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Leave your hot pants at home

Five tips to make your next trade fair visit a true success

Melanie Pölking 22.05.2014
Do you know what companies really look for in job trade fair visitors? Janika Pickartz is the one to ask. She is Employer Brand Manager at Merck and can usually be found interacting with visitors at career fairs. The last fair she attended was the konaktiva in Darmstadt. From her perspective as a personnel manager, Pickartz gave careerloft exclusive insight into how these events work and what visitors should keep in mind.

Ms. Pickartz, how often do you attend trade fairs?

Last year, Merck was present at nine trade fairs. Approximately 300 to 500 visitors flock to our booth, depending on the size of the fair.

Janika Pickartz, Employer Brand Manager bei Merck
Janika Pickartz, Employer Brand Manager bei Merck, ist auf vielen Karrieremessen unterwegs.

What kind of conversations do you have with visitors?

They range from explaining the individual job opportunities at Merck to holding a kind of career advice session. I particular enjoy spending time individually with those interested in working for us. With Merck having such a broad range of opportunities and experience, we can actually help motivated students with their career plans.

Can visitors leave their CV with you?

Some visitors do actually bring us their CV. We are happy to have a look at them and give visitors feedback and tips on how to improve them. However, please don’t leave your CV with us at the booth. Of course we welcome your CV, but so that we can better match applications to relevant job opportunities within our company, we would prefer you to apply online via come2merck.

Five “to-dos” for a successful trade fair visit

1. Preparation is the key.

And trade fair visits are no exception: Before your trip, get your hands on a trade fair catalog so you can plan your day. Things to consider: What do I want to achieve at the fair? Who do I want information from? By the end of the day, what new insights do I want to have gained? Planning also shows that you can structure your work.

2. Read up on the companies you are interested in.

Important advice: Think of some good conversation starters for when you are at the relevant booths. Avoid vague phrases such as “So, what does your company actually do?” – these never make a good impression. Better to be short and sweet. Briefly introduce yourself before moving on to questions directly relevant to the company and job opportunities in a specific department. Show them you have put some thought into the matter in advance and that what you want now is concrete information.

3. Pick the right outfit

You should wear something you feel comfortable in. Make sure you look neat and presentable. Remember, ladies: Hot pants are an absolute no-go. As to the men ... please don’t appear in baggy trousers that hang halfway down your legs! Your outfit doesn’t have to be interview-style, but smart casual is appropriate. This will help give the impression that you are an interested and motivated prospect.

Besucher am Messestand von Merck
Während der Messe-Hochphasen muss man sich manchmal gedulden, bis man mit einem Unternehmensvertreter sprechen kann.

4. Manners, please

Sometimes, during the busiest hours at the trade fair, you will have to be patient and wait a while until a company representative is free to speak to you. So please be polite – interrupting other conversations or cutting in line will not place you in a good light. It’s important to strike the right balance between collegial behavior and appearing enthusiastic.

5. Good communication is essential.

“I find it difficult to deal with visitors who are unable to present their qualifications, strengths and interests to me in a clear and coherent way,” says Janika Pickartz. “We are more than happy to explain the possibilities available to each visitor, but of course we can only do this if we have enough background information.”

So you can see the importance of taking the initiative and selling yourself and your qualifications convincingly. It is down to you how successful your trade fair visit is. And Janika Pickartz has the proof: “Merck has offered an internship position to a konaktiva visitor right there at the booth for the second year running. We hadn’t advertised the internships, but the visitors in question presented themselves so successfully to our representatives that they were offered the position.”