it helpful to meet a representative, which indicates that they have a genuine and informed interest in the company.



However, according to one major graduate recruiter, making the right impression is a two way process. If they want the best candidates, they too need to leave their mark. Graduate employers will always compete for the best talent and can’t afford to be complacent. A significant number of recent graduates will work for an SME, a small-to medium-sized enterprise with fewer than 250 employees. A graduate recruitment fair may offer a chance to meet businesses that can’t afford big recruitment drives. Here, there is greater justification for asking, “What do you do?”. One Manchester SME has commented that they’ve had some great recruits who got interested after chatting to them at the fair.



Meeting employers at a fair is good practice for meeting them at interview. It can be daunting for a new graduate to present themselves as a potential employee for the first time. They need to feel and look the part, have worked out what they want to say about themselves and what questions they’ll ask. A balance is needed: appearing confident without being cocky; displaying enthusiasm while listening to what’s being said; being relaxed but not too laid-back. All common sense, but as this is how the employer forms a picture of their suitability, it’s common sense that’s worth practising.

Louise Sethi is from the Manchester Leadership Programme, Careers & Employability Division, The University of Manchester

Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Supply Teachers Would you ...

SEN IT Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: IT EBD Teacher job in Runco...

SEN Maths Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Maths EBD Teacher job in Run...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teachers required, vario...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game