If you’re looking for your first role in tech, going to a tech job fair is a fantastic way to talk to companies directly.

Although I’m currently working as a Front-End Web Developer, it was still useful to attend. It made me aware of what skills are in demand and to see which up and coming tech companies/start-ups are in my local market.

However, I understand that networking at a job fair can be daunting and intimidating. I want to give some advice and actionable tips on how to make the most out of going to a job fair, and hopefully alleviate some fears you may have.

Wait… you have to apply for a place?

Some job fairs may have a screening process. This usually means that you will have to apply for a place. This is to ensure that candidates have the right balance of skills (Frontend, Backend or Fullstack) and experience (junior, mid-level and senior developers).

So be prepared before you apply. Make sure your LinkedIn profile and CV/resume are up to date. It’s always worth having someone review your CV first. They may ask you to give other relevant information. This could be links to your GitHub account, personal portfolios, and other sites where you showcase your coding projects.

How do you prepare for a tech job fair?

There are a few things you can do to make the networking process easier and make the most of the experience:

Do your research.

Find out which companies are attending and filter the companies you’re interested in. You can learn a lot with a quick internet search!

I did some research on companies through websites like Glassdoor. Don’t worry if they’re not offering any junior/associate roles, as tech companies usually recruit throughout the year. I also found that some companies didn’t advertise their junior web development roles.

During the research stage, make a list of companies you would like to work for. Also it makes you look good to prospective employers if you have some knowledge about their company.

Get your business cards and copies of your CV ready.

If a company is interested in you, they will take your details and you’ll be added to a mailing list. However, it’s always useful to have some business cards ready.

Make a plan.

The job fair I attended had over 200 companies. I cross referenced my list with a map of the companies’ booths so I could approach my preferred companies first. Job fairs can easily become overwhelming, and this will prevent a ‘headless chicken’ approach!

How do you approach companies at a tech job fair?

Make a list of questions to ask.

If you find networking difficult, it helps if I have a list of questions prepared. Here are some of the questions I asked:

  • Are you currently hiring junior developers/software engineers?
  • Do you offer mentorship to junior developers? How do you support your junior developers?
  • Do you consider candidates from non-traditional backgrounds?
  • What’s your stack?
  • Can you tell me a bit more about your interview process?
  • Are you family friendly? Do you offer remote working/flexible hours?
  • Can you tell me a bit more about where the company is going?
  • What are your core values?

You want to see if you would be the right fit for a company, so try and find out as much as you can. But don’t feel obliged to ask every question on your list. Often a conversation will naturally evolve depending on your answers and what they may ask you. Go with the flow.

Set a time limit.

The goal of going to a job fair is to talk to as many companies as you can. It’s a numbers game. The more companies you approach, the greater the chance of getting an interview if you have the right skills. Set a time limit on how long to spend with each company so you can move on to the next.

Be polite and approachable.

I’ve read in some studies that you are not only judged on what you say, but also your body language and tone of voice. Just be aware that non verbal communication is important.

Don’t forget to introduce yourself with a brief introduction. Job fairs are loud with a lot of people in a confined space, so speak slowly and clearly. When you have finished your conversation, don’t forget to thank them for their time.

Make notes as you go along.

I made notes about the companies I talked to. It’s easy to forget who you spoke to and what you actually talked about. Try to get their contact details or a business card.

Take regular breaks

You may not realize it, but networking is very tiring. You need to keep up the energy and enthusiasm throughout the day. Pack some drinks and snacks.

Be yourself

Just try and treat it as a friendly chat. It’s a good opportunity to let your personality shine through.

What do you do after the fair?

Well done, you’ve survived your first tech job fair! Now it’s time to follow up. If you’ve collected any contact details/business cards, make sure you follow up as soon as possible. Send an email with a few details about yourself including your key skills/experience and links to your CV, LinkedIn profile, and so on.

If you’ve signed up to a company’s mailing list, they will email you within a few days. It helps to have a spreadsheet of the companies you spoke to and include notes.

Even if a company is not currently hiring for your particular skill set and experience, they may be hiring in the future. Make sure you touch base with your contacts as you never know what opportunities may crop up.

Good luck and happy networking!

If you have any questions or just want to say hello, find me on Twitter @PhoebeVF

Illustrations courtesy of https://undraw.co