Career fairs can give you a lot more than a free stress-ball, some sweets and a couple of dodgy pens. With more recruiters switching to online applications it is unlikely that you will manage to wrangle an opportunity for an internship or a job (although it can’t hurt to take copies of your CV anyway!), but you can still get a great gift: information! You rarely get a better opportunity to informally find out about work, with the chance to quiz recent graduates about company culture and ask employers about what they expect of applicants.
Questions to Ask: Maximizing Information and Making an Impression
Are there specific career paths in the organization?
A question like this makes a positive impression while gaining some valuable information. Showing a desire for advancement in the company also shows loyalty to the company, something recruiters will look for. On top of that, you also get the chance to see if the company really is for you and have a ready-made answer to the interviewer’s question “where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?”
What opportunities for personal development do you offer?
This is another question that can show loyalty to an organization, thinking about the long-haul, while it also shows that you are a recruit who is continuously looking to upgrade your skill set. In such a competitive market this can put you ahead and it will show you what professional qualifications you could work towards on the job.
What skills and attributes do you value most in your employees?
Asking this allows you to move the conversation onto how you meet, or even better how you exceed the desired qualities. This also gives you extra ammunition for effectively selling yourself at interview, knowing exactly what your employer is looking for in a new recruit, from problem solving to leadership and communication.
How would someone like me fit in and contribute to your organization?
This is a good question to ask part way through a conversation, once the recruiter knows a little about your interests and degree. In posing this question, you encourage the recruiter to already imagine you in the position, not in the place of ‘just another applicant’. Rather than trying to convince him/her of how you can slot in, he/she puts the pieces of the puzzle together for his or herself.
What’s the company culture like?
It isn’t always clear from the website what it is like to work for the company; this is your shot at getting some insider information. Some companies insist on suits and ties, while some accept shorts and flip flops; some demand that you are in the office before 8:30am and some allow you to work from home. By asking about company culture you will get a better idea about whether you would like to work there. You can also ask what they enjoy most about the company, waking them up by giving them a chance to talk about themselves for a while!
Tip: if they struggle to say much positive in reply, or come across overly generic, then there can’t be that much positive to say!
What are the biggest challenges facing the industry over the next 6 months?
As one of the less generic questions, this should catch the recruiter’s attention while also showing you’re not someone who shies away from hard work. It also provides a perfect segue into a conversation about how you are more than up to the challenge (and it will help if you have a done a little research yourself).
TOP TIP: This is also the perfect opportunity to prepare for a future interview with a company. Thinking of the sort of questions you are liable to be asked at interview, this is your chance to turn the tables on the employer and get some answers prepared. You might get asked why you are applying to one company and not its competitors, so at the fair you can ask: “what makes your company different to your competitors?” and their answer can feed into what yours will be!
About the Author
Jack Shardlow is the main contributor to the Interview Bull Blog. Interview Bull gives ambitious students and recent graduates the best chance possible to get the jobs they want through success at interview. It provides affordable and personalized online interview coaching, tailored to candidates and the jobs they are applying for.