In episode 66 of the Graduate Job Podcast I am joined by David Wain from the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition, as we explore more about the exhibitions and how to make the most of graduate job fairs. We delve into the upcoming exhibitions in London and Birmingham, looking what they are, who will be attending, and how you can go about bagging a free ticket. We also examine graduate recruitment fairs more widely, touching upon how to stand out, the questions to ask, what to say, what not to say, what to wear, and how you can impress the graduate recruiters that you will speak to. No matter where you are in the world, if you have ever thought about attending a graduate recruitment job fair, then this is the show for you. As always there will be a full transcript of the episode and links to everything we discuss in the shownotes over at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/exhibitions so make sure you head on over there and check them out. Before we start a quick request from me, your feedback helps me to create the episodes you want to hear, so I’ve set up a super simple and very quick survey, as I want the show to best serve your needs. It’s got 5 questions and will take you a minute, so please check it out at http://www.graduatejobpodcast.com/survey. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. But in the meantime, let’s crack on with the show.
MORE SPECIFICALLY IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- The upcoming National Graduate Recruitment Exhibitions in London on the 13th and 14th of October, and in Birmingham on the 3rd and 4th of November
- How to stand out at a graduate recruitment job fair
- What to say, and what NOT to say
- How to make a good impression in the first 30 seconds
- Why attending the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition could boost you jobsearch
SELECTED LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- National Graduate Recruitment Exhibitions – Get your tickets HERE
- Gradjobs.co.uk – The online home for the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibitions
- Today’s sponsor Career Gym – Start practising your numercial, verbal and psychometric tests and get 20% with the code GJP.
- David’s website recommendation – The Economist
- David’s book recommendation – Life is Not a Game of Perfect by Bob Rotella. Click below to buy now from Amazon and help support the show.
Transcript Episode 66 – How to impress at a graduate job fair, with David Wain from the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition
Announcer: Welcome to the Graduate Job Podcast, your home for weekly information and inspiration to help you get the graduate job of your dreams.
James: Hello and welcome to the Graduate Job Podcast, with your host James Curran. The Graduate Job Podcast is your home for all things related to helping you on your journey to finding that amazing job. Each episode I bring together the best minds in the industry, speaking to leading authors, entrepreneurs, coaches and bloggers who bring decades of experience into a byte size weekly 30 minute show. Put simply, this is the show I wish I had a decade ago when I graduated.
And a big hello for episode 66 of the Graduate Job Podcast where I am joined by David Wain from the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition, as we explore more about the exhibitions and how to make the most of graduate job fairs. We delve into the upcoming exhibitions in London and Birmingham, looking what they are, who will be attending, and how you can go about bagging a free ticket. We also examine graduate recruitment fairs more widely, touching upon how to stand out, the questions to ask, what to say, what not to say, what to wear, and how you can impress the graduate recruiters that you will speak to. No matter where you are in the world, if you have ever thought about attending a graduate recruitment job fair, then this is the show for you. As always there will be a full transcript of the episode and links to everything we discuss in the shownotes over at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/exhibitions so make sure you head on over there and check them out. Before we start a quick request from me, your feedback helps me to create the episodes you want to hear, so I’ve set up a super simple and very quick survey, as I want the show to best serve your needs. It’s got 5 questions and will take you a minute, so please check it out at http://www.graduatejobpodcast.com/survey. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. But in the meantime, let’s crack on with the show.
Before we start though let’s have a little message from today’s sponsor who are Career Gym.com. Career Gym is the number one place for you to undertake all of your psychometric tests which you will face when you apply for a graduate job. You can practice verbal, numerical, and abstract reasoning tests all produced by experts, and exactly the same as the ones you will see in the real tests. You can just practice them or you can do them in exam mode, under time pressure, and they come all with detailed explanations and solutions, and you can track your progress and see how you compare against your peers.
