Various images for the Graduate Jobs and Internships Fair 3 March 2021

February 23, 2021, by Jackie Thompson

What to Ask at the Graduate Jobs and Internships Fair

By Katarina Piponi, fourth year MSci Zoology student

As a final-year student, I’m thinking about my next step after uni so I’m going to the virtual Graduate Jobs and Internships Fair on Wednesday 3 March. 

After some scrupulous googling, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is one simple measure I can take to make the most of the careers fair and, that is, to ask the righquestions. 

So far, I’ve registered for the Graduate Jobs and Internships Fair and read about the companies attending. Don’t forget after registering, you’ll need to click on the name of the fair and press attend to ‘enter’ and see the company information.

When I was exploring the details of each company on the fair platform and on their websites, I realised a lot of my questions had been answered, for example, what jobs are on offer or the length of the training programme. However, I still want to converse with them, so I’ve had a think about other questions that I can ask that will useful to me.

How can I improve my chances of receiving a job offer?

If you think you are a good match for a company, ask the employer how to maximise your chances of getting a job offer. They may highlight specific expertise or experience they look for in applications.

What competencies or skills do you look for?  

If the company doesn’t mention competencies or skills in the answer above or on their website, this is a great follow-up question. It also allows you to assess your own skills set to see if the role would suit you.

You might be surprised how many graduate skills you already have that match what employers are looking for. Together with the answer to the question above, you can assess whether you have highlighted those skills or experience on your CV or application form.

What will my first few working weeks or months look like?

The first few weeks or months at a company will vary tremendously. The more you know about the work environment, the more reliable a choice you can make. 

If it’s a graduate scheme you are considering, you might spend time in different departments to see which you prefer. Equally, you may join a specific scheme where you stay in one department. Likewise, if it is a graduate job rather than a scheme, then you’re likely to be in one department, so figuring out what that would look like will help you make the right decision.

Importantly, if you are unsure about your career path, questions like this are a simple way of testing the waters with different employers.  

Do you offer training or mentoring to help me succeed in your company?

Your first job or graduate scheme after university is just your first step in your career. If you’re juggling multiple career choices, the answer to this question may help you to choose the best opportunity.

Equally, it will show employers you are interested in long-term professional growth through training and mentoring. Ultimately, it is an efficient way to gauge how the employer will look to develop you.  

What do you most enjoy about working for this company? What are the challenges?  

Career fairs are a valuable way to get an insight into a company and gather information that may not be on their website or in role descriptions. This question gives you a taste of the company culture which defines the environment in which the employees work.

By understanding some of the joys and challenges that come with working there, it enables you to evaluate the job based on your own desires for development, aspirations and skills set.   

How are you going to recruit this year? Will there be virtual methods and what might that involve?  

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way companies recruit and employ their staff.  Therefore, it is more important than ever to stay ahead of the game and understand how companies are operating during this challenging period.

Covid-safe procedures are new to all of us, so asking this question allows you to get a specific understanding of how a company is choosing to function. You’ll also understand how the recruitment process will work, so you can be better prepared.

And finally…

Careers fairs are good opportunities to practice basic interview techniques. Make sure to take notes of your answers and the questions that they have asked you. This will provide you with a possible insight into what kind of things future employers will be interested in at an interview. Everyone starts from somewhere!  

Find out more about who’s attending and the vacancies on offer at the Graduate Jobs and Internships Fair on Wednesday 3 March between 11am and 3pm. Register beforehand and sign up on the day for group chats and one-to-one chats.

Posted in Applying For JobsPhD StudentsPostgraduate Taught StudentsWork experience