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James: I’m very pleased to welcome today, David Wain from National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition to this show. They’re the organizers of the UK’s biggest graduate focussed recruitment event. David, welcome to the Graduate Job Podcast.
David Wain: Hi, James. Thanks very much.
James: Today, we’re going to explore about the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibitions in the UK, and more generally, how you can make the most of graduate recruitment events, wherever you might be in the world. David, to kick us off, would you like to tell us more about your role and also the exhibitions themselves?
David: Yeah, of course. I’ve been running the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition over the last seven years. The exhibition is actually in its 30th year, so we started in 1987. There, effectively, we run two large-scale events at key times of graduate recruitment, we’ve got London Olympia on October the 13th and 14th, and we’ve also got Birmingham NEC on November the 3rd and 4th. They’re effectively two exhibitions to target final-year students, but also those who have graduated in the last two years, and we normally expect around about 70 or 80 exhibitors, all sort of household names. So, it can be anything from TK Maxx, to Ofcom, to Adidas, to Hilti, to Heathrow. But, a lot of these companies are looking to recruit final-year students, or those that have graduated across multi disciplines. So, it could be a career that you’re looking for in HR, marketing, sales, or finance.
James: That’s a nice big chunk of the graduate recruiters out there, a nice 70 to 80. How many people would you expect through the door over the different exhibitions?
David: It can vary from year to year, but based on the last five years, we’ve had somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 visitors to each exhibition.
James: Wow, okay that’s great. In terms of getting to the exhibition, are they free? Do people need to get a ticket or just turn up at the door?
David: Well, it’s free for all graduates to enter. There’s a number of travel networks, including trains underground to overground, buses, and particularly for London, Olympia. A nice thing that we do, actually, James, is for all current students, so for all final years, we do subsidize travel up to the value of 8 pounds. So, it’s free for grads to get in, but we also make it as simple as possible for them to attend by subsidizing their travel and effectively making it free to attend.
James: Listeners, you can’t stay fairer than that. How is that done, David? Do people have to submit, afterwards, expenses or is it paid for on the day? How does that work?
David: We ask people to travel to the event and to bring along their receipts, and that could be car parking, petrol, and etcetera, and it’s usually from around about 2:30 at the exhibition. We’ll actually have somebody present from the organizer’s office, and they just bring their receipts, they can make their claim, and we will refund the travel from there.
James: Nice and easy. Do people need to register in advance or can you just walk up to them?
David: You can just attend on the day, but we do encourage people to thoroughly research and look at the companies that are attending. We tend to do that by an extensive UK national network when we’re promoting the event. So, effectively where we use channels such as the Guardian, London Underground, Spotify, radio campaigns, key graduate websites, things like RAM prospects, Target Jobs, and we essentially guide people to the homepage of the website there. At that point, that’s where we encourage them to preregister. But, as they say, if you haven’t got time to do that, you are more than welcome to turn up on the day, and we’ll just ask you to fill out a simple registration form from there. Just as an aside, the exhibition at London is open until 11 to 5 on Friday and 11 to 4 on the Saturday, and Birmingham NEC, the exhibition is open both days from 11 am until 4 pm.
James: Excellent, and listeners, all the links to everything we discussed today and a full transcript available in the show notes over at GraduateJobPodcast.com/exhibitions, and there’ll be links to everything that you need to do to go and sign up to the events that we’re talking about today. David, between the two events, London and Birmingham, does one tend to be bigger or busier than the other, or do they both have the same people exhibiting there?
David: They’re basically similar in size just in terms of both exhibitor numbers and visitors. The reason that we hold them in the two locations, James, is because, obviously, there’s a key network of companies in and around the London area. But, we also travel further to Birmingham because it’s a more central location in the UK. That will enable people from all over the country. So, it could be the northwest, the northeast. We even have people as far afield as Scotland right down to the southwest of the country. So, it really does give the opportunity for people to attend both events and look at both locations just in case they miss out on one particular area or can’t make one particular day.
James: It makes sense, and I think I’ve actually been to the Birmingham one last time. Everyone can get to Birmingham. It’s always nice and central in the country. Aside from the companies in their stands, what other events do you have over the two days, David?
David: The reason we call it an exhibition, James, is because we absolutely encourage our visitors to come along for three, four, five hours, and actually, graduates or those in their final year, a lot of them are keen to get their career sorted out before embarking on their final year of dissertations, or in fact, exams.
During the exhibition, we’ve got a number of feature areas in operation. From a visitor perspective, we’ve got something like a CV advice clinic so candidates can come along and they can get some free advice on what’s included within their CV. We also have a mock assessment center, and all of these feature areas are independently ran, so it will give the visitor a real experience of what to expect during the interview process. So, it really is a good insight into the types of questions that companies and organizations will be asking.
We also tend to listen to our recruiters and the graduate recruiters. In recent times, we’ve had a request that, sometimes, graduates aren’t as well-researched as companies would like them to be.
James: Yeah, definitely the case amongst the graduates I coach is. That’s a common issue.
David: Sure. So, last year, we introduced Skills at Business workshops, which are a little half-hour sessions, and it just gives the visitor or the prospective applicant an idea of what to expect, and the types of questions that organizations are going to ask them. Other things that we have at the exhibition, we have two presentation theaters. One is very much geared towards a particular company. So, it will be a company such as Ofcom, or Adidas, or TK Maxx talking about their company, specific graduate roles, and how to go about that process in terms of applications.
Then, we have a more general presentation theater, which is entitled Careers in Industry, and that will give — it’s maybe geared towards those graduates who are still undecided about which sector or industry they want to enter, and it will give them a lot more information about a particular industry. So, it could be engineering, retail, finance, so on and so forth.
James: Brilliant, and yeah, those events sound brilliant. I mean, the CV clinic and the mock assessment centers, they’re brilliant things you need to practice, so definitely worth checking them out, listeners. Is it possible to pre-book for those events, or is it a question of, on the day, just queuing up and getting in nice and early.
David: We try and keep it as open as possible. The feature areas that I have mentioned, like the mock assessment center, it is very popular. You can’t actually pre-book, so we do have people to turn up as early as possible on the day. As soon as they get there, there’ll be various different advice points, and that’s where Careers Advisors and some of our own company will be on hand to provide advice and tell people how to go about signing up for these particular areas.
James: Excellent. That sounds brilliant. David, we have listeners from all over the world, and sadly, the 8-pound help with the reimbursement of travel is not going to help with the flights from many of those locations. So, thinking more generally around tips that people can use for recruitment events wherever they are around the world, what advice would you give people who are turning up so they can make the most of the time at the event?
David: Of course. Well, there’s a number of key issues there, James. The first thing that I would recommend is be flexible in your approach. So, consider the skill set that you have as an individual, and then maybe look outside of the box a little bit and consider companies or organizations that you wouldn’t necessarily consider. What I actually mean by that is you’ll get companies like Adidas who most people would say, “I don’t want a career in retail,” but actually, when you delve a bit further and you do your research, Adidas are actually recruiting for human resources, sales, marketing, technology students. It’s quite important to have an open mind and be flexible.
Now, saying that, other students and other graduates are very targeted. They might have a very set way of thinking, “Who I want to work for and in which particular industry.” There is also nothing wrong with that, but again, it’s key to do research on that particular industry or company, and it’s a case of sort of getting yourself ahead of the competition.
Make sure you stand out and make sure that you go to an exhibition, or you make an application, or you stand out from the crowd, and that could be key questions about that organization through its website, social media, graduate opportunities, or even their corporate social responsibility initiatives. Sorry, go ahead.
James: I was just going to say I completely agree. I mean, with 70 and 80 companies there, you’ve only got five hours in total that it’s open, and then take away the time for CV clinic, talks, etcetera. You’ve only got a couple hours, so you need to have done your research and be focused about who you want to speak to and plan your time accordingly so you can make the most of your time.
David: Exactly, and I think it’s useful to sort of pre-prepare a list of questions, because if you’re looking to get ahead of the competition, it’s useful to find out things about such as the culture of the company, the recruitment process, and always come across as open and engaging, asking questions about particular career paths, or indeed, the expansion of the company.
James: Just don’t do, listeners, what many people have said to me when I was working at recruitment events like this from my previous consulting company where people would just walk up to the stand and say, “What do you do?” or, “What does this company do?” It doesn’t stand you in good stead when people come up and you’ve seen that they’ve not put research or thought into approaching the stand.
David: It’s a really competitive market at the moment, James, the graduate recruitment market compared to 25 years ago when 15% of the population had a degree. That number is closer to 40% now, and it is important for graduates or prospective employees to do their research and come across as engaging, dress very well, because employers are looking for more than just a body walking around in exhibition. They want somebody to be completely engaged with their company and show some passion for that particular industry.
James: Just going back to the point you mentioned there about dress. Would you recommend a smart casual, or completely casual, formal? What would you recommend?
David: A lot depends on the type of company that you’re recruiting for. I mean, it’s not as if everybody is looking for a prospective employee to wear a suit and tie, but we do recommend that people dress to impress. Obviously, there are particular industries where if you are going for a job interview or a role that the full set of suit and tie is obviously applicable for that particular organization, but there may be some sort of technology roles or technology companies where we would maybe sort of suggest a smart casual.
But, again, what you’re looking to do is stand out from particular competition within that marketplace, and a lot of exhibitors in the past have commented that people are very smartly dressed at this exhibition. So, we would probably recommend to go that route as first points of call.
James: Given that they get very busy with lots of people, and then they’re open from, say, 11 until 4, 11 until 5, I guess that you recommend that people turn up nice and early so they can get to speak to the recruiters before they get a bit tired and jaded towards the end of the day?
David: Absolutely, because remember some of these recruiters will be repeating the same information. So, if you can get there nice and early – as I say, it opens at 11 o’clock on each day – there are usually considerable queues before the exhibition opens. I would always recommend getting there between 10:15 and 10:30. Again, it just gives you a chance to sort of prepare yourself in the queue, go over your research, and then maybe go over the CV that you’ve prepared.
James: Definitely. In terms of the people who make up the stand for different companies, does it tend to be the recruiters themselves and a mix of graduates, or just recruiters that people will be speaking to?
David: I’d say 90% of cases, and you get a good mixture of people exhibiting on the stands. We always recommend this when we’re out and talking to clients or exhibitors. We recommend that we have a senior person there just to cover all questions, but a lot of companies are now going down the route of bringing along graduates who are currently doing those roles, and we’re tempted to find this helps more so in peer-to-peer engagement.
So, any visitor that’s coming along, they’ve identified a company they would like to work for and they’re going to get firsthand experience of somebody who’s been doing that role from six months to a year, and that’s going to help make a far better decision on whether they’d like to pursue that particular route.
James: Listeners, this is a brilliant opportunity to speak to the current graduates firsthand about their experiences, what they’re enjoying about it, challenges they’re finding, the best thing about their role, etcetera, and this is all just super-useful for when you do get further down the application process and you get asked the inevitable question of, “Why do you want to work for company X?” and if you can say, “Well, I was speaking to one of your current graduates, Barry, at the exhibition, and he said he really enjoyed X, Y, and Z about the company,” it just stands you head and shoulders above the other people who haven’t put that effort in in the first place.
James: David, unfortunately, time is running away with us, but one final question before we move onto the weekly staple questions. What would you say to someone who’s in two minds about whether they should come and visit the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition?
David: Sure. Obviously, I would say it’s a great event to come along to, because you’re going to meet some high-level exhibitors, but at the same time, you’re going to meet some smaller medium enterprises, and it’ll give a very good understanding of positions available across the entire graduate recruitment industry. If you’re not quite decided or ready to look on which industry or which company, then we’d advise you to come along anyway, because you’ll get some invaluable information about how to prepare, and the interview processes, what your CV looks like, or even just get some advice on which industry or which company would be most suited to your skill set.
James: Excellent, and listeners, you know the dates, you know the locations, so there’s no excuse for not coming along and chatting to those 70 to 80 different companies, and also the brilliant different showcased CV clinics and the like that are also going on. David, moving onto the weekly staple questions. First one, putting you on the spot now, which website would you point our listeners to?
David: I’ve always found, throughout my career, one of the best sources of information is Economist.com, where you can get a very good overall view of worldwide political events and current affairs.
James: I definitely echo that, and students, current students anyway, take advantage of the ridiculously cheap student offer you can get from the Economist. For pennies a week, you can keep yourself informed about everything that’s going on around the world, which always helps because you never know when the information might be useful in an interview situation. So yeah, definitely check out the Economist. I’ll add that recommendation. Next one, David. What one book would you point our listeners to?
David: James, I’m very interested in sports and always have been since an early age. I think the book I would recommend is called Life is Not a Game of Perfect, and it’s by an author called Bob Rotella. Bob Rotella was actually a sports psychologist who’s worked with some huge names in the sporting world, including Tiger Woods, of all people. But, actually he applied his psychological stance and analysis and applies that to life more generally, and there’s some really good information and advice in there.
James: Brilliant. I’ll have to check that one out myself. I’ve enjoyed The Chimp Paradox, which was good, but this is a new one for me, so I will definitely check that out, and listeners, all links to everything we discussed, as I mentioned, can be found in the show notes at GraduateJobPodcast.com/exhibitions. That sounds like a good book, David, that we can maybe send some copies to the England football team. Maybe they can take some inspiration from it. Finally, what one job search tip would you give our listeners today that they can implement to improve their hunt for a job?
David: I think I’d give two pieces of advice. One, to be concise, and the other to be passionate about the role, but also the company that you’re looking to work for.
James: I completely agree. As we mentioned earlier, it’s a super-competitive job market out there if you think of the thousands of people applying, and you can’t separate down everyone who’s got a 2:1 because so many people get 2:1, but one of the things that can really make you stand out is passion. If you can demonstrate passion for the company you’re applying for, you’ll definitely be picked out by the people who are just applying for the sake of applying.
James: David, thank you so much for appearing on the Graduate Job Podcast today. What’s the best way that people can get in touch with you and also the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibitions?
David: Sure, if anyone’s looking for any further advice, the best way of doing that is through online, through our website, and the website address is www.gradjobs.co.uk.
James: Perfect. Thanks a lot, David. Thanks for appearing on the Graduate Job Podcast.
David: You’re welcome. Thanks, James.
James: Many thanks to David for his time and insight today. Listeners, if you are near London or Birmingham then make sure you get yourself along to the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition. The chance to chat directly with all of those recruiters is an opportunity which is too good to miss. As I mentioned, when you make it through to the interview stage, being able to drop in that you have had those conversations and put the effort in will stand you in good stead. If you aren’t in London or Birmingham then don’t worry, utilise David’s insights about how to stand out and put them into practice at local graduate job fairs wherever you might be listening to this. So there you go, episode 66 done and dusted. Couple of things from me before we finish, Sam got in touch this last week asking how he can support the show, very nice of you to ask Sam. One way is to buy your goods from Amazon via one of the links from the shownotes at graduatejobpodcast.com/exhibitions. It doesn’t cost you anything extra but helps to keep the lights on here with hosting and like, so if you could do that it would be much appreciated. Got any questions, or need some coaching and help as you look or apply for a graduate job, then drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org I look forward to hearing from you. Do join me next week when I speak to the great CharityWorks graduate scheme, it’s a goodie! All that remains to say is I hope you enjoyed the episode today, but more importantly, I hope you use it, and apply it. See you next week